Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nobody happy about Phoenix name change

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To the Editor:

We have been fans of Cumberland athletics for over 50 years. We fondly recall attending Bulldog baseball games as kids in the 1960s - many years before there even existed a grass infield. Our local Little League and Babe Ruth teams were allowed to practice there as well. Thanks to Coach Woody Hunt and his many years of dedication, Cumberland now has one of the best baseball venues in the NAIA.

Fans our age vividly remember the Bulldog basketball teams of the early 1970s. Coach Cliff Ellis, who is one of the winningest active coaches in NCAA history, got his start at Cumberland. They played in a "cracker box" of a gym known as the "Dawg House." There was a giant bulldog logo displayed on the wall at one end of the court. The atmosphere was electric, and the gym was always packed. Those Bulldog squads were some of the school's best and most entertaining teams ever.

We have been sports fans all our lives. Never have we had as much fun as following the Bulldog baseball team of 2010. That team hit over 160 homeruns on its way to the NAIA World Series Championship. More recently, we witnessed the gutsy performance of the 2014 Bulldogs who put it all together and clawed their way to the championship. We baseball fans cannot overlook the 2004 championship Bulldog team either.

The 2007 Lady Bulldog basketball team was the national NAIA runner-up. The Bulldogs have also excelled in wrestling, volleyball and tennis. The soccer teams have been nationally recognized as well.

Bulldog football tradition goes back over 100 years. Most sports enthusiasts are aware of the Cumberland versus Georgia Tech game in 1916 that goes into the record books as the biggest margin of victory in history (222-0). Only true Bulldog fans, however, are aware of the circumstances that led to such a lop-sided defeat. That is a story for another day. Also, most people do not realize that the Bulldog team of 1903 defeated Vanderbilt, Alabama, LSU and Tulane, and tied Clemson.

We can find many more examples of the rich tradition of Cumberland Bulldog athletics. So, why has the university suddenly changed the name of its athletic teams from the Bulldogs to the Phoenix? Is there an advantage here that we are unable to see? Is there a logical explanation? We are Cumberland graduates and aware of how the university arose from the ashes after the Civil War - which a student compared to the actions of the mythical bird, the Phoenix. So yes, we know of the school's association with the Phoenix. The yearbook is named the Phoenix, and the annual social gala event is the Phoenix Ball.

Nevertheless, we have found nobody among our peers that is happy about this decision. We have talked to several alumni and can't find any who were consulted about the name change. Apparently neither the local community nor alumni were solicited for input. You would think that Cumberland would at least try to explain how the name change came about. Until it does, we will remain Cumberland Bulldog fans in heart and spirit. The Phoenix has risen - and the Bulldogs have been buried!

Jimmy Johnson and Terry Stafford

Cumberland College, Class of 1977


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