University President Leslie E. Wong dances with the SF State gator mascot at Malcolm X Plaza on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 in preparation for the second SF State Harlem Shake video. Photo by Virginia Tieman / Xpress, 2013
SF State President Leslie E. Wong recently stated in an interview with Xpress that he was looking into changing the school’s mascot.
“I’m about 90% sure that we are not going to be the Gators,” said Wong. “It’s overwhelming that people don’t get the gator thing at all.”
President Wong proposed the mascot change along with several other improvements that he hopes will make SF State into a more sports-oriented university, such as the $2.1 million renovation of SF State’s Gym as part of his strategic planning effort.
Wong also added that he felt the gator does not add value to athletics, instead he wanted a mascot that best fits us and signals the new future.
But before the gator became the mascot, students at SF State introduced the idea of a cat mascot in 1922.
According to former SF State archivist, Helene Whitson, the gator was chosen as the school’s mascot in 1931. The Bay Leaf, the school’s paper at the time, asked readers to choose a mascot that would be worthy of the school’s reputation.
The person who chose the gator as a mascot is only attributed to “a reader” on the SF State Centennial History website. Their decision behind choosing the mascot was because “it is strong and we hope our teams have strength. It is well-built and is steadfast, steadily moving toward its goal.”
Originally, the word gator was spelled “Gater,” as a reference to the Golden Gate Bridge, but frequent misspellings caused it to eventually default back to gator. The gator beat out other candidates such as a seal, a panther, and a puma.
In the 1960s, SF State had a live alligator mascot named Al, who visited the school’s football team once or twice a year. Al was usually muzzled and doped up “from his tail to his snout” during his visits, according to SF State’s 1963 yearbook.
Al ‘s gender was often in question, but that mystery was solved after he fathered nearly a dozen eggs, according to the 1963 AS President Jay Folberg.
“Al gets all kinds of attention when he comes,” reads the 1963 yearbook, “Girls tremblingly pet him. Guys tease him. All look. And he gets to sit with the team.”
But not everyone agrees that our mascot is in need of a change.
“I like the gator,” said Felipe Ramirez, a hospitality major. “I think the gator expresses the good things about our school.”
However, Ramirez said that if the University was going to change the mascot, it should be something that represents Northern California, unlike the gator.