Campus Mascot

How the Banana Slug became UCSC's official mascot

The Banana Slug, a bright yellow, slimy, shell-less mollusk found in the campus's redwood forest, has been the mascot for UC Santa Cruz's coed teams since the university opened in 1965. The students' adoption of such a lowly creature for a team mascot was their reaction to the fierce athletic competition fostered at most American universities. UCSC has always offered a wide-ranging physical education and recreation program designed to appeal to the greatest number of students, but it has based its approach on some unusual ideas: that athletics are for all students, not just team members of major sports; that the most important goal of a collegiate physical education department should be to introduce as many students as possible to lifelong physical activities; and that the joy of participating is more important than winning.

In 1980, when some campus teams wanted more organized yet still low-keyed participation in extramural competition, UCSC joined Division III of the NCAA in five sports. Since the application required an official team name, UCSC's then chancellor polled the student players, and out of this small group emerged a consensus for a new moniker--the sea lions. It was a choice that the chancellor considered more dignified and suitable to serious play than the Banana Slug. But the new name did not find favor with the majority of students, who continued to root for the Slugs even after a sea lion was painted in the middle of the basketball floor.

After five years of dealing with the two-mascot problem, an overwhelming proslug straw vote by students in 1986 convinced the chancellor to make the lowly but beloved Banana Slug UCSC's official mascot. By the time the chancellor had left office, he was won over to the proslug camp, even to the point of featuring the Slug on his personal Christmas card.

A 1992 poll conducted by the National Directory of College Athletics ranked the Banana Slug No. 1 nationwide as a school mascot. The Slugs, who were honored in the silver anniversary edition of the directory, beat out Oglethorpe University's Stormy Petrels, Arkansas Tech University's Wonderboys, UC Irvine's Anteaters, and Northern Montana College's Northern Lights, which ranked as the other top choices among the college officials and sportswriters who were polled.

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