Various animal mascots serve school spirit to college students across Maryland. Which one best reflects its university’s environment and tells the most legendary story?
6. Bobcats and bulldogs: The crown of unoriginality
Some of Maryland’s university mascots hold no originality.
Frostburg State University is home to the Bobcats and Bowie State University holds the Bulldogs to its name.
Over 130 National Collegiate Athletic Association schools sport a feline mascot, according to Fansided.
“’Bulldogs’ is the most frequently used [mascot] in NCAA Division One athletics,” according to Bleacher Report.
Other Maryland universities have heartwarming and inspirational stories behind their unique mascots.
5. Towson University: Doc the Tiger
TU’s mascot is “named in honor of [its] first director of athletics, Donald ‘Doc’ Minnegan,” according to Towson’s Tiger Toon webpage.
While sentiment runs deep for Doc, the tiger is a confusing character.
Towson’s tiger strays from the typical animal in its yellow color. Tigers are orange in the wild because their prey can only see blue and green light.
This allows tigers’ “orange coloration [to] look green to [prey], allowing them to blend perfectly into the background,” according to The Daily Mail.
Doc’s yellow hide would prevent the tiger from catching dinner around TU’s campus because his prey would see him before he could strike.
4. Salisbury University: Sammy Sea Gull
SU’s Sammy Sea Gull does not have much of a story even if he is a mascot celebrated by students, faculty and families alike.
The following information comes from the Salisbury University Sammy Sea Gull: Leader of Sea Gull Nation webpage.
The Student Government Association held a mascot naming contest in 1948. The winning name was the Golden Gulls. Sea Gull was the runner-up.
SU began using Sea Gull as a mascot after the Salisbury State College athletic teams were commonly referenced as the C-Gulls in 1963.
The tough Sea Gull image was first seen in a yearbook in 1965, and the name Sammy arose in the 1970s.
Despite his dull history, Sammy helps tie the university to its oceanside location and Maryland’s marine wildlife.
A statue of Sammy can be seen outside Henson Hall.
3. University of Maryland Eastern Shore: Harry the Hawk
Red hawks occasionally fly over UMES and can be spotted on the field at the school’s football games.
UMES holds an environmental advantage over Towson’s noticeably non-native mascot.
The legend of Harry the Hawk stems from a simple story in the 1940s.
The hawk was chosen when football player Leonard Cisco and Public Relations Officer Charles C. Jacobs had to select a mascot for the local newspaper to use when recapping a football game, according to the UMES The Mascot webpage.
The name Harry was nonchalantly chosen after Director of Athletics Keith Davidson approved the purchase of a hawk suit.
The mascot soon became known as Big Harry around campus, according to the UMES The Mascot webpage.
2. University of Maryland, Baltimore County: True Grit the Retriever
UMBC’s mascot is a tale of name contests, near death and multiple Chesapeake Bay Retrievers.
The following was obtained from the UMBC Magazine.
Dog breeder Claude L. Callegary donated a Chesapeake Bay Retriever to the school. The dog was known as Campus Sam in 1967.
Sam found a home in UMBC Director of Physical Plant Guy Chisolm’s household near campus.
The dog lived a mostly peaceful life apart from a near-death collision with a car after chasing a deer. Sam lived the rest of his life with a permanent bump on his head.
The tradition of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers representing UMBC was solidified when commissioned artist and alumna Paulette Raye created a bronze sculpture modeled after a local retriever named Nitty Gritty.
The sculpture, and the school’s mascot, was named True Grit after Nitty Gritty’s father. However, no one knows why the mascot was named after Nitty Gritty instead of Gritty himself.
Raye theorized the choice was because “it sounded bold and strong like [UMBC’s sports teams].”
While True Grit’s story contains heart, it is somewhat buried in obscurity with various Chesapeake retrievers having helmed UMBC’s mascot title.
1. University of Maryland: Testudo the Terrapin
Testudo the Terrapin has been UMD’s shining symbol for almost a century.
The Diamondback Terrapin was chosen in 1932 by football coach Dr. H. Curley Byrd, according to University of Maryland’s mascot webpage. The origins of the name Testudo are shrouded in mystery.
Former UMD quarterback Edwin C. Mayo produced a 300-pound bronze terrapin using a real Diamondback as a guide.
Diamondback Terrapins can be found throughout the Chesapeake Bay region in Maryland.
However, environmental accuracy is not why UMD’s mascot tops this list.
Testudo’s statue soon became central in a kidnapping war between various universities across state borders.
The bronze statue was captured by Johns Hopkins University students in 1947.
UMD students quickly responded by launching an operation to rescue Testudo and attacking the building where he was held hostage at JHU.
In college fashion, the riot soon turned into a large party. However, this was only the first battle.
University of Virginia somehow ended up with the terrapin statue in 1949 but was safely recovered by UMD.
Testudo was eventually filled with 700 lbs of cement and placed behind steel rods secured with hooks at Byrd Stadium in the 1950s.
Despite these measures, JHU students continued to attack the statue with paint throughout the decade.
The bronze mascot was finally rededicated and restored to glory by the Class of 1933 in 1983. A bronze twin was created in 1992 to be displayed outside the Football Complex locker room.
UMD’s Testudo the Terrapin is a shining beacon of Maryland’s marine wildlife, a turtle with tales to tell and a symbol of school spirit with an almost mythic status unmatched by fellow state universities.
By JACOB BEAVER
Featured photo by Ben Lausch