No one would expect a ceramic gnome named Taquito to bring so much joy to UT sports clubs until the day Taquito left the University Co-op to join a family of athletes in 2013.
To this day, Taquito sits on the sports club desk in Gregory Gymnasium, waiting for clubs to check him out along with their travel binder for away games. The checkout process runs on a first come, first served basis.
Jonathan Elliot, former UT RecSports assistant director and current assistant director for club & intramural sports at the University of Arkansas, said he first thought of the idea to have a gnome as a mascot to foster community within the sport clubs.
“I was at the Co-op, and I found this gnome and thought, ‘Man, this would be a pretty cool idea to buy one of these gnomes,’” Elliot said.
He purchased a male and female version of the gnome and sent a photo of them to the clubs. The clubs held a contest to see who would have the chance to name the gnomes, with the winner receiving bonus points for their club. The powerlifting club succeeded, naming the male gnome Taquito and the female gnome Gnomeyonce.
Unfortunately, Gnomeyonce became a curse for some clubs, as Elliot remembered every time the quidditch club would bring her, someone would get injured.
“There were months where no one would take Gnomeyonce because they were fearful that if they were to take her, someone would get hurt,” Elliot said.
Despite Gnomeyonce’s bad luck, Randall Ford, the current UT RecSports associate director, said Taquito has traveled at least 30 times with clubs. However, it hasn’t been an easy journey for Taquito. Ford said the gnome today is a fourth-generation Taquito.
“I think Taquito got dropped a couple of times and (was) damaged,” Ford said. “We don’t have as many Taquitos as Bevos, but we have Taquito Four.”
For one of Taquito’s recent adventures, Texas women’s rugby had the privilege in late September to take him to a match at Sam Houston State University. Unfortunately, Maya Rigley, history and government junior and Texas Women’s Rugby president, said she only took one photo with him.
“I’m just super nervous,” Rigley said. “I kept him in my backpack the whole time because last time, we broke him.”
Although Taquito is extremely fragile, clubs are still encouraged to take photos with him. Elliot remembers seeing pictures of Taquito in unique scenarios.
“There were pictures of him on a wakeboard or water skiing or him with a tennis racket,” Elliot said. “(The clubs) got really creative with that gnome.”
Not only does Taquito serve as a photogenic model, but Ford said Taquito also creates a sense of community among the sports clubs. Molly Schlamp, vice president of Texas Taekwondo, said there are few things that unite the clubs together.
“We kind of just stick to our own worlds because what does taekwondo have in common with tennis?” sadi Schlamp, a Plan II and biochemistry junior. “(Taquito) is a cool thing that could be universal for all of us.”
Rigley said Taquito also can be a considered a simple joy to the team.
“(Taquito) just makes everyone smile,” Rigley said. “We’ll just be eating or getting coffee, and he’ll just be sitting and chilling. We’re all tired and cranky after a game, (but) Taquito’s always there.”