For anyone trying to revive a collegiate mascot or attempting to create a new one, there are always some lingering questions: “What should it be?” “What design will be good enough to be adored by fans, alumni and students alike?”
Enter University of Louisiana at Lafayette alumnus and graduate film school student Cory St. Ewart.
Long before he left Louisiana for New York to attend Columbia, St. Ewart realized something was off with the university’s athletics. “One thousand percent,” he explained. “I still went to football and basketball games after graduation and I just noticed the declining attendance, just the energy was just not there.” St. Ewart continued, “We had very successful football teams and other athletic events, but it was just this lack of engagement, lack of community engagement as well.”
“I just noticed the void,” Ewart said. “I noticed the things affecting the university and the games and the culture. I think a mascot is a way to solve some of those issues.”
On March 15, 2022, in a thread discussing the longtime absence of a mascot, Ewart posted his first sketch of a concept for a new mascot: an anthropomorphic alligator clad in Louisiana’s vermilion and white named Albineaux “Al” Boudreaux.
“That was the first time I did just a mock-up of a Parish Ink design. Probably earlier that year, I talked to some individuals, I was saying online, ‘I think this could be a cool concept,’ and then I started developing it. I used Parish Ink’s design just to start building it up and help people start visualizing what I was seeing.”, St. Ewart said.
St. Ewart continued work on the concept, revealing another sketch in a Twitter reply later that year on Sept. 15. Ewart explained, “After it received some feedback, like positive feedback based off the idea, that’s when I knew I had to seriously develop it and commission a real artist to create a better image that people could attach to and start seeing some of the long-term goals I was seeing.”
For the latest design, St. Ewart commissioned fellow local artist and UL Lafayette alum Burton Durand, creative director of Bayou Brands and author of a host of logos for companies across Acadiana.
Throughout his creative process, St. Ewart approached the concept with heritage and tradition in mind, giving Al a 20th-century collegiate styling and nautical attire.
“I wanted to give homage to previous mascots, the biggest one being ‘Cajun Man’,” St. Ewart explained. “There’s a lot of old alumni that still are pretty infatuated with that short-lived mascot… So that’s where the pinstripe pants come from.”
St. Ewart continued, “For me, it was important to say, ‘This is Louisiana moving forward, but also acknowledging the past as well’. This image is an attempt to bridge all ages and create a new history, new tradition, something we can be proud of.”
Though the final design is informed by modern graphics, sporting highly-detailed shading, St. Ewart made sure to keep some of the old-school intact. “It just wouldn’t feel right to me to solely base the image in modern and say, ‘This is moving towards the future’. Most of Al is an acknowledgement of the past of Louisiana,” St. Ewart added.
That commitment to the past carries into Al’s potential backstory. St. Ewart explained, “In order for albino alligators to survive, they have to be taken out of their environment and put into another one to where they can survive, and that parallel was important to me.”
St. Ewart continued, “I know a group of people that had something that was intrinsic to their culture and they were under threat of where they were from and had to move to a different environment in order to thrive… I’m talking about the Cajun people, right?”
“They had to leave that environment and come to Acadiana to thrive, and Al can be the exact thing,” St. Ewart said. “That’s the parallel.”
St. Ewart added, “And I think that applies to a lot of people that move to Acadiana too, that find themselves, that come to the university lost and find the joy in Cajun culture, find the joy of the people here and they thrive and things turn around.”
When reminiscing on the ups and downs of the campaign, St. Ewart said, “It’s been an experience… It’s great that everyone is talking about this now. It’s been so tragic that we had a mascot and he’s been gone for 10 years and when I posted this, people are like, ‘Don’t they have the Pepper?’ They didn’t even notice he was gone. If that’s not a failure on a mascot’s part, I don’t know what is.
“I do want people’s opinions on that [the mascot], because I feel like the UL and Ragin’ Cajuns fanbase has been stripped of that for so long. They haven’t had the opportunity to weigh in on what is representation of the University. So I hope Al inspires that,” St. Ewart added.
According to St. Ewart, “This is something that people are wanting. I believe it’s a slam dunk. It could be such a good opportunity for so many people, and people really want to contribute back to the university in a significant way… if Al does get picked up at some point, God willing, then we can trace it back, and be like, ‘Hey, this really came from the people that make the culture of UL and it rose up from that. We saw it happen organically.’”