Journey of the Jaguars

An evolving campus and the creation of Jinx -- Part 1 of 2

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 10, 2020 -- Fast. Strong. Friendly. Inclusive.

IUPUI's triumvirate of mascots -- Jinx, Jawz and Jazzy -- embodies the core strengths of the campus's diverse student body, alumni and employees. Over the past two decades, they have been instrumental in helping raise the perception, reputation and identity of IUPUI.

"The jaguar is a great mascot for us," said Bev Knight, who as director of sponsorships oversees IUPUI's mascot program. "It's a fast and strong animal that represents the rapid growth and strength of our campus very well."

But how did we get here?

a flyer for a bookstore advertising book rentalsView print quality image
IUPUI Special Collections and Archives staff said they believe this is the first unofficial school logo. It appeared in a 1976 flyer for the bookstore. Likely used for promotional purposes only, this is a glance at early attempts at branding. Image courtesy of IUPUI Special Collections and Archives
a furry, hairy and rather scary mascot creature claps its hands from 1979View print quality image
Appearing at a men's basketball game in November 1979, this unidentified creature is believed to be the first example of a school mascot. Its identity, name and origin story are unknown. Photo courtesy of IUPUI Special Collections and Archives

Previously known as the Metros, the campus athletics program was in need of a rebrand during the 1998 transition to Division I athletics. It had no official logo, mascot or centralized branding.

Ed Holdaway, who was recruited to play baseball in fall 1997 for the Metros and is now the longest-tenured staff member in the IUPUI athletics department, described the jerseys and colors as "looking like McDonald's." The current assistant athletics director of communications recalled the baseball team getting made fun of on the road because their IUPUI hats were an easy comparison to the style and color palette of the U.S.S.R.

In 1998, the student body had three options to select from -- Indy Hawks, River Hawks or Jaguars. Looking back at the "minor league baseball-ish" choices, Holdaway is thankful the right mascot name was chosen.

"Those others wouldn't have aged well," Holdaway said laughing.

Jennifer Smith stands in her mascot-creating Indianapolis studio with a picture of Jawz and JazzyView print quality image
Jennifer Smith, owner of the mascot-creating Avant Garb studio in Indianapolis and self-described Queen of Fuzz, created the Jinx, Jawz and Jazzy costumes. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University

Others have agreed as well, including Jennifer Smith, the owner of Indianapolis' Avant Garb, a company that specializes in making mascot suits across the country and who is responsible for creating the Jinx, Jawz and Jazzy costumes. Smith, who customizes and handcrafts every aspect of the suit with fine detail, from the shoelaces to the eyebrows, recognizes the value of mascots to a brand -- likely more than most.

"Your team and school are what your mascot is, and the jaguar is powerful," the self-described Queen of Fuzz and president of the National Mascot Association said.

Jawz and JazzyView print quality image

Part 2: Meet the 2 newer Jags

Learn about how the mascot program expanded with the additions of Jawz and Jazzy.

Read about Jawz and Jazzy
Jinx, Jazzy and Jawz pose at a carnival View print quality image

Bonus: 'Tail' of the Tape

Learn about the three mascots' distinguishable physical appearances and personality traits.

Spot the differences in the mascots