The 2014-2015 academic year has already seen its share of controversies, though none has been as vocal and widespread as the decision of updating Allegheny’s Gator mascot, Chompers. After an announcement earlier in the year that Chompers would be blue was recused and an international poll occurred, The Campus community has its answer.
The new Chompers will be unveiled on Saturday, Feb. 14, between the women’s and men’s basketball games. A week long polling campaign in the first week of December by the athletic and communications departments allowed students, community members and alumni to vote on four different gators: white, blue, bright green or dark green.
“We are keeping it hush hush and want that [the basketball games] to be the big unveiling,” Portia Hoeg, director of athletics, said.
According to Hoeg, the poll had a great turnout. A large social media component allowed voters to publish their results on Twitter and Facebook to spur more involvement.
“I know there was a lot of involvement from the campus, a lot of excitement behind it,” Hoeg said. “There were a lot of cool comments on social media about who to vote for and why. I think it ended up being a very positive thing to celebrate the bicentennial.”
The turnout, in fact, was much more than they anticipated said Rachel Garza, associate vice president for communications and marketing. In total, more than 5,800 votes were cast from across the United States and from a total 10 countries.
“We stay on top of monitoring the chatter and discussions around campaigns like this and I can’t tell you one negative comment that was made the entire time,” Garza said. “There were some older alumni that didn’t know that Chompers was the name of the mascot so we did hear a little bit of feedback there, but everybody was really excited.”
The communications and athletic departments are collaborating for the unveiling on Valentine’s day, sharing strategies and different campaigns to boost excitement.
“We want it to be something that students look forward to, something that we can capture and share to alumni who can’t make it, so there are a lot of logistics that go into it,” Garza said.
Before the unveiling of the mascot, there will be an opportunity at the grand opening of the academic commons on Jan. 30 to sign a three-foot large egg, symbolizing the soon to be birth of Chompers.
The successful poll first came into fruition when the chatter about the new Chompers began to reach the ears of alumni and would enjoy being a part of, Garza said.
“We wanted to also tie it back to the bicentennial and the fun elements of student life and Allegheny athletics and re-engage alumni who might not be on campus,” Garza said. “That’s sort of what started the conversation.”
Initially, Hoeg consulted with the mascot committee as well as Allegheny Student Government and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee to help gather ideas for the mascot. These discussions began the larger conversation that at one time sparked an online petition started by a former Allegheny admissions counselor and Allegheny alum, Zeben Ashton,’12. At one point, the petition had more than 500 votes voting against the blue gator.
“I think it means different things to different folks,” Portia said. “That’s what was clear through all of this. There are athletes who feel that the manifestation of the mascot is a direct correlation to their athletic aptitude or talent. There are those who feel like this is a representation of our entire institution. I think it really depends on the background of the person as to how they felt about the actual mascot. There are those are traditionalists and wanted to go back to mascots that we’ve had at the very beginning of our time as an institution. I think it’s like anything in life, everybody has a different perception and that was very clear through this entire process.”
Larry Hailsham, ’15, president of ASG, played a large part in providing different ideas and avenues that the administration could go in tackling a new mascot.
“What we did to get the gator’s color now should have been done first,” Hailsham said. “And I think looking back that is super important to realize that it’s not any one person’s decision, it’s all of our decision.”
Despite his large role in the process, Hoeg and Garza are the only people who know the gator’s true colors, for now.
“It’s rather unfortunate that we have been without Chompers for so long,” Hailsham said. “I think it will be a very big day when Chomper’s makes its way back into the lives of every Alleghenian.”