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Christian college drops 'Crusaders' nickname in bow to 'global society'

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    The 2013 'Crusaders' uniform, seen here in the men's baseball version, will be the last year in use at Maranatha Baptist University in Wisconsin. (MBBC.edu)

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A Christian college in Wisconsin is dropping its “Crusaders” nickname after nearly 50 years, claiming the moniker has become outdated in a “more global society,” university officials told FoxNews.com.

Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown and its Division III athletic teams have used the name since its founding in 1968. Matt Davis, the university’s executive vice president, said no complaints have been received by the school and stressed that it coincides with its name change from Maranatha Baptist College in December.

“But I also agree that times change and we understand that context changes,” Davis told FoxNews.com. “Our world has changed since 9/11 and we’ve become a more global society with the Internet. The heartbeat behind this was not political correctness, but expanded opportunities for our students.”

"The heartbeat behind this was not political correctness, but expanded opportunities for our students."

- Matt Davis, executive vice president, Maranatha Baptist University

Selecting the university’s next mascot will be a collaborative effort, Davis said, and the new name will be revealed during the spring semester. Uniforms will reflect the change beginning in the fall. Hundreds of potential replacements have already been submitted by students, alumni and university stakeholders.

“We’re having a blast with the process,” said Davis, who declined to provide any early favorites. “It’s a fun process, but it’s also a serious process.”

The school’s online athletics publication, also known as The Maranatha Crusader, will be changed as well, Davis said.

While noting the contextual ties to a “Crusade” — defined by Merriam-Webster as “any of the military expeditions undertaken by Christian powers in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries to win the Holy Land from the Muslims” — Davis said the university’s education mission will not be altered. He does not expect the university’s decision to prompt other colleges to consider replacing the nickname elsewhere.

“Every school is different and every context is different, and I respect the leaders of those institutions,” Davis said. “We’re in no position to give input to or to instruct anyone else.”

The change had been under consideration for a “long time,” Davis said.

Meanwhile, an effort to move away from using “Crusaders” as a team name or as a mascot is not underway at several other colleges and universities contacted by FoxNews.com. At least eight other schools use the moniker, including the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts and Capital University in Ohio. In all, representatives from four colleges told FoxNews.com that the name is not an issue on their campuses.

“It’s important to understand how our alumni would feel about it,” Capital University spokeswoman Nichole Johnson said, adding that the Lutheran-affiliated school has used the name since 1963. “If it ever did become a divisive issue, or a dominant one on campus, we would be happy to have that conversation.”

In 1963, Johnson said the university’s council voted to change the school’s name to the Crusaders from the Fighting Lutherans, which was deemed inappropriate at the time. Other names considered at the time were the Saints and the Purple Knights, Johnson told FoxNews.com.

Elsewhere, at Clarke University in Iowa, president Joanne Burrows said the Crusaders nickname is on solid footing.

“I cannot comment on what is appropriate for Maranatha Baptist as they can and should do what they believe to be in the best interest of their institution,” Burrows wrote FoxNews.com in an e-mail.

A spokesman at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina told FoxNews.com the "Crusader" name is an 80-year tradition at the university, where it's a source of pride representing "heroism, chivalry and piety."

Ibrahim Hooper, communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told FoxNews.com he welcomed the "Crusaders" change, but said he found team names or mascots that incorporate race or ethnicity more problematic, particularly those pertaining to Native Americans.

"I welcome the spirit behind the change," Hooper said. "It's obvious they thought about this. I applaud their effort."

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