Meet the Mascots: UMKC's Kasey the Kangaroo
The Summit League features the NCAA's most unique collection of one-of-a-kind nicknames among its member institutions. Within U.S. college athletics, four names are exclusively held by Summit League schools: Mastodons (IPFW), Golden Grizzlies (Oakland), Jackrabbits (South Dakota State) and Leathernecks (Western Illinois). In addition, the names Coyotes (South Dakota) and Kangaroos (UMKC) are unique to NCAA Division I athletics.
Each Tuesday this summer, The Summit League will highlight the story behind the origin of each member institution's name and its mascot.
This week we will take a closer look into the UMKC mascot, Kasey the Kangaroo.
What do The Kansas City Star, Walt Disney and the Kansas City Zoo have in common? All are pieces to a puzzle concerning the question, “How in the world did UMKC pick a Kangaroo as its mascot?” The Kangaroo issue was first brought up in 1936 when the editors of The University (then named Kansas City University) newspaper decided it was time to find a mascot for the debate team. There were no organized University athletic teams at the time, yet the students on the newspaper staff still wanted a unique identity for their debate team and, more importantly, their school.
The fire was lit later that year when an article appeared in The Kansas City Star titled, “Kangaroo May Go to KCU … Student Editors Believe University Should Have a Symbol.” Interest in the mascot was also spurred by the Kansas City Zoo’s purchase of two baby kangaroos about that same time and the subsequent publicity generated by the kangaroo nearly suffered a quick demise in 1937 when the editors of the University yearbook The Crataegus decided that a kangaroo was not an appropriate university symbol. They opted to delete the proposed kangaroo emblem from the yearbook’s feature section, but supporters of the mascot began a vocal attack.
Just as the criticism began to mount and support for the kangaroo was beginning to wane, famed cartoonist Walt Disney came to the rescue. In April 1937, a leading KCU political group, the CO-OP Party, won a landslide election with “Kasey the Kangaroo” as its insignia. “Kasey,” the group stated, “fit KC.”
The same month, the first issue of the KCU humor magazine The Kangaroos was published. Six months after the first kangaroo appeared on the cover, another kangaroo was featured, this time alongside Mickey Mouse. The artist of the drawing was the famous Disney, and support for the kangaroo mounted.
In a matter of a few years, The Crataegus folded and The Kangaroo became the school’s yearbook. Over the years, the kangaroos went through numerous changes and refinements before a final edition was agreed upon via a special committee appointed by then-chancellor Randall Whaley.
The Athletics Department introduced a new set of marks in November 2004, working with Plan B. Branding of San Diego, Calif., to create the identity.
The Kangaroos is a unique nickname, and UMKC shares it with a slight few. Just two other colleges in the nation use Kangaroos as its nickname – Austin College in Sherman, Texas and State University of New York at Canton. The Akron Zips, meanwhile, use the kangaroos as its mascot.