The Nighthawk has officially taken over the University of North Georgia, unifying the four campuses under one distinctive mascot.
“It seems like in no time, when we get clothes in, they’re selling,” said Vickie Moody, a staff associate at the university’s Gainesville campus’ bookstore.
The new mascot can mostly be found on clothing and water bottles in the bookstore. Moody said there’s a primarily positive response to the Nighthawk, which replaces the Saints for the Dahlonega campus and the Flying Geese at Gainesville. The university also has campuses in Cumming and Watkinsville.
“When things change, it takes time to get used to change,” she said.
The Nighthawk was selected last year after student and staff surveys.
“We were very purposeful in including students in this process,” spokeswoman Kate Maine said. “It involved students across all four campuses, and there was great consensus during that process.”
A nighthawk is a nocturnal bird that feeds on insects. Athletic Director Lindsay Reeves said they are very agile, and the depiction of the bird for the university is “fierce and competitive.”
“I think this has been a healthy and great change,” Reeves said.
The Nighthawk’s presence, at least on the Gainesville campus, is not yet pervasive. In fact, sophomore Sean Lantz said he actually hadn’t seen it.
“I think it’s a good idea,” he added. “I think it’s a little tougher (than the Flying Geese).”
Much of the rebranding has been done at the gymnasium on the Dahlonega campus, where the floors were already on schedule to be redone.
“It was routine,” Maine said.
The coaches have redecorated their offices, and the downstairs area of Dahlonega’s athletic building has been changed to reflect the new mascot.
Reeves said most sport uniforms have remained the same.
“Most of the athletics programs are keeping what they have because (of) the cost for that, what’s entailed with that,” Reeves said.
“It’s a slow process for us,” she added. “We didn’t have the funding to just change our uniforms right away.” Reeves did note most athletic departments require uniforms be rotated out on a four-year basis due to wear and tear on the clothing.
Most uniforms are simply labeled “North Georgia,” so branding is not an issue.
“Those (teams) that have been able to get some new uniforms, they’ve integrated the gold into that, and of course the Nighthawk if possible,” Reeves said.
The Gainesville bookstore may not be the only place to see the elusive mascot.
“I may be going crazy but yesterday I swear I saw a nighthawk on top of the Nesbitt building,” said senior Maria Palacios, laughing.
“I think some of the reasoning behind (the mascot) too is that we’re college students, so we stay up all night studying. I like that symbolism that comes through that,” she added.
Reeves agreed, saying she’s seen a real sense of excitement coming from students and professors.
“It helps to bring out the excitement about a new year, and celebration of a new university,” she said. “Athletics is a catalyst to enhance the spirit, and bring together and unify all four campuses.
“I think it has created a lot of excitement, not only within athletics but on campus.”