Origin Story: The history of the Kangaroo Mascot

I’ve got three priorities when it comes to a college mascot.  It must be inclusive, it must be unique, and it must be relevant.  The Kangaroo passes all three tests.

There is a long line of Roo students who have donned the “Katy the Kangaroo” outfit.  Stacy Jacob was the Roo from my years at AC.  AC Alumni Board member Wayne Whitmire would consistently and respectfully greet her at parties by shouting “it’s……..THA ROO” when Stacy made an appearance. 

AC had a real-life Kangaroo mascot named “Katy” in the 1950s.  Katy briefly made national news when she was kidnapped before an upcoming football game with Abilene Christian University.  The perpetrators were local and attempted to blame ACU for the theft.  They eventually gave Katy up after an anonymous phone call.  Wise move.  The press reported that Katy was “eight months old, wild, and probably put up a terrific fight.”

Austin College also had a real-life Kangaroo mascot in 1923.  The roo was named Pat (after AC benefactor Pat Hooks) and lived underneath the steps of Luckett Hall.  The press reported that “Austin College is believed to be the first college in Texas to secure…..a living representative of the animal after which the teams of the college are called.”  That seems unlikely, given that Bevo at the University of Texas dates back to 1916.  Pat did not take to the cool climate of north Texas, and sadly passed just days after the Roos traveled to Austin and lost a football game to the Longhorns.  Well played Bevo.

The Kangaroo mascot itself was born in the fall of 1913, just before the beginning of the football season.  One AC legend about the origin of the mascot is that it was given to the school by Philip Arbuckle, head coach of the Rice Owls.  1912 was the first year of Rice’s existence, and the Owls scheduled their last game of that initial season against Austin College in downtown Houston.  As the story goes, the 1912 Roos were so dominant that day that Arbuckle later claimed the AC squad was “as fast as Kangaroos.”  The 1912 AC team was one of the finest in school history and destroyed Rice 81-0.  It remains the worst loss in school history; even the mighty Longhorns have failed to match.  Take that Bevo.

The Rice legend, however, is probably just a myth.  It is much more likely that the mascot Kangaroo comes from Austin College history.  In the latter half of the 19th century, AC was an all-male military institute. One of the traditions of the school at that time was a “Kangaroo Court,” a hazing-like ritual to which incoming freshmen were subjected.  AC was no longer a military school by 1913 but continued to be all-male with a culture heavily influenced by that era.  The Rice legend was probably a more appealing story for Roos to tell each other.

The “Kangaroo Court” makes an appearance in the AC yearbook of 1899, during the school’s military days that began ten years earlier in 1889.  The court certainly sounds like something one might find at a mock student military court at Texas A&M during that era.  The senior officers are described as “learned,” “dignified,” and “witty.”  The officers also make clear that the court “is capable of deciding any point ecclesiastical or civil.” Pity the poor freshmen cadet recruits.

I’ve got three priorities when it comes to a college mascot.  It must be inclusive, it must be unique, and it must be relevant.  The Kangaroo passes all three tests.  Everybody loves the adorable Kangaroo.  There are very few Kangaroo mascots in the United States.  And the Roo travels back in time all the way to 1889.  As far as I am aware, Austin College is the only college in the state whose mascot can be tied to three centuries of Texas.