When people think of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, one of the first things to come to mind is Durango the Maverick, UNO’s mascot, a living, breathing symbol of school spirit since 1971. In order to keep the tradition of Durango alive, UNO’s Athletic Department is searching for students interested in becoming Durango.
According to UNO’s website, Durango has been the university’s mascot since replacing the Indians mascot in 1971 during a student election held as part of homecoming week. Other mascot options listed on the ballot included the Demons, Roadrunners, Unicorns or keeping Indians as the school’s official nickname.
A final tally printed in the Gateway shows UNO was only 51 votes away from becoming known as the Unicorns, and also proves students were ready for a change with 0 votes for the original Indians mascot.
The tradition of Durango as UNO’s mascot has held strong for the past 45 years and continued to grow and become more visible at the university with the addition of a 1,500-pound bronze bull statue, known as the Maverick Monument, installed outside of HPER in the fall of 2014.
Now, according to Community Relations Director of Athletics Pam Schwarting, Durango can be seen at all UNO athletic events as well as several community events, including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the Omaha Corporate Cup.
To ensure UNO has enough Durangos to go to all of these events, Schwarting said the Athletic Department is looking to hire two or three more students this fall.
“I’m searching for a new, enthusiastic, fun Durango that is going to excel in school spirit,” Schwarting said. “They should be fun-loving, energetic, good with kids and willing to be goofy.”
Schwarting also listed a height stipulation of at least 5 feet 10 inches as part of the hiring criteria. The hours of the job vary depending on what area of athletics each Durango is assigned.
“A couple will do volleyball, a couple… basketball, a few do hockey and a couple who can mix in with the sports and do outside community events as well,” Schwarting said. “It all depends on how enthusiastic they are.”
Schwarting said the more enthusiastic and energetic a Durango is, the more events she will have them attend.
For University of Hawaii at Hilo graduate Jordan Concannon, the opportunity to be Durango helped to fulfill a lifelong dream and also granted her behind the scenes access to many UNO events.
Concannon, who was born and raised in Nebraska, was taking a class for fun last fall at UNO after graduating with degrees in physics and astronomy at UH Hilo when she decided to check job listings on the UNO website and saw a post about a position as Durango.
“It seemed like an absolutely crazy but fun job,” Concannon said. “I thought I’d apply and see what happened.”
Concannon was hired and attended a variety of events throughout the year, including Durango Days, community races and a calendar photo shoot at a retirement community.
Concannon said her favorite part of the job is “seeing kids’ faces light up” when they see Durango and stresses the importance of the new Durango being patient with both kids and adults.
“They definitely need to be ok with large groups of kids and adults coming up behind you or banging you on the head,” Concannon said.
Concannon cites the weight of the Durango costume’s head as a draw-back and warns the costume can become “blistering hot.”
Despite the stuffiness of the costume, Concannon has had a positive experience as Durango.
“Being Durango gives you a behind the scenes look at what it takes to put on the sporting events and athletic events on campus,” Concannon said. “It’s also a way to help you come out of your shell. If you’re normally a shy person, you don’t have to worry about anyone knowing who you are … all that matters is that you’re Durango.”
Students who are interested in applying to become Durango should contact Pam Schwarting at firstname.lastname@example.org.