Mascot Bracket: Stanford Tree versus Pistol Pete

Mascot Bracket: Stanford Tree versus Pistol Pete

The Stanford Tree, in various versions, has been called one of America’s most bizarre and controversial college mascots.

The Stanford Tree is the Stanford Band’s mascot and the unofficial mascot of Stanford University. Stanford’s team name is “Cardinal”, referring to the vivid red color (not the common song bird as at several other schools), and the university has never been able to come up with an official mascot. The Tree, in various versions, has been called one of America’s most bizarre and controversial college mascots.  The Tree is a member of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB) and appears at football games, basketball games, and other events where the band performs. The “Tree” is representative of El Palo Alto, the tree that appears on both the official seal of the University and the municipal seal of Palo Alto, Stanford’s nearby city. From 1930 until 1972, Stanford’s sports teams had been known as the Indians, and, during the period from 1951 to 1972, Prince Lightfoot (portrayed by Timm Williams, a member of the Yurok tribe) was the official mascot. But in 1972, Native American students and staff members successfully lobbied University President Richard Lyman to abolish the “Indian” name along with what they had come to perceive as an offensive and demeaning mascot. Stanford’s teams reverted unofficially to the name “Cardinal”, the color that had represented the school before 1930. From 1972 until 1981, Stanford’s official nickname was the Cardinal, but, during this time, there was debate among students and administrators concerning what the mascot and team name should be. A 1972 student referendum on the issue was in favor of restoring the Indian, while a second 1975 referendum was against. The 1975 vote included new suggestions, many alluding to the industry of the school’s founder, railroad tycoon Leland Stanford: the Robber Barons, the Sequoias, the Trees, the Cardinals, the Railroaders, the Spikes, and the Huns. The Robber Barons won, but the university’s administration refused to implement the vote. In 1978, 225 varsity athletes started a petition for the mascot to be the griffin, but this campaign also failed. Finally, in 1981, President Donald Kennedy declared that all Stanford athletic teams would be represented exclusively by the color cardinal. However, in 1975, the band had performed a series of halftime shows that facetiously suggested several other new mascot candidates it considered particularly appropriate for Stanford, including the Steaming Manhole, the French Fry, and the Tree. The Tree ended up receiving so much positive attention that the band decided to make it a permanent fixture, and thus began the process through which the Tree has gradually colonized the collective unconscious of Stanford’s student body.

Pistol Pete is the mascot for Oklahoma State.

Pistol Pete is the athletics mascot of Oklahoma State University. In the past, New Mexico State University and the University of Wyoming have both used mascots based on the original Oklahoma State “Pistol Pete” caricature artwork; however both schools have subsequently revised their Pistol Pete mascots so that they no longer resemble Oklahoma State’s Pistol Pete. The Pistol Pete mascot costume features traditional cowboy attire and a headpiece resembling Frank Eaton. Pistol Pete has been the mascot for the Oklahoma State Cowboy ssince 1923. From the 1890s on, Oklahoma A&M sports teams had been referred to as the Agriculturists or Aggies, the Farmers, and officially but unpopularly, the Tigers. By 1924 Charles Saulsberry, sports editor of the Oklahoma City Times, and other writers who regularly covered college events had begun to refer to Stillwater’s teams as the A&M Cowboys. The Athletic Council authorized Athletic Director Edward C. Gallagher to have 2,000 balloons printed, “Oklahoma Aggies – Ride ‘Em Cowboy” for sale at football games in 1926. Around 1923, when Oklahoma A&M College was searching for a new mascot to replace their tiger (which had been copied from Princeton and accounts for the orange and black school colors), a group of students saw Frank Eaton leading Stillwater’s Sheep Parade. He was approached to see if he would be interested in being the model for the new mascot, and he agreed. A likeness was drawn and began to be used on sweatshirts, stickers, etc. and a tradition was born. That caricature was the basis for what is used today as the official Oklahoma State University mascot. For thirty-five years, the crusty old cowboy was a living symbol of OSU, representing the colorful past of the area. As such, he would attend OSU athletic events, building dedications, etc., and sign autographs, pose for photographs and reminisce about the American Old West with anyone who would listen. In more recent years, the University of Wyoming and New Mexico State University began using variations of OSU’s artwork as logos for their schools. To this day, his likeness is a visible reminder of the Old West to literally millions of people yearly as a symbol of colleges whose mascots pay homage to the cowboy. However, it was not until 1958 that “Pistol Pete” was adopted as the school’s mascot. The familiar caricature of “Pistol Pete” was officially sanctioned in 1984 by Oklahoma State University as a licensed symbol. Each year, an average of 15 Oklahoma State students audition to portray Pistol Pete. A panel of former “Petes” conduct the tryouts and select two replacements based largely on an interview. Candidates are also asked to exhibit themselves as they would during in-game scenarios. The two students chosen share around 650 appearances per year, which includes all OSU Cowboy and Cowgirl athletic events, though Pistol Pete has also assumed a significant role as an ambassador and symbol for Oklahoma State University at large. As such, Pistol Pete is often asked to make appearances in parades, community festivals, corporate functions, weddings and birthday parties. President Thep Phongparnich of Thailand’s Maejo University received Oklahoma State’s Distinguished International Alumni Award on November 12, 2005, following which his university also adopted Pistol Pete as a mascot.


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