What do The Kansas City Star, Walt Disney and the Kansas City Zoo have in common? All are pieces to a puzzle concerning the question, "How in the world did UMKC pick a Kangaroo as its mascot?"
The Kangaroo issue was first brought up in 1936 when the editors of the University (then named Kansas City University) newspaper decided it was time to find a mascot for, of all things, the debate team.
There were no organized University athletic teams at the time, yet the students on the newspaper staff still wanted a unique identity for their debate team and, more importantly, their school.
The fire was lit later that year when an article appeared in The Kansas City Star titled "Kangaroo May Go to KCU... Student Editors Believe University Should Have a Symbol." Interest in the mascot was also spurred by the Kansas City Zoo's purchase of two baby kangaroos about that same time and the subsequent publicity generated by The Star.
The Kangaroo nearly suffered a quick demise in 1937 when the editors of the University yearbook "The Crataegus" decided that a kangaroo was not an appropriate University symbol. They opted to delete the proposed kangaroo emblem from the yearbook's feature section, but supporters of the mascot began a vocal attack.
Just as the criticism began to mount and support for the kangaroo was beginning to wane, famed cartoonist Walt Disney came to the rescue. In April, 1937, a leading KCU political group, the CO-OP Party, had won a landslide election with "Kasey the Kangaroo" as its insignia. `Kasey,' the group stated, fit KC.
The same month, the first issue of the KCU humor magazine "The Kangaroo" was published. Six months after the first kangaroo appeared on the cover, another kangaroo was featured, this time alongside Mickey Mouse. The artist of this drawing was the famous Disney, and support for the kangaroo mounted.
In a matter of a few years, the "Crataegus" folded and the "Kangaroo" became the school's yearbook.
Over the years, the Kangaroo went through numerous changes and refinements before a final edition was agreed upon via a special committee appointed by then-Chancellor Randall Whaley.
The rendition used today by the UMKC Athletic Department was put together by the Office of University Communications with the advice of Coach Lee Hunt. `The Kangaroos' is a unique nickname and UMKC shares it with a slight few. Just one other college in the nation uses `Kangaroos' as its nickname (Austin College in Sherman, Texas) and one other uses the kangaroo as its mascot (Akron Zips).
UMKC continues to gain popularity and publicity because of its unique moniker. UMKC is annually listed among the 10 most unique mascots names in Division I across the country. In January 1994, Kasey Kangaroo was featured in a Chicago Tribune article and pictoral on unique mascots.