is the name given to Western Kentucky University
's mascot, a red, furry, amorphous blob created by WKU student Ralph Carey in 1979
. Big Red is meant to symbolize the spirit of WKU students and alumni as well as the sports teams' nickname, the "Hilltoppers", a name chosen because the campus of the school is situated atop a hill that rises 232 feet (71 m) above the Barren River that flows through WKU's home city of Bowling Green
Big Red was an immediate hit, winning the "Key to the Spirit" award at the Universal Cheerleading Association competition in 1980
. In 1996
, he reached the Final Four of ESPN
's "Battle of the Mascots". He was also featured prominently in the promotion for ESPN
episode of SportsCenter
Big Red reached the semifinals of the 2006 Capital One Mascot Challenge.
Big Red found himself in the center of an international controversy in 2004
when the university filed suit against Mediaset
, a television station founded by Italy
's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi
. The suit claimed that Gabibbo
, a mascot for some of the network's programs (ie: "Striscia la Notizia
" and "Paperissima Sprint
"), was an exact replica of Big Red. Gabibbo
debuted in 1990
, eleven years after Big Red, and Gabibbo's creator, Antonio Ricci, admitted to Italian magazine Novella 2000
that "Big Red became Gabibbo." In a later interview with The New York Times
Ricci recanted the 1991
confession, saying he was only joking with the magazine.
On December 6, 2007, Michelle Day of the College Heights Herald reported, "An Italian judge ruled against Western and in favor of an Italian television company in a $250 million lawsuit for copyright and trademark infringement. Western, Crossland Enterprises Inc. and Adfra sued television company Mediaset in 2002, saying the company copied Big Red to create Gabibbo, the star of a satirical news show the company airs in Italy."