Spirited Yearbook Spreads: Uncovering the History of Your School's Mascot

Mascots and school spirit go hand in hand.
Photo credit: Flickr CC user Sodexo USA

Mascot – noun – a person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck or that is used to symbolize a particular event or organization.

During my freshman year of college, a huge controversy swelled up surrounding our school mascot – Monty Montezuma, the fierce Aztec warrior. Many on-campus civil rights groups opposed the inaccurate depiction of the Aztec people and the school went to work to come up with a more acceptable costume to debut at sporting events. Eventually, everyone came to an agreement and a mascot still roams the field getting students pumped up at games to this day.

When mascots aren’t causing a stir, they’re creating school spirit at sporting and community events. My high school mascot, the cowboy, was a little less controversial, but still sparked much discussion, especially when it was time for the coveted yearly try-outs. Only two people would be chosen to represent as the Cowboy King (or queen – you couldn’t really tell under the giant cartoon mask) and being the school mascot was up there with being the head of the cheerleading squad or captain of the football team. Everyone wanted to be them.

The word “mascot” first became popular in the 1800s after the French opera “La Mascotte” debuted in Paris. The opera focused on a farm girl who was believed to bring good luck when she was around. Soon universities in the United States were taking this whole luck concept and running with it, creating school mascots designed to bring the student body together and cheer on their blossoming sports franchises. (For more history, you can check out the top 20 most popular mascots here.)

What about your school’s mascot? Does it have a long and respected career as a spirit maker on your campus? Are there legends surrounding its inception? Have you ever thought about the origins of your school’s brand?

Whether it’s a Spartan or a Dolphin or anything in between, celebrate the story of your school’s mascot with a special yearbook spread. This project might take some extra digging, depending how prominent your mascot is on your campus. Heck, you might not even have one and might want to look into seeing why.

Here are some ways to research and find out more about your school mascot:

  1. Head to the school library: Ask the librarian if you can access the yearbook archives and see how far back your mascot is featured. Has it always been the same animal or theme? When did it change and why? If your school library doesn’t have the answers you’re looking for, check out your local library to see if there are any newspaper articles or magazine pieces on your school.
  2. Ask the faculty: Who has been working on campus the longest? Interview faculty and staff to see if they know anything about the mascot’s history. Talk to the athletic department to see if they had any say in choosing the mascot that prances around your field today.
  3. Utilize social media: Start a discussion group on the yearbook’s social media pages or on the blog and reach out for help from school alums. Someone might have a lead that will help you get the answers you’re seeking.

Do you know the history of your school’s mascot? How is the mascot viewed on your campus? Leave your comments in the box below!


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