The Creation of Raider Red
by Jim Gaspard
The creation of Raider Red is an interesting story of suspense and intrigue. In the early 1970's Texas Tech was a strong contender in the NCAA Division I Southwest Conference. Many conference member athletic directors were disgruntled when Texas Tech played in their stadiums, always bringing its Masked Rider and stallion mascot to the game. Football fields were mostly grass turf then, and Texas Tech, since the 1952 Gator Bowl, had a long-standing tradition of it's mascot leading the team onto the field. Claiming turf damage, these members of the conference were considering introducing changes to the rules of traveling mascots. When word reached Tech's spirit organization Saddle Tramps, there was concern as to how to counter the possibility of being mascot-less at away games.
In 1970, Lubbock advertising agency owner, cartoonist, and Tech alum, Dirk West, created a caricature mascot named 'Ol' Red' to represent Tech's Masked Rider as part of his syndicated SWC football cartoon series published every Friday in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. The overly popular and witty 'Ol' Red', along with other SWC conference characters created by Dirk, quickly became a mainstay of SWC sports satire and humor as the season progressed. In the Spring of 1971, junior undergraduate student Jim Gaspard of Port Arthur, a member of the Saddle Tramps spirit organization, conceived a possible solution. Long before the era of character mascots popular today, Gaspard, inspired by a previous visit to Disneyland, pictured a character mascot in the image of Dirk West's 'Ol Red. With the informal permission of Dirk West, Gaspard set about to create a student-worn shadow mascot to represent the official Texas Tech mascot, The Masked Rider and his Stallion - Charcoal Cody. Over the summer of 1971 while living in Clements Hall, Gaspard with a little help from his girlfriend, Dinah DeWitt, created a paper mâché and chicken wire replication of Dirk's 'Ol Red molded over an old football helmet and shoulder pads. The body was patterned and sewn by a friend he recruited, Ginger Perkins, who was a student in Tech's Theatre & Drama Department. Old boots scavenged from the Salvation Army were painted red, white and black with Double-T's, and a leather belt with double-T buckle and bullet holders for each SWC team were sewn from pieced leather from Tandy Leather. Two paper mâché six-shooters completed the outfit. As a final thought, the new character was re-named 'Raider Red' to connect with and honor as a symbol to his team, the Red Raiders, so named by the Avalanche Journal since 1933.
In August of 1971, Gaspard presented his Raider Red creation to the Saddle Tramp organization as an alternate stand-in to Tech's official live mascot, the Masked Rider; his use was conditional should the SWC pass a new mascot away-game travel ruling. Eventually, it was decided to introduce Raider Red on a trial basis to the student body at the first pep rally held in Jones stadium before the season opening game with Tulane. On September 9th, 1971, Jim Gaspard as Raider Red appeared before 4000 crazed football fans, coach Jim Carlen and his team of Red Raiders. While the SWC eventually never introduced any changes to mascot travel, Raider Red opened the door to having a mascot capable of representing all sports venues at Tech, as well as other campus activities supporting the University. Because of his growing popularity, since 1972 until 2004, there have been two Raider Reds per school year, fall and spring. In 2005, the format was changed to having four students eligible to portray Raider Red because of the increase of appearance requests. Today, he appears in over 500 events per year.
Raider Red candidates can be either a Saddle Tramp (since 1971 to present) and/or a High Rider (since 2005 to present). The identity of the current Raider Red is held secret until the "Passing the Guns" unveiling held each spring. In 2012, Raider Red (Zach Bohls) won the title of "National Champion Mascot" in national on-line voting sponsored by Capital One.
News Article: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal 11/17/11
1971 Raider Red Timeline Document
March 16, 1994 Letter to Jim Gaspard
October 13, 1995 Letter to Chad Tompkins
2011 Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Online Article