Dartmouth struggles to find an official mascot

by Khalil Ayvar | 10/19/01 5:00am

Just like last Homecoming, the football stadium will be lacking one of its "biggest" fans -- the moose.

The moose hasn't really been a part of Dartmouth games, football or otherwise, since the Fall of 2000.

The original appearance of the moose was the result of the efforts of a small group of student athletes who felt that the College needed a mascot at sporting events, in 1996.

The group recruited the Student Assembly president and conducted a web survey, which concluded with the moose as the clear winner. Other suggestions included the mountaineers and the dragons, and even a reprisal of the infamous and now-banned Indian. A small percentage voted against the idea of a new mascot.

The moose first appeared for a men's basketball game in the Winter of 1997, in the form of a furry suit with a moose head, made by a student's mother.

Later, when the antlers began to sag, this costume was replaced with an inflatable, more cartoony moose suit.

Although short of being fully recognized as the College mascot, the moose was embraced by the Dartmouth Athletic department as official "fan entertainment."

John Villapiano '02, the most recent man behind the moose, said he received a lot of "personal satisfaction" from the role.

"Kids took to the moose pretty well, and it was a lot of fun. I didn't make a fool of myself, but I had a lot of fun."

Villapiano described how he had been told prior to the Homecoming game last season that the Moose would no longer be working the stands for athletic events, because of alumni pressure. "It was viewed as awkward, they [the athletic department] said, and not the best representation for an Ivy League school."

He said it was disappointing, adding, "It is a really good thing to have something out there, even as 'fan entertainment,' and not necessarily representing Dartmouth as a mascot."

Athletics Director Richard Jaeger said the moose was removed from the stands because of reservations toward the choice of the moose.

"The furry moose," Jaeger said, "seemed good for some humorous anecdotes, but wasn't great at really stirring the crowd's energy and excitement. The inflatable moose was humorous, but that was it. No students really stood behind it, though the Hanover kids loved it."

The moose, Jaeger said, was seen by many as "too gangly, gawky, clumsy" to be a good mascot.

Jaeger repeatedly emphasized that "it didn't really catch on. We need an idea that catches on."

"What's next? That depends on the next good idea. Right now we're in a holding pattern, waiting to see what ideas come forward. Hopefully it will be something unique and special, and will make people get excited about it," Jaeger said.

"We want to make the students happy, but in a heartbeat they're alumni already, so alumni opinion is very important," he added.

Jaeger maintained that the Athletic Department will not pick a mascot for the students, claiming that the school mascot "transcends the Athletic Department. It cannot [come] from one faction, seemingly imposed upon everyone else. It must be a student and alumni decision."

"One of the main problems is, the Big Green is rather amorphous," Jaeger said. However he said maybe someone could design some sort of "green presence", with features on it.

Jaeger said Dartmouth isn't so much different than other schools with its "Big Green," pointing out other schools that elected to stay with their colors, such as St. John's Red Storm, Tulane's Green Wave, Alabama's Crimson Tide, and even the simple Syracuse Orange.

Jaeger also pointed out "you don't see much of the other Ivy mascots, either."

Jaeger added that among many students there is no urge for a new mascot, because "it's like the Big Green's become bigger than Green."

"A mascot would be nice to have some day, but until then on we go with Big Green," he added.

Varsity Captain of the women's crew team Kate Murphy '02 said "we should have a mascot. We could be the Big Green, if we put more effort behind it. Some other schools have amorphous mascots. We just aren't putting enough effort behind it."

She admitted the difficulty of choosing a mascot acceptable to the student body: "Votes don't usually go well here, too many people will disagree."

Men's basketball team captain Vedad Osmanovic '02 said "by now, I've got used to not having one [a mascot]. It would be cool, what it would be, I'm not sure. Green Knights, maybe."

He said it was better than just being Big Green, because it offered something to identify with. "A more official mascot is needed," he said, "not necessarily a moose, but anything, really."

Some alumni still push for the return of the Indian mascot. The Indian symbol appeared on athletic wear and stationery from the 1920s until President of the College John Kemeny, appointed in 1970, eliminated the Indian as a school symbol in 1972 because he felt it was racially pejorative.