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Why a Mascot?


By David A. Rachita, Interim Dean of Students


It is believed that the first recorded yell or cheer at an athletic event happened in the late 1880s at a Princeton football game. The story is that University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell was so distressed over the school’s losing streak and the lack of student support, he ran onto the field and led what is thought to be the first organized pep rally (King, 2009). The idea caught on and within days students created a cheer squad and saw their team to victory.

The spark was lit and universities and colleges have since rallied around common chants, traditions and mascots. These commonalities create a sense of belonging and of ownership which instills a sense of life-long pride and connects one to that community. Extensive research by Pascarella and Terenzini (p. 51, 1991), states that “Satisfying and rewarding encounters with formal and informal academic and social systems of the institution are presumed to lead to greater integration in those systems and thus to student retention.” Additional research focusing on attrition has more specifically identified three components essential to the retention of students; a sense of belonging, involvement in rituals, traditions and artifacts of the institution; and overall satisfaction (Kuh and Whitt, 1988).

Though UHCL has no aspirations of making it to a national bowl game, we are interested in students being excited about their experience with their university. In line with the research, we know that the more students are connected to their university, the more they feel as if they belong. And the more they feel as if they belong, the better the chance of their success. Putting athletics aside, think of the pride Aggies have for their collie, or Longhorns have for their steer, or UH students have for their cougar. How many of us have been in airports across the country and hear an Aggie “Whoop!” or an Ohio State alumni yell “O-H-I-O”? Far away from their home campuses, strangers sporting the same mascot image identify with each other and act as if they are long-lost cousins! They made the connection!

Does a mascot ensure a student’s success? No, but it helps to create a community in which all can feel as if they belong and can be successful. It illustrates a shared school spirit that students are proud to “show off” to others. It lets the greater community see the pride and want to be a part of the energy. UHCL will always be serious about its special niche in higher education. Nothing will dilute that identity. A mascot will only help color that pride and give students, alumni and community members a connection all can rally around. Rah! Rah! Boom!

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