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The Antelope

The Antelope

The Antelope

Lopers: From black and white to blue and gold

The first publication of the Antelope Newspaper in 1910 lead to the decision of UNK’s mascot, the Loper.


For over a century, the antelope mascot has spread throughout UNK’s campus with its origins remaining fairly unknown. After sifting through history, it’s been re-discovered that an influential factor was the student body’s newspaper.

Still, very few are aware of the Loper’s creation process, including UNK’s Athletic Director, Marc Bauer. 

“I would guess that it has to do with where we are demographically in the United States,” said Bauer. “I’m sure that antelope have meandered into the western side of our state from Colorado and Wyoming. Maybe that’s one of the reasons.” 

Bauer is not alone in thinking that the idea is rooted in the obvious presence of antelope in Nebraska. In fact, his assumption is partially correct according to an essay in UNK’s archives. Written by Sarah Schulz on Oct. 13, 1998 under the direction of Dr. Carol Lomicky, the essay reveals that the Antelope newspaper chose the mascot in their first edition on Dec. 2, 1910. 

The reporters said the following in issue one, “The Antelope, the swiftest, most beautiful and most graceful animal of the western plains, appealed to us as a fitting emblem of our school, located as it is on Nebraska’s broad prairie where the antelope roamed so freely.” The column also mentioned the Nebraska state seal/banner contributing to the decision at the time. 

The athletic teams jumped on the bandwagon shortly after and identified themselves as the Antelopes as well. 

The Antelopes were not officially documented as the ‘Lopers’ until the Kearney Hub included the nickname in their 1958 sports pages. The Antelope newspaper followed suit by claiming the title for Kearney State Campus in the 1960s. 

In fact, the nickname ‘Lopers’ is a part of what separates UNK from Grand Canyon State University in Phoenix, Arizona, who call themselves the ‘Lopes’ despite sharing the same mascot.

GCU does, however, deserve credit for the popular hand gesture of “throwing your Lopes,” or as they like to call it, “Lopes Up.” 

In a GCU article published on November 30, 2012 and titled “Tracing the Origins of ‘Lopes Up: GCU Tradition was Slow to Grow, but Jim D’Apice Stuck With It,” Michael Ferraresi and Cooper Nelson dive into the origins of the hand gesture that UNK has also adopted as their own. 

It began with the irritation Jim D’Apice felt towards the Longhorns’ “Hook ‘em Horns” gesture. To battle back, D’Apice started the trend of forming a snout with his ring finger, middle finger and thumb. His remaining pointer finger and pinkie were pointed upward to resemble an antelope’s horns.

Since its birth in 1996, the ‘Lopes Up’ symbol has evolved into “Throwing Your Lopes” at UNK. Various strategies exist as to how Lopes should be thrown, but according to Bauer the ‘right’ way is to snap the wrist down and give the opponent the horns. 

No one throws their Lopes more than, “Louie the Loper,” but the documentation falls short in explaining where the iconic mascot’s name originated. It is mentioned in Schulz’s essay that Don Briggs, UNK’s athletic director at the time, said that the most likely explanation is due to its alliteration appeal. 

While Louie’s name has remained constant, his appearance has been altered repeatedly according to his earlier designs ranging from stick-figures to cartoons to realistic sketches. His evolution can be seen throughout the pages of the book, “From the Beginning: A Century of Excellence at the University of Nebraska at Kearney” by Eric Melvin Reed, Susanne George Bloomfield, and Richard Schuessler.

The current design of the Loper logo was created in a senior illustration class by Dan Whelan, a member of the class of 2000. 

Despite the changes experienced, the Loper has become a symbol for the community established at UNK. “I think that our mascot is an ambassador for our school because that character is a part of our identity,” Bauer said. “We take a lot of pride in how we represent our institution in our community. I like to describe us in a classy way.”

Thanks to UNK’s student body from 110 years ago, the atmosphere of the antelope mascot has been established in blue and gold colors across campus. It all started with ambitious students, a strong sense of pride and a 75-cent newspaper to set the chain reaction of Loper pride into motion. 

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