Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

A brief story about Miami’s change to RedHawks

<p>Miami&#x27;s mascot at a basketball game in 1998, Miami&#x27;s first full year as the RedHawks</p>

Miami's mascot at a basketball game in 1998, Miami's first full year as the RedHawks

The name “RedHawks” was first mentioned in The Miami Student in the Feb. 23, 1992 edition. William Snavely, then an associate professor of management and now the mayor of Oxford, wrote this in a letter to the editor:

“I suggest we move the discussion to what the change will be rather than if we should change. To begin that discussion, consider changing to the ‘Redhawks.’”

Snavely was years ahead of his time. 

In 1996, the Miami Tribe sent Miami University a resolution that said “the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma can no longer support the use of the nickname [a derogatory term for Native Americans] and suggest that the Board of Trustees discontinue the use of [a derogatory term for Native Americans] and other Indian related names…”

Miami didn’t end up officially changing its teams’ names to RedHawks until May 2, 1997. In an interview with The Student, Snavely said his name idea didn’t come from nowhere. 

“At the time, we had a red hawk as our mascot,” Snavely said. “It seemed easy. It had the same number of syllables so all of our cheers would work. It seemed like a logical suggestion.

He also got input from a colleague in the management department, Professor Joseph Leonard. Leonard’s father was the chief of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.

“I chatted with him about it, and he was for the change,” Snavely said. “I mentioned RedHawks and he said ‘Red hawks are endemic to this area. And hawks are a powerful animal in the lore of Miami people.’”

Years later, Snavely was teaching a class in Laws Hall when he noticed some of his students getting distracted by something outside. 

It was a red hawk, chasing a squirrel. 

Nothing out of the ordinary, except on this day, the group that was going to decide on the new name was meeting at Roudebush Hall just next door. The selection committee was made up of the chief of the Miami Tribe Floyd Leonard, then University President James Garland and a select few others. 

Snavely found Leonard after class let out and told him what had happened. Leonard called his father and relayed the story. 

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

Soon after, Miami’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to change the logo of the sports teams from a derogatory term for Native Americans to “RedHawks.”

Photo by Miami University Archives | The Miami Student

Minutes from the April 28, 1997, Miami Board of Trustees meeting where Miami's mascot was officially changed to RedHawks

Snavely’s foresight was honored when he got a spot on the committee that decided Miami’s new logo and wordmark. Miami was years ahead of some other teams like Washington’s NFL team, which held on to the moniker until July 2020.