Western Michigan lost several keys pieces heading into the 2017 season. Zach Terrell and Corey Davis graduated, P.J. Fleck exited to Minnesota, and Buster Bronco took on the form of a completely different species.
On July 19, Western Michigan's athletic department announced on Twitter that the beloved Kalamazoo mascot would change his appearance, starting at the Broncos' home opener on September 16. The account posted several mock videos of Buster altering his lifestyle by jogging around campus and hitting up the bench press at Western Michigan's training facilities.
Although gaining an increased muscular physique, the most glaring change in Buster's appearance was the reconstruction of his facial expression. The equine creature's eyes transformed from half-shut yellow irises to a meaner, more aggressive complexion. Buster's mouth also opened up and the furry, costumed horse received a more pronounced snout as part of the makeover.
Western Michigan's fans and alumni were not particularly impressed after Buster debuted his new appearance at the Broncos' home-opener against Idaho last Saturday. As a result, Twitter user Fritz Klug started a petition to bring back the original look of the college's mascot.
The petition on change.org gained massive support immediately. At the time this article was released, 1,538 supporters signed Klug's petition in just five days. Klug published a statement on Buster and why he prefers the older edition of the mascot:
Buster Bronco is an icon. A fun loving WMU goofball. At the sidelines of a football or basketball game, or out in the community, Buster is Kalamazoo’s favorite mascot. But Western Michigan University has changed him, “updated” him to be more lean and athletic. In the process, we’ve lost the very heart and soul of who Buster is. What is wrong with the Buster we’ve had? He’s classic and has a unique look for the university that’s been around for years.
Let’s bring the Buster we know and love back.
Fight on fight on for Buster!
Western Michigan has not released any announcement on fans' criticism of the controversial makeover.
Considering the athletic department created several videos promoting the Buster reveal, it seems unlikely the University would revert to the original mascot any time soon, although the original costume probably sits somewhere deep in a closet in Kalamazoo.
The decision to change Buster likely occurred after the mascot was the subject of memes and Twitter discussion last November when Western Michigan hosted College GameDay in Kalamazoo. ESPN personality Lee Corso donned the headgear of the "tired looking" mascot with half-shut eyelids, and hundreds college football fans across the Internet discovered Buster Bronco that morning as a result. The Broncos lived under their greatest spotlight in history in 2016, earning a Cotton Bowl appearance after winning their first 13 games of the season.
(Though, we would be remiss not to mention this all-time Vine from a game against Northern Illinois in 2014 as a top “Buster Bronco” moment.)
This mascot makeover is reminiscent of the New Orleans Pelicans' decision to alter Pierre the Pelican during the 2013-14 NBA season. The original Pierre was deemed "too creepy" by many basketball followers, causing the Pelicans to change the mascot during the franchise's first season under the new nickname. But in Western Michigan's scenario, fans are pleading the team to revive the classic mascot.
Western Michigan faces Wagner of the FCS on Saturday in Kalamazoo. The new Buster will likely make an appearance at Waldo Stadium, but over 1,500 Broncos' fans (and counting) wish the University would just trot out Buster of yesteryear instead.