By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer
Eastern New Mexico University has long been home to sports teams nicknamed Greyhounds.
Exactly how that came about is not clear.
Gene Bundy, ENMU’s special collections librarian, said the first football team may have been named for a bus. The story originates during a team practice on a field where the University Theater stands now.
“We actually have an oral interview with the first football coach at Eastern (D.H. ‘Tiny’ Reed),” Bundy said. “He said they were out there taking a break, and talking about what they were going to call themselves, when a Greyhound bus drove by. That’s where the name came from.”
But a former student, G.T. Easley, has a different account of how the greyhound became the school mascot.
Easley, now 94, a student when the school first started in 1934, said school officials asked for suggestions for a school nickname. He and a friend, Arnold Bedinger, pitched the greyhound.
“My friend got up and gave a speech about greyhounds’ endurance, speed and they were nice to have around,” Easley said.
Easley said he proposed the greyhound as a mascot since farmers in the area were using the fleet-footed dogs to hunt crop-killing jackrabbits.
In his book, “The Golden Years,” ENMU’s second president recounts much-heated discussions students had regarding the school mascot. Floyd D. Golden wrote that students voted the greyhound as their mascot five days before first president Donald MacKay’s inauguration on Oct. 6, 1934.
University officials announced this week they plan to use live greyhounds — dogs, not buses — as sports mascots next year.
The animals will come from New Mexico Greyhound Connection, which finds homes for retired racing dogs.
School officials wanted animals that are people-friendly and would be good ambassadors for the university — “Dogs that can go into a crowd of people at a football game and want to have that attention,” said ENMU’s Pre-Vet Club advisor Darron Smith.
It’s a natural fit for greyhounds, according to Candy Beck, who is the president of New Mexico Greyhound Connection.
“They are wonderful pets, very mellow and laid-back animals,” Beck said. “They get along really well with other breeds of dogs and about 80 percent of them are great with cats. They’re very good with children.”
A 3-year-old female and 2-year-old male have been selected for the jobs. Both are in Phoenix and should be arriving at Eastern sometime in December. A contest to name them is expected soon.
They won’t be the first greyhounds at ENMU sporting events.
Janice Cowen, Eastern’s coordinator of alumni affairs, remembers seeing dogs at football games when she was a child in the 1970s.
Those greyhounds belonged to Joe Place who worked at the university library, Bundy said. He brought them to the games to serve as unofficial mascots.
“They died about ’81 or ’82,” Bundy said. “Nobody picked up on having greyhounds (again), until now.”
University officials said they hope to have the greyhounds on campus by December and participate in sporting events after students return from semester break in January.
• They’re mostly bred for hunting, speed and dog shows.
• They hunt by sight, not by smell.
• A greyhound’s top speed is 40 mph.
Sources — New Mexico Greyhound Connection and Thoroughbreds and Greyhounds: Biochemical Adaptations in Creatures of Nature and of Man
Want to handle the hounds?
ENMU will select student handlers for the mascots. Deadline for applications is 3 p.m. on Nov. 13.
• 3.0 GPA or higher
• Must be junior, senior or graduate student
• Must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 hours
For information, call Darron Smith at 562-2363 or visit the Web site
Applications can be picked up at University Relations in the Administration Building.