History of the Ball State Cardinals Mascot

If you can't think of anything better to read about than a combination of MACtion and mascots, this Ball State Cardinals' mascot history is just for you!

There is absolutely nothing sweeter than writing about M&Ms. No, we’re not talking about Mars and Murrie’s military candy. We’re talking MACtion and mascots, as we dive into the history of the Ball State Cardinals mascot. Chirp, chirp!

What Is the Ball State Cardinals Mascot?

A long-running tradition of Ball State football, Charlie Cardinal is the Cardinals’ mascot. The feathered football phenom — other sports are represented — has been the face of the program since 1969, when the university first held tryouts for a costumed mascot.

While Charlie Cardinal has been the face of Ball State since then, he’s undergone multiple cosmetic transformations to keep his look fresh and modern as he patrols the sidelines of the program’s sports facility — including Scheumann Stadium.

The first edition of Charlie Cardinal was a paper-mache headpiece that was covered in feathers to give it a bird-like appearance. In the 1970s, the Cardinals mascot upgraded to a fiberglass head while sporting a red suit and fetching yellow leggings.

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Aesthetics and agility have fueled further feathered refinements, with smaller feet added and an updated head to help the human occupants of the Cardinals’ mascot with breathe-ability and mobility. According to the Ball State Centennial, hundreds of students have been the unseen presence powering the mascot.

“It’s really hard how to describe what being Charlie was like,” Mitch Prather, one of the many who have been inside the Charlie Cardinal costume, told the Centennial. “Sometimes it was a lot of responsibility because Charlie represents all of Ball State, and when people think of the university, they usually picture Charlie.”

In addition to the appearance at Ball State athletics events, the Cardinals’ mascot is regarded as “an ambassador for the university.” Charlie Cardinal makes guest appearances at various events around the country and can be booked by contacting [email protected].

Why Is Ball State’s Mascot the Cardinal?

While Charlie Cardinal has long been the face of Ball State football, the program hasn’t always been represented by the beloved bird. In fact, the program hasn’t always been known as “the Cardinals” either.

Prior to 1927, the athletics programs of the then-Indiana State Normal School East Division were known as the “Hoosieroons.” The name paid homage to the popular name for some from the state of Indiana with the program being based in Muncie, Indiana.

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The program changed its nickname in 1927, well in advance of the adoption of the current Cardinals’ mascot in 1969. The athletic director at the time, Paul “Billy” Williams, suggested the name, and it was voted in by the school student body. According to Sidelines Ball State, Williams’ suggested the cardinal as it’s the state bird of Indiana.

The Cardinals’ nickname wasn’t the only thing that Williams introduced to the program. According to the Ball State website, Williams was responsible for introducing baseball, football, tennis, cross country, and golf to the program. Meanwhile, his feats as a coach earned him a place in the Ball State Hall of Fame.