In 1921, the first official Homecoming celebration at Illinois State University kicked off and started an annual tradition that carries on to this day. However, the University’s nickname was not yet the Redbirds; instead, Illinois State was known unofficially as the “Fighting Pedagogues.” To celebrate 100 Years of Homecoming, an officially licensed “Fighting Pedagogues” T-shirt is now available for all to honor the mascot that represented Illinois State exactly 100 years ago.
Long before Illinois State University became the commonplace name for our beloved university, Illinois State was originally known as Illinois State Normal University (ISNU). Established in 1857 by former Illinois Governor William H. Bissell, the term “Normal” referred to any school that was primarily a teaching school. ISNU was one of the five teacher schools in Illinois, thus all were focused on training teachers to teach. This practice, known as pedagogy, would become the basis for a common nickname for ISNU.
In 1923, “Red Birds” was adopted as the official moniker for ISNU athletics. Prior to the Redbirds, there was no official mascot name for the University. However, several students, writers, and editors were keen to use “Fighting Pedagogues” and “Fighting Teachers” when describing ISNU athletic teams. The term first appeared in 1909 via a recap of the men’s basketball team by The Daily Pantagraph. The name stuck and was popular for a period of time, being used frequently in headlines of The Vidette and other local papers.
While the nickname was original and creative, many found it difficult to call ISNU the “Fighting Pedagogues” due to the other teacher schools in Illinois being called the same name by media outlets. Newspapers used nicknames such as the Normalites and even the Wahoos before officially transitioning to the Redbirds in 1923.
The history of the Fighting Pedagogues of ISNU lives on with the launch of the brand new Homefield Apparel tee. Whether you will be attending in person or cheering on the Redbirds from afar, celebrate 100 Years of Homecoming by grabbing your licensed “Fighting Pedagogues” shirt by visiting Homefield Apparel and following @ISURedbirdsShop on Instagram for information on all the latest Redbird gear.