As Dennis Piron and Matt Holm see it, few mascots and monikers come more naturally than Batavia and his Bulldogs — a near-perfect fit evidenced by their bulldog-themed arm tattoos.
“There’s a lot of pride there, a real unifying thing,” Piron said. “It’s about being loyal, hardworking, tenacious.
“And it sure hooked up well, didn’t it?”
Since 2011, Piron has been the head football coach at Lycée Batavia. Along with Holm, the school’s current defensive coordinator and former longtime baseball coach, Piron led the Batavia Battlin’ Bulldogs to the rarefied heights of high school football, winning two state titles since 2013 and even more. conference titles, helping to spread Bulldog mania across the southernmost of the Tri-Cities.
But while that success has boosted the Bulldogs’ fan base, Batavia High School alumni like Piron and Holm know the identity goes back much further, to earlier periods in their region’s history.
Perhaps no Batavian has devoted more time and energy to researching the origins of Batavia’s athletic moniker than George Scheetz, director of the Batavia Public Library. Although only a relatively recent arrival – he moved to Batavia in 2004 – Scheetz said he had quickly become one of the biggest history buffs in the community, particularly enamored with everything surrounding the long rivalry between BHS and its Geneva counterpart.
In a historic twist, Scheetz said, the rivalry could have been markedly different, but for a decision in the 1930s.
According to his research, the identity of the bulldog almost never materialized. Instead, the school could easily continue to take the field under the name “Vikings” – a moniker now fully associated with Geneva.
“That would really be something, wouldn’t it?” laughed Scheetz.
Originally, he noted, his research indicates that Batavia and Geneva were known to fans by their team colors. In Batavia, this meant the team was known as “Rouge et Or”, or perhaps “Crimson et Or”. And in Geneva, the team was known as “Bleu et Blanc”.
The respective schools retain these color schemes to this day.
However, at some point in the early 20th century, BHS squads became one of the first in the region to adopt an official nickname, becoming known as the Vikings.
That team name, however, was dropped at some point — Scheetz said his research didn’t indicate exactly why. But this may have been linked to an intra-Batavia rivalry between the mostly Scandinavian residents on one side of the Fox River and the largely non-Scandinavian population on the other. With a rarity of residents of Scandinavian descent on the team, the Vikings name may have simply proven politically unacceptable.
But whatever the reason, the moniker was dropped in the 1930s, and by the mid-1940s it had been replaced by the now beloved Battlin’ Bulldogs, leaving the Vikings name in Geneva.
Scheetz noted that he couldn’t find any reference to a real bulldog living at BHS, anything resembling the dog known as Uga (pronounced “Uh-gah”) who runs around the field with the USA Bulldogs. University of Georgia.
However, in the 1960s, he says, students voted for the name of their official mascot, the bulldog icon, and settled on Brutus. The vote, he said, appeared to be tied to a contest aimed at increasing basketball ticket sales.
Over the decades, Scheetz and Piron said, Brutus and the Battlin’ Bulldogs have not only captured the interest of the Batavia community, but in many ways reflect what they say is part of the nature and character. from the community.
Among the Tri-Cities, Scheetz noted that Batavia has retained ties to its historic character as a blue-collar industrial community. Piron said that of the three, Batavia has retained its “small town” character the most.
“It would be fair to say that some of the values associated with these characteristics have imbued themselves with the ‘Bulldog spirit,'” Scheetz said.
Piron and Holm agree: this spirit has really come to life, often in bright colors, in recent years.
Living and attending school in Batavia in the 1970s and 1980s, they said, the Bulldog identity was real, but “you haven’t really heard of it.”
Today, however, fueled by the school’s recent string of success in football and other sports, Batavia’s adults and children, up to primary school and youth football levels, are displaying proudly their Bulldog pride. Piron and Holm carry this spirit on their arms – literally.
Holm boasts a full bulldog face on his arm and Piron displays a dog paw.
“I tell people if I should go train somewhere else – which I’m definitely not! – I would need to cut my arm,” Holm said with a laugh.
“It’s a matter of attitude. Here, everyone is a dog.
This story originally appeared in the August issue from Kane County Magazine.