As college football gets set to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the sport, one of its bluebloods will be making some sideline gender history of its own.
Since it first debuted as Notre Dame’s official mascot in 1965, the leprechaun has been exclusively male and mostly white. That will change this year, however, as Notre Dame announced Tuesday that, for the first time ever, a female will serve as one of the school’s three official mascots for the 2019-20 school year.
Lynnette Wukie, a film, television and theatre major who hails from Elyria, Ohio, and Midview High School (Go Middies!), has been selected to break the gender barrier at the South Bend school as she enters her junior year. “Who says the Fighting Irish can’t fight like a girl?” Wukie stated in an application video that ultimately led to her selection.
In addition to Wukie, rising junior Samuel Jackson and rising sophomore Conal Fagan will serve as the other two official leprechaun mascots at various sporting events at the school, including football and men’s and women’s basketball among others.
Wukie and Jackson will also become the second and third African-Americans to play the role of leprechaun, joining Mike Brown, who broke the mascot color barrier at the school in 1999. Additionally, Fagan, a native of Northern Ireland, last season became the first native Irishman to play the part of mascot.
“We’re so excited to welcome Sam, Conal and Lynnette as next year’s leprechauns,” head cheerleading coach Delayna Herndon said in a statement. “Each bring their own strengths and personalities to the role, and I’m excited to see them represent Notre Dame on the sidelines next season. As such a visible representative of Notre Dame, the leprechaun is a role model to fans across the country, and we hope this group can inspire people of all backgrounds to see themselves as a vital part of the Notre Dame family.”