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Weird Mascots in College Sports

Courtesy of MGOBlog via Flikr
Goldy the Gopher is the official mascot for the University of Minnesota. 

One of the more cuddly college mascots resides at the University of Minnesota and goes by the name Goldy the Gopher. This loveable and approachable mascot is a hit with kids, but having a gopher represent your sports teams is still a bit strange. 

Minnesota has been known as “the Gopher State” since the 1850s when a political cartoon showed railroad barons as gophers pulling railway cars to mock a railroad loan that opened up the western United States. 

Most of Minnesota’s athletic teams were called the Gophers by the 1920s, but it wasn’t until 1934 that the University of Minnesota’s teams were officially called “The Golden Gophers.” 

A great Minnesota sportswriter and broadcaster, Halsey Hall, was the first known to use the term. The head coach at the time, Bernie Bierman, had chosen all gold uniforms because he felt the football blended with the uniforms and that made it harder for defenses to find the ball in play. 

It wasn’t until 1952 that the Gopher came alive for the first time. Jerome Glass, assistant band director, brought in a wool gopher suit with a papier-mâché head and asked one of the band members to wear it. 

The name Goldy seems to have appeared sometime in the 70s as an adaptation of the original Golden Gophers name. The Gopher became a fixture of the Marching and Pep bands as one member wore the suit each year to every event where they performed. 

In the early 1960s, Goldy was written into the pre-game and halftime shows for football games, but the band member inside the suit found it very difficult to see and perform the stunts they were expected to do. 

Most members who have worn the suit admit that the eyeholes were useless and they had to look out of the mouth to see. For those members who wore glasses, it was especially difficult because the glasses would fog up due to the temperature differential inside and outside the suit. One benefit of the costume is that during cold games, Goldy is always warm. 

Each person who has worn the suit has developed a unique personality to interact with fans. It is prohibited for a wearer to remove the head in public so that kids can believe that Goldy is a real animal, rather than a student in a suit. 

The design of the costume has changed throughout the years. Until the 1970s, the head was narrow and had a pointy nose that resembled the real animal. 

In 1972, Goldy began to have chubby cheeks and was comparable to a teddy bear, which drew kids to him at events. In 1985, a fierce-looking rodent replaced the friendly character in an attempt to make the sports teams appear more aggressive. That design did not last long, and Goldy became a kid-friendly mascot once again. 

Since the 1980s, Goldy has been used by the University of Minnesota for numerous events. Due to the busy schedule, the administration began to host school-wide tryouts so numerous students could be the mascot and attend all events. 

Anyone who portrays Goldy remains anonymous throughout their time as the mascot and are officially recognized as student athletes due to their hard work and time commitment. 

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