The myth. The legend. The mascot.
Arising from the Mississippi River, Louie the Triton is the perfect mascot to represent the UMSL spirit, and ability to inspire the unique fighting spirit in others. The triton is a newt that makes his home in both the Mississippi and the river city, St. Louis. Predators know to keep their distance due to the color of its toxic skin, and the triton carries a trident to wield his power against any that threaten.
We weren’t always the Tritons.
In fact, for the first 41 years of our history, the UMSL community was informally known as the “Rivermen,” a nickname that came out of a student contest in 1965. The name was never formally adopted though as there was little popular support due to its gender construction. Still, the name stuck and UMSL’s athletic teams became known as the Rivermen.
It wasn’t until recent years that change began to take shape after a survey found that three in five students disliked the Rivermen name and only a quarter of students wanted to keep it. So, in the fall of 2006 Chancellor Tom George charged a committee of students, faculty, staff and alumni with identifying a new embodiment of the UMSL spirit. With the assistance of a creative firm, the committee identified a new and improved nickname – the Tritons – which was formally adopted by the University of Missouri Board of Curators in May 2007.
Though the Triton nickname was adopted in 2007, the Triton mascot itself was only first revealed in January 2010. In front of a cheering crowd at 'Pack the Stands' night, the red Triton mascot certainly made its presence known. But, ultimately something was missing: a name. So, for two months, the university accepted prospective mascot names before selecting the top five to put to a student-wide vote. Louie – as we know him today – was announced as the name of the Triton mascot at the annual Mirthday celebration in spring 2010.
Great…but what is it?
From the time of its adoption, many speculated what the Triton name referenced. Some thought Triton referenced the seventh moon of the planet Neptune – known for its unique pattern of orbit. Others thought it referenced Triton, the messenger of the sea in Greek mythology whose father, Poseidon, was known for his weapon, the trident (more on that later). But, it’s a well-kept secret that the Tritons are inspired by something far closer to home: a newt. Triton, among other things, means a small, usually bright-colored semiaquatic salamander. Specifically, Louie takes his form from the red-spotted newt known for its brilliant color.
So, what’s with the trident?
Newts are semiaquatic creatures, meaning they alternate between aquatic and terrestrial habitats, sometimes even staying in the water fulltime. St. Louis is not only known for its iconic arch, but it is also the place where the nation’s two largest rivers meet. Just north of the St. Louis metropolitan area, the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers is an ideal place for Louie to spend the breaks before returning to campus for classes. Who else was associated with life the water? The messenger of the sea, Triton, who like his father, Poseidon, carried a trident in Greek mythology. Poseidon’s counterpart in Roman mythology? Neptune, the god of freshwater and the sea, who also carried a trident. In both Greek and Roman – as well as Hindu – mythology, the three-pronged spear is said to have the power to control the sea. For Louie, the trident is not only a nod to his river home, but is a symbol of power that unites the Tritons to victory.