Mascot Bracket: Big Red versus Sammy the Banana Slug
Big Red is the name given to Western Kentucky University’s mascot, a red, furry blob created by WKU student Ralph Carey in 1979. Big Red is meant to symbolize the spirit of WKU students and alumni as well as the sports teams’ nickname, the “Hilltoppers,” a name chosen because the school’s campus sits atop a hill standing 232 feet (71 m) above the Barren River flowing through WKU’s home city of Bowling Green. Big Red was an immediate hit, winning the “Key to the Spirit” award at the Universal Cheerleading Association competition in 1980, 1981 and 1983. He reached the Universal Cheerleading Association’s Final Four and was awarded 2nd runner-up to collegiate Mascot of the Year in 1990. In 1996 he reached the Final Four of ESPN’s “Battle of the Mascots.” He was also featured prominently in the promotion for ESPN’s 25,000th episode of SportsCenter. Big Red has been selected eight times to compete in the Capital One Mascot Challenge in the competition’s ten-year history, reaching the semifinals of the 2006 Capital One Mascot Challenge. Big Red is the inaugural member of the Capital One Mascot Challenge Hall of Fame. Watch the Western Kentucky college video tour here!
University of California, Santa Cruz’s mascot is Sammy the Banana slug. In 1975 the UCSC club soccer team chose the mascot the “Banana Slugs”. UCSC had no formal team sports (and no fraternities) at the time, therefore they had no mascot. Three team members, Larry DeGhetaldi, Fred Bicknell, Sven Steinmo and their roommate, Richard Hedges, chose to name the team the Banana Slugs before an All Cal tournament. They felt that UCSC should have a mascot too. The team’s unusual name was noted by the San Jose Mercury News after the team suffered an humiliating defeat against the San Jose State Spartans. Several years later, when the “club” basketball team became more formalized (with a coach and expanded schedule), the athletic director at the time, Terry Warner, informed the team that they needed to have a mascot and that it had been chosen to be the Sea Lions. The team summarily rejected that name, claiming to not need any mascot. As such, their uniforms simply said “UCSC” on them. In 1981, when the university began more formally participating in NCAA intercollegiate sports, the then-chancellor and some student athletes declared the mascot to be the “sea lions.” Most students disliked the new mascot and offered an alternative mascot, the banana slug. In 1986, students voted via referendum to declare the banana slug the official mascot of UCSC – a vote the chancellor refused to honor, arguing that only athletes should choose the mascot. When a poll of athletes showed that they, too, wanted to be “Slugs”, the chancellor relented. Watch the UC Santa Cruz college video tour here!