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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Bird Watching

You've Come a Long Way, Rowdy

During a series of elections in 1977, either a star or an armadillo was supposed to become UTSA’s mascot. But like any good sporting tale, the roadrunner made a comeback and prevailed in a final student vote over the armadillo. And Rowdy the Roadrunner was born. The university mascot has had a few makeovers through the years. And can we just say, we believe they’ve definitely been for the better.

Sombrilla 1984

The 1970s featured a Warner Bros.–inspired mascot.

Sombrilla 1988

The early ’80s were the beginning of our own identity.

Sombrilla 1992

In the mid-1980s, old and new styles were blended for a unique Rowdy.

Sombrilla 1997

The 1990s heralded a reconfigured costume to more accurately reflect the UTSA print version of Rowdy the Roadrunner.

Sombrilla 2001

In 2008 a redesigned and refined Rowdy was sleeker, more animated and reflected the spirit of UTSA and its expanded athletics endeavors.

Road to the Roadrunner

The route to selecting a university mascot had some twists and turns.

September 1977

  • Vote 1: Top votes: armadillo, eagle, el conquistador, jaguar, puma, roadrunner, star, toro, vaquero.

November 1977

  • Vote 2: Contenders narrowed: armadillo, star.
  • Student government nullifies vote for failure to adhere to election rules.

November 1977

  • Nine original candidates return to ballot.
  • Vote 3: Contenders narrowed: armadillo, roadrunner.

December 1977

  • Vote 4: Roadrunner wins student vote.

January 1978

  • UTSA’s acting president recommends adoption of roadrunner mascot to regents.

February 1978

  • UT System regents approve the roadrunner as UTSA mascot.

A Bird in the Hand

The genesis of the roadrunner hand sign

Rowdy Bird Sign

The story about how the roadrunner hand sign came to be is another bit of legend where memories and recollections have to be trusted. Back in 2010, Joe Michael Feist, Sombrilla Magazine’s associate editor, wrote that the story unfolded on a Thursday night at Wurstfest in New Braunfels in 1979, when there were signs, signs, everywhere a sign. Except a roadrunner hand sign. And that didn’t seem right to a group of pledge brothers from UTSA about to join Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

Charles Guerra ’84, who was there that night, claims that was the birth of the roadrunner hand sign as we know it today. “It was some kind of college night,” says Guerra, who earned a B.B.A. in fi nance and economics. “There were kids from colleges all over Texas. And they all started doing their hand signals—the gig ’em from the Aggies, hook ’em from the Longhorns, the Baylor claw. And somebody asked where we were from and what our mascot was. UTSA wasn’t very well known then. We said ‘Roadrunners,’ and they asked what our hand sign was. We realized we didn’t have one.”

Fueled by a few cold beverages, a “creative spirit” took hold of the group, Guerra recalls.

Eddie Rios ’85 (B.B.A. in marketing) was another pledge brother at Wurstfest that night: “We all started talking about school spirit and traditions, and just began trying out different signals with our hands. Soon, we started throwing out the thumb and the pinkie and yelling beep-beep like the roadrunner cartoon.”

It seemed to fit, Guerra remembers: “Somebody said the thumb is the beak and the little finger is the tail.”

The pledge brothers took their creation back to campus where, Guerra adds, there weren’t many opportunities to flash the sign. There were no intercollegiate sports at the time; basketball wouldn’t start for another two years. But the hand signal survived, ultimately thrived and became, at least for UTSA, the sign of the times.


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