Carthage College picks Firebirds as new athletics name

Carthage College announced Friday, Feb. 19 that its 27 NCAA Division III athletic teams will now compete as the Firebirds.

Acting on a recommendation from President John Swallow, the Carthage Board of Trustees voted at its Feb. 19 meeting to adopt the new team name. The decision concludes a collaborative five-month search for a unifying Carthage identity.

Firebirds was chosen from an initial pool of nearly 500 names submitted by students, alumni, parents, employees, and other supporters. Carthage welcomed these stakeholders’ input at every stage of the process.

A mythical creature made of living fire or light, the firebird appears in the folklore of several cultures. In surveys, those endorsing the name described it as "bold," "fierce," "uncommon," "majestic," and "inspiring."

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Many noted the firebird’s ties to the flames in the existing Carthage seal and logo — which represent the torch of knowledge — as well as the college’s primary color, red. 

"It’s been incredible to witness the fervent enthusiasm that this process has ignited throughout the Carthage community," said Swallow. "The new name captures Carthage’s bold history and imagery, as well as its rising trajectory and visibility."

Carthage College athletics

After a thorough review by a college-wide task force, the board voted in August to retire the previous team names: Red Men and Lady Reds. Survey results indicated the community’s strong desire for a change, as many respondents expressed concern that the names impeded the college’s commitment to racial and gender equity.

The Task Force on Team Names and Mascot includes Carthage trustees, alumni, faculty, staff (including coaches), and students. Guided by six central principles, the group sought a new team name that:

  • Unifies the Carthage community
  • Represents positive qualities, ideals, or associations around which people can rally
  • Holds broad relevance across the Carthage community, student body, and among generations of alumni
  • Represents the Carthage experience and/or history
  • Works equally well for women’s and men’s sports teams
  • Has the potential to translate in a visually pleasing manner

Nate Stewart, director of athletics, said the new team name builds on the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives Carthage Athletics announced last summer in an effort to make all students feel welcome.

"This is a huge moment for hundreds of dedicated Carthage student-athletes and athletic staff," Stewart said. "I look forward to the day when fans return to the stands so our competitors can hear the loud cheers of ‘Let’s Go, Firebirds!’"

Now that the team name is in place, the task force will turn its attention to a replacement for Torchie, the Carthage mascot since 1997. Although the character isn’t directly tied to the outgoing nicknames, constituents expressed equally strong support for a change.

Carthage retires athletic team names due to racial, gender concerns

Almost 3,000 Carthage stakeholders shared their feedback in a survey, and dozens more elaborated on their perspectives via email and an online form.