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By Snow Shark Athletics

Published 9:30 a.m. on April 1, 2024

Bemidji State University is proud to unveil a new identity – one that captures the essence of our competitive spirit, our northern hardiness and our relentless tenacity.

Starting today, we are the Bemidji State Snow Sharks.

After almost 100 years with the “Beavers” as its nickname, BSU has adopted a new moniker to usher in a new era of championship excellence.

“The Snow Shark represents everything it means to be a Bemidji Statesman,” said director of athletics Britt Lauritsen. “We will swim proudly into this future together.”

“Fins up!” shouted BSU President John L. Hoffman, while putting a hand on top of his head to imitate a dorsal fin. “Out with the old, in with the new. I’m pretty sure nobody liked the Beavers nickname anyway.”

While the Beavers nickname possesses a strong legacy, the Snow Sharks moniker has also authored its own rich past. It was first proposed as a replacement nickname by students in 1994 and, despite being unsuccessful then, today’s unveiling honors the heritage of the never-give-up vertebrate.

The rare North American Snow Shark is believed to have evolved from normal sharks that got drunk one night several million years ago and wandered, in a stupor, into the Great Lakes. Of course, once they sobered up, they were unable to find their way out, so they shrugged their carnivorous shoulders and decided to make the best of it, eating freshwater fish and the occasional skinny-dipping caveman.

Some of these sharks decided to go swimming too near the local glaciers and got caught in the snow when the glaciers moved. Rather than give up, these hardy fish evolved, developing stronger fins that allowed them to swim through snow and changing their internal carburetors to allow more air in their air/water mix for breathing. Impressed with their new abilities, these newly-evolved Snow Sharks metaphorically thumbed their noses (Snow Sharks don’t have thumbs) at the other sharks and headed inland.

Bemidji State Athletics has also adopted the slogan “Fins up!” for sponsored varsity teams and events. (Please be aware: All violators caught uttering, “Go Beavers” moving forward will be issued a literal slap on the wrist by campus security.) The phrases “Go Snow Sharks!” and “Go Sharks!” are acceptable. (A group of sharks is called a shiver, so the phrase “Shiver me timbers” would also be appropriate.)

Additionally, plans are in the works to change the school name from “Bemidji State University” to “Minnesota State University-Bemidji.” University chancellor April F. Ools is lobbying for legislative support at the state capitol this week.

Mascot mania

Along with the name change comes an exciting new mascot. Bucky the Beaver has retired and will begin snowbirding in Arizona next winter. He has passed the torch to Mark the Shark, who will debut during the Homecoming football game this fall. Head coach Brent Bolte has even agreed to let Mark start the game at quarterback – with a chance to win the starting job.

In step with the new identity, Chet Anderson Stadium will undergo a $1 billion renovation project that moves the field from its current location to floating on Lake Bemidji itself. It will be the first floating football stadium in the world. Fans under the age of 18 will be required to wear life jackets while on “Shark Island,” and all fans will be encouraged to bring floaties as an additional safety measure.

An artist rendering of new mascot Mark the Shark.
An architectural rendering of the new Chet Anderson Stadium.

Mark was also expected to walk-on to the hockey team after football season. Unfortunately, the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee has preemptively banned him from intercollegiate competition due to liability concerns for opposing teams’ freshman prey, particularly on ice. Rumor has it coach Tom Serratore wasn’t keen on Mark’s penalty minute projections, anyway.

Nevertheless, Mark will also take a full load of classes at BSU and will major in aquatic biology. He also plans to join the Bemidji Chamber Orchestra and has already mastered the “Jaws” theme song on the tuba.

Elsewhere on campus, Sattgast Hall’s rooftop greenhouse will be renovated into a sharks-only hot tub and sauna lounge, while current art students will revamp the pillars of the iconic Alumni Arch by chiseling shark carvings out of the brick.

The community is rallying behind the Snow Sharks, as well. The famous Paul Bunyan statue will receive a new partner this summer, as BSU officials are working with the City of Bemidji to replace Babe the Blue Ox with a Snow Shark statue.

Also of note, BSU will keep its school colors of green and white. Focus groups feared that changing something so synonymous with the university wouldn’t go over well with alumni.

Shark sillhouette

The true tale of the fictitious shark

Bemidji State student Darrell Hardy first coined the "Snow Sharks" in his Northern Student column "Through the Dorm Window" in 1994.

No, we’re not actually changing our name to the Snow Sharks. But the legend is genuinely real. The Bemidji State beast was the brainchild of Darrell Hardy, a former Northern Student columnist and a savant of satire.

Hardy first devised the creature in a February 1994 article titled “Snow shark warning: everyone, out of the snow!” (Hardy also previously concocted the Mutant Man-Eating Squirrels, but that’s a tale for another day.) He described their northern migration and evolution, plus their hunting patterns and other predatory characteristics.

“The North American Snow Shark,” Hardy wrote, “hibernates until winter, burying itself in the mud at the bottom of large bodies of water. (Lake Bemidji, anyone?) In the wild, the Snow Shark hunts small animals such as squirrels and rabbits, but will occasionally take down more sizable game such as deer or cattle. It’s in town that the Snow Shark becomes dangerous to humans. While they have problems crossing large snowless areas such as broad streets and parking lots, Snow Sharks can leap across smaller gaps like sidewalks with relative ease.”

Hardy concluded that the newfound presence of Snow Sharks on campus did explain quite a few things – the odd snow formations, why his roommate never came home from class one day, and so on. He warned pedestrians to take the hazard seriously because “your life may depend on it.”

“If you’re in a Snow Shark Danger Area,” he warned, “keep an eye out for the tell-tale dorsal fin, cutting through the surface of the snow with sinister grace.”

Leaning in to the legend

Soon, mythical students converted the predator’s threats into a lethal charge for change.

Another Hardy column in March 1994, which was delivered as a “paid commercial announcement” from a classmate, challenged the school to stop taking advantage of local beavers for its own gain. A faux organization called PROBE (that’s “People Really Opposed to Beaver Exploitation”) lamented all sorts of ways that beavers had been abused.

“That’s right; we’ve turned the cute, little, peace-loving beavers into barbaric sports symbols without even consulting them,” the column read. “Did we ask the beavers what they think about BSU sports? Did we get permission to use their name? … Of course not. (We’re) just lucky our little forest friends are too busy eating trees to sue.”

PROBE implored students to pledge their allegiance to a new fad: “While I’m not really sure what a snow shark is, I’m positive that it would make a better mascot than our beleaguered, flat-tailed friend, the beaver.

“Here’s your chance to get involved, to make a difference on this campus. Sign snow shark petitions, write the president in support of the mascot change, march on Deputy Hall chanting slogans and handcuffing yourself to the bike rack – do whatever it takes to stop this blatant beaver exploitation. The madness must end now.”

Fictional readers really took the story to heart, because the following week’s paper – on April Fools Day, 30 years ago today – reported on a made-up protest in front of Deputy Hall, in addition to other sensationalized stories. (For example, Hardy’s kidnapping was front-page news, and Dr. Cook E. Monster was announced as a candidate for BSU president on the platform of “Me like cookies.”)

Passionate advocates clashed during the unforgettable/imaginary protest, signs ranging from “Ban the Beaver” to “Get Real – Snow Sharks Aren’t!” According to the Northern Student, protestors hurled snowballs and insults at the opposing side. The noisy conflict quickly drew a crowd of curious passerbys and backed up traffic for six blocks.

The Snow Sharks movement died out sometime after the ugly altercation (though a real student petition did circulate unsuccessfully at one point). Nevertheless, Bemidji State’s official stance on the Snow Shark incursion is that it encourages all human readers to remain vigilant, even today.

Another 1994 Snow Sharks article offers the most practical advice in protecting oneself and one’s neighbors:

“If you are convinced that you are being pursued by a dreaded Snow Shark on your way to class, drop everything and run like hell. I cannot stress this enough! If you should spot someone else being pursued by a Snow Shark, tell them to do the same. (For example: ‘Hey, Rich! There’s a Snow Shark after you, man! Run like hell, Rich! Run like hell!’ Either Rich makes it or he doesn’t. All that matters is you tried and you felt good about doing it.)”

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