A few days ago there was this brief article saying some students want a new mascot. What happened is a few years ago, the national sports association had Illinois retire the old mascot, Chief Illiniwek, who manifested at half times as a guy who came out in war paint and Indian chief gear and danced around. That's, how to say, a bit inappropriate. Every so often, an independent organization likes to put on a big performance of the old mascot and it seems like since we haven't picked a replacement, people haven't moved on from the old.
So, here's my idea: the Illinois Pioneers!
What's great about it is how on the one hand, it hearkens back to the industrious settlers arriving with little more than their hands to build what became one of the biggest states and cities from wild prairie and at the same time, the name looks forward to all the pioneering that's happened here and yet to happen in such things as technology, from skyscrapers to computers, and vision, like the World's Fair or the ideas of all the great people who've come from Illinois.
Here's a big list of US college mascots. Only one result indirectly comes up for Pioneers and it's a small school in Connecticut.
I had a few other ideas, which seem to be better suited as a motif on a book cover than a mascot. What Illinois mainly makes me think of is tall things like corn, skyscrapers, and Abe Lincoln, however I can't think of anything from that in one word that would make a good mascot. The Towers? Pillars? Stalks? Illinois Stalkers?
Illinois has a strong history in technology and industry. Something that could come from computers and electronics, a completely underutilized field in mascotry, would be the Illinois Resistance. Unfortunately, mass nouns don't make strong mascots not to mention that's pretty nerdy.
Lastly, I really like the Illinois' Sky. If you've ever been to or driven through Illinois, you'd know there's lots of sky here above all the fields and skyscrapers. I like what it conveys: we're big, deceptively serene, inescapable, and going to cover you up. Except how would that be a mascot--an orange and blue cloud? Or maybe have it in the name but go largely mascotless, like a European soccer club.
What other imagery does Illinois conjure up?