Student tries out to be first female leprechaun mascot
Kay Bontempo | Friday, April 12, 2019
The storied tradition of Notre Dame Football has included 11 national titles, seven Heisman Trophy recipients and “Rudy” moment or two, but Friday may see something brand-new for the University: a female mascot.
Sophomore Lynnette Wukie has made it through the initial application process to become a finalist for the beloved leprechaun role. On Friday she will try her luck at the public tryouts; if she succeeds, she will become the first woman at Notre Dame to wear the costume.
The iconic Notre Dame mascot is more than just a green figure in a top hat and beard, Delayna Hernon, head coach of Notre Dame cheerleading said.
“To me the leprechaun position is a role of great honor. It represents tenacity, grit, loyalty, pride and spirit,” Herndon said.
Becoming the leprechaun is no easy feat. The process begins with the submission of an application video expressing why the applicant wants to be the leprechaun. Candidates selected as finalists go on to the in-person tryout, which is open to the public and a popular event for student audiences. At the tryouts, the candidates are asked to perform at a mock pep rally, perform a solo skit using a prop and answer politically and socially relevant media questions as though they were at a press interview.
“When we are selecting a leprechaun we have a rubric that helps us answer the following questions. Are they electric? Can they think on their toes? Do they have something that sets them apart? Will they be a positive role model and ambassador for the University?” Herndon said.
Wukie said her love of Notre Dame and its community initially sparked her interest in being the leprechaun.
“Ever since I came to Notre Dame, I was like, ‘This place is magical,’” Wukie said. “I walk around and can’t believe I’m here. I did cheer in high school and wanted to do it here, but that dream just wasn’t going to be reality.”
Undeterred, she said she saw a new opportunity to express her school spirit in the leprechaun role.
Wukie said she understands the difficulties that might present in being the first female mascot is committed to the challenge.
“The leprechaun is always depicted as a man. I’ve already heard some whispers about ‘breaking tradition,’” Wukie said.
In regards to a possible public reaction to a female mascot, Wukie remains optimistic.
“I think some people will be upset, but overwhelmingly it will be positive,” Wukie said.
Herndon agreed, and said the idea of a female leprechaun had been brought up in previous years as well.
“I have had discussions with many staff members prior to Lynnette’s submission about having a female leprechaun,” Herndon said. “I think it’s something that the university is ready for if the individual is the right fit for the position.”
Herndon said she does not believe the culture of the cheer program would change if the leprechaun were a female because it is already are a co-ed program.
“The role isn’t so much about who the leprechaun is, as who can become the leprechaun,” Herndon said.
Wukie said, ultimately, gender should not define the leprechaun.
“Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to be the leprechaun,” Wukie said.
Wukie said she thinks having a female in the role would broaden representation at Notre Dame and help to showcase the diversity of the fan experience.
“Like Muffett [McGraw] was talking about the other day, there aren’t enough female role models that girls can look up to and say, ‘I want to be her, I want to go to Notre Dame and do what she does,’” she said. “So I think it’s a chance for people to see that Notre Dame is more than just Rudy and Regis Philbin. We have a lot to offer.”