The Red Raiders are having an incredible season. No, not the Madison County Red Raiders, the original Red Raiders Texas Tech University originated the dramatic mascot. Or perhaps more accurately, a Texas sports writer came up with it. But Tech was happy to embrace the name.
And they are definitely having a great year. The Big Raiders are eight and zero for the year and ranked sixth nationally. They just defeated the Kansas Jayhawks by a stunning score of 63 to 21!
The story of how Madison County High School became the Red Raiders starts in Jacksonville Florida during the 1954 Gator bowl. The opening ceremony of that game saw the introduction of Texas Tech’s new famous mascot, the Masked Rider. Dressed in black with a flowing scarlet cape, and riding a solid black gelding, the rider lead the Texas Tech football team onto the field before a live national television audience.
The image of the masked rider caught the nation’s attention. Ed Danforth of the Atlanta Constitution wrote: “No team in any bowl game ever made a more sensational entrance.”
Also impressed by the stunning new image were officials of the Madison County School System. When Madison County High School opened its doors in September of 1955, the Red Raider was one of the two options given the student body for a school mascot. The other option was to wear black and white and become the Black Knights. The student body voted overwhelmingly for Red and Gray and the Red Raiders.
The image of the Red Raider has evolved over time. Texas Tech was originally called the Matadors to reflect the area’s Spanish influence. The school colors were Scarlet and Black, the traditional colors of the matador. According to one story sports columnist Collier Parris wrote in 1932, “The Red Raiders from Texas Tech, terror of the Southwest this year, swooped into the New Mexico University camp today.”
Two years later coach Pete Cawthorn dressed his team in brilliant scarlet uniforms to capitalize on the new image, and the name Red Raiders became a permanent part of the team’s identity.
There have been a number of attempts to create a history for the Red Raider. Generally he is pictured as a Mexican bandito who seeks justice for the abused and downtrodden, sort of a cross between Robin Hood, Zorro and the Lone Ranger.
The Red Raider has changed little over the years sense he emerged. There have been a few attempts to modify him but most of those failed. At one point he was being portrayed as a pirate waving a cutlass. The pirate has left us, but the cutlass stayed on. In the original drawing of the Red Raider, he is waving a pistol in his right hand. But political correctness, for some reason, holds that firearms are bad. So the cutlass has replaced the pistol.
I am pulling for the Texas Tech Red Raiders to finish the regular season undefeated. I would love to see their only loss be to the Georgia Dawgs in the national championship game.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com/