Imagine you are attending a University of West Georgia (UWG) home football game; you see red and blue streamers and pom-poms and the smell of hot dogs and hamburgers fills the Carrollton air. Suddenly, your team scores a touchdown and the crowd goes wild. The Red and Blue fight song begins to play, and you are prepared to yell out “Go, Braves, Go!” The State University of West Georgia Braves won the game. This was the reality of 2004.
UWG has gone through many changes over the past few decades. The campus has grown, the leadership has changed and the name and classification of the university has evolved. Most of these changes happened under the sixth university president, Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna.
Sethna became president in 1994, when this school was still West Georgia College. Before it gained the title of university, it was a four-year state college. From the beginning of his presidency, Sethna was determined to get West Georgia to the university level.
“I was driven to make us stand out from the crowd of state colleges that were all over Georgia,” stated Sethna.
Sethna believed West Georgia met the requirements to become a university.
“The attributes of West Georgia actually fit more in the university block than they do in the college block. And I could prove that statistically.”
With the help of other leaders from the school and the community, Sethna lead the change from a state college to a university. In June of 1996, West Georgia College became the State University of West Georgia.
“I disagreed with that name very strongly,” Sethna said. “I did not want to be called ‘West Georgia State University’ because it seems like West ‘Georgia State University.’ I did not want to be considered a western branch campus of Georgia State University. I had this vision that one day I would win the fight to remove the word ‘state’ from our title, and we would become the ‘University of West Georgia.’”
After seven and a half years of fighting and pleading, ‘state’ was dropped from the title in 2005 and the State University of West Georgia finally became the University of West Georgia.
Another major and controversial change Sethna introduced was the new mascot. Even though the school had gone through many changes, the mascot had always stayed the same.
“There were multiple reasons why I initiated the mascot change,” he said. “First of all, the [National Collegiate Athletic Association] had been putting pressure on ‘ethnic mascots’ to change. And after much research and studying, I realized that these things like feathers and tomahawks and spears and so on are all religious symbols. So, we were desecrating these Native American Symbols.”
“I also called other universities that still had Native American mascots, and all of them had put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local Native American communities,” he also said. “When I came back to West Georgia, I totaled up the money that we put into the local Native American communities, and I couldn’t find five cents. I could not find one thing that we had done for any Native American cause.”
The third reason was for marketing purposes.
“When most people heard ‘the Braves,’ they associated that with the Atlanta Braves, not the West Georgia Braves.”
Once the decision was made, a contest was held to select the new mascot and the Wolves won.
“Now, for the first time, we could have a physical mascot. The one thing about the wolves that I like is that we have a unifying sound now. We have a howl.”
After the mascot change, Sethna was quoted in the paper as saying, “My dream is that someday there will be 10,000 people howling in the stadium.”
If you go to a present day football game, that is exactly what you will hear.