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CGN Roundtable: Mascots and Other College Fanfare

A lot of times college gymnastics, and especially its fans, like to consider themselves separate from stereotypical mainstream sports antics. “We don’t boo in gymnastics.” “We appreciate every team and gymnast that is competing.” However, some of the more positive traditions and displays of school spirit add so much fun to the atmosphere and really set the college version of the sport apart from its elite counterpart. In this week’s roundtable, we’re discussing mascots, school spirit and other displays of college fanfare we love to see and want to see in gymnastics.

What is your favorite mascot in college gymnastics?

Elizabeth: Nebraska CORN (I realize the mascot isn’t literal corn anymore, but the whole concept is something I’m into). I also have to shout out the Stanford tree because it’s terrifying and amazing all at once.

Peri: Of the schools that sponsor gymnastics, Ohio State’s Brutus Buckeye is my top mascot pick. I’ve been to training camps and competitions with my university’s cheer where Ohio State was in attendance, too. Watching Brutus tumble was always a highlight.

Emily M: Stanford, hands down. A literal tree? I mean come on. What’s even better is that the tree is the unofficial mascot; the Cardinal doesn’t have an official one.

Tara: BYU’s cougar, no contest. Have you seen the enthusiasm Cosmo the Cougar has? It’s top notch. We’ve even seen Cosmo do some impressive tumbling over the years. 

Ian: Maybe I am biased being from New Jersey, but my top mascot pick is the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Just in terms of leo design potential, Rutgers has done the absolute most with knight and sword motifs.

Savanna: LIU’s mascot has to be my favorite. I didn’t think I would like the idea of a shark mascot, but it’s managed to use a lot of creativity with the color schemes and takes the shark theme to a new level—down to the leotards.

Emma: I’m absolutely biased, but I think Minnesota’s Goldy the Gopher is just the silliest little mascot. At their meets, they play a video of a yodeling gopher that the audience yodels back to. How do you beat that?

What is a mascot that doesn’t exist yet in college gymnastics that you wish did either because you think it would create fun fanfare, great leotards or any other reason?

Elizabeth: I want more natural disasters, which sounds pretty bad out of context. I know we have the Cyclones, but give me more.

Peri: Badger claws would make for a great design element on leotards, especially since it’s a way to nod at the animal without writing “BADGERS” across chests or down sleeves. I’m looking at you, Wisconsin.

Emily M: South Carolina let’s gooooo. The Gamecocks would bring so many tongue-in-cheek Gymcocks jokes to college gymnastics. Plus, now that we have a Clemson team, a fun in-state rivalry would be a blast.  

Tara: I’m thinking of mascots combined with the potential fan interaction and rivalry potential, and one stands out in particular: the Oregon Ducks. I can just see the leotard options surrounding a duck, and the in-state rivalry with Oregon State would be great.

Ian: I would love to see what Notre Dame could do in terms of gymnastics spirit with the Fighting Irish. Plus I am never going to say no to another Power Five school with the upcoming birth of ACC gymnastics. 

Savanna: Once upon a time I learned that there is a minor league baseball team with a mascot called the Trash Pandas, and the more I think about it, the more I would love to see a gymnastics team with Trash Pandas as their mascot. The name alone would provide entertainment, but imagining the black and white leotards. Making Trash Pandas look glamorous would be a challenge I welcome.

Emma: Syracuse’s mascot is a literal orange, which would be my instant favorite. In terms of leotards, I would love to see what a Hawaii Rainbow Warriors gymnastics team comes up with in terms of designs. Rainbow has been beautifully incorporated in some of the pride leotards from the past few seasons. I’d love to see it as a permanent staple in a team’s competition wear.

What’s your favorite “college spirit” element in college gymnastics?

Elizabeth: I like the Gator chomp and think it adds a fun element of fan engagement to floor routines. However, not every team should do it because it doesn’t always work (cough Georgia’s “Go Dawgs!” experiment a few years ago).

Peri: Stick items! It’s hard enough to find a new way to re-package a school’s branding, let alone make it gymnastics themed. Stanford hit the nail on the head with its literal stick stick (nodding to the Stanford tree) and how it grew for every meet it advanced passed to during the 2022 postseason run.

Emily M: I love it when crowds treat gymnastics meets like the epic sports showdowns they are, so I’m going to say Auburn’s Gymnasties and the other shirtless, painted fans they’ve inspired; I know at least the Illinois MAG team has shown up in Huff with painted chests for a WAG meet.

Tara: The Utah gymnasts flashing the U during routines is great because it incorporates school spirit without being quite as flashy as the gator chomp. Plus, it’s always cleverly choreographed in a way that actually works and doesn’t usually feel like it’s thrown into the routine just to be there. I also love Alabama’s Sweet Home Alabama tradition. Iowa State’s tornado siren entrance sequence to each gymnast’s floor music always catches me off-guard. For some reason I love it? 

Ian: Georgia’s moonwalk on beam is unmatched. I also think having one person do a spirit element has benefits compared to a choreographic element worked into everyone’s routines. Some of those Gator chomps are looking a bit sad. 

Savanna: I’m not sure if a lot of people know this, but before every sporting event at LSU, they play “Callin’ Baton Rouge” by Garth Brooks as a rally call of sorts and it expands into gymnastics. It’s so fun seeing the gymnasts and the fans get hype and ready to cheer on their team. During the final rotation, they also play “Stand Up and Get Crunk.” Watching everyone in the PMAC get loud for the final rotation gives me goosebumps. 

Emma: I am always incredibly impressed by teams that incorporate little school mascots or traditions into their leotards. It’s a very classy but fun way to honor the school while also adding a little something extra into the leotards! My favorites have been the Utah skyline leotard, the Ohio State buckeye leaf leotard from 2022 Big Tens, and the season where Nebraska incorporated little husks of corn into every new leotard.

What’s an element from another sport at any particular university that you want the gymnastics team at that school to incorporate?

Elizabeth: This isn’t a college thing, but after the Carolina Hurricanes win a game, they do a storm surge thing with fans. I think more win celebration things would be fun to introduce to the sport—like Utah’s light the U and LSU’s singing and swaying thing.

Emily M: This is not university- or sport-specific, but I love that other sports have more leeway to argue with officials. I don’t mean the over-the-top yelling and cursing them out, but in basketball for example players see their coach arguing calls as a sign that the coach is invested, trusts the player saying they didn’t commit a foul, etc. I want more Dana Duckworth mad-marching down the vault runway energy in gymnastics.    

Tara: Not the team specifically, but Denver does a student campout for hockey season tickets every year. How cool would it be if a college’s gymnastics program was able to pull off something similar? Also, adapting an element like goal celebration songs to exciting events (see: a perfect 10 or a team win) would be amazing. 

Ian: I want to see the over the top recruiting process that we get for sports like football. I think gymnastics has so much potential for things like dramatic videos or edits with a bunch of college logos over a gymnast’s face. In terms of things happening on the competition floor, I think some of the flack gymnasts get for “over celebrating” could be toned down ten-fold. 

Savanna: Duke does what the students call “tenting in K-ville” to give away tickets to the biggest rivalry game for men’s basketball. Students have to take a test before they can even qualify for a tent and have to follow a list of rules and regulations that have to be met.  This last year they started in January and lasted until March 5, the day of the game against UNC. Could you imagine if students “tented” for tickets to major rivalry meets? Talk about a major “ball sport” moment waiting to happen.

Emma: I have to agree with Ian about dramatizing the recruit process. Go on the local news and pick from hats! Make a cake that has your future school’s colors inside! Being loud and proud about your commitment isn’t just for men. As for a meet element, I think more traditions that get the crowd involved would be awesome to see in gymnastics. Most regular season meets don’t get loud until the fourth rotation. I’d love to see dedicated chants for things like a perfect 10s or stuck landings.

What’s a university you want to add college gym purely because of the mascot potential?

Elizabeth: I want the Oregon Ducks, and I want them now. Also the Syracuse Orange would be pretty funny.

Peri: It’s a stretch, but the University of Calgary. The Calgary Dinos lay claim to one of Canada’s largest university sport powerhouses. Between their existing game-day culture and bright red dino mascot, the school would have an easy time transitioning into what American gymnastics fans expect of a DI gymnastics meet. 

Emily M: I would say RISD (Google the mascot Scrotie if you dare), but that’s a little too outlandish. I’m going to have to go with the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.

Tara: The University of Miami, because Hurricanes. That would be amazing. Tulane’s Green Wave and Riptide the Pelican also have loads of potential. 

Ian: I know I said Notre Dame before, but another school I had in mind was Carnegie Mellon and the Tartans. Just imagine the mildly tacky plaid leo potential. I am in heaven.
Savanna: My alma mater, Northwestern State University, is home to the Demons. If you don’t think that’s a fantastic mascot for gymnastics, just keep it to yourself. 

Emma: Bucky the Badger (UW-Madison’s mascot) would look amazing anywhere on a leotard. Badger stripes, please!

Finally, what’s an element of “college spirit” you just don’t care for?

Elizabeth: I don’t need cheerleaders or the band at a college gymnastics meet. I get it, but they just aren’t for me in that setting.

Emily M: I enjoy a good tailgate. It’s a fun time to enjoy some crisp fall air before a football game. I do NOT enjoy how incredibly drunk some fans get. I’m no teetotaler, but come on. Keep yourselves together. That’s one thing we don’t need bleeding into gymnastics.  

Tara: I’ve never understood the southern concept of dressing up for big sporting events (usually football games). Give me the sporty, spirited attire with none of the fancy frills, skirts or dresses. 

Ian: One thing that has always irked me a little across all sports is the view of an athlete from a rival school as a personal enemy rather than an athletic competitor. 

Savanna: I would like the blatant disrespect of the opponents from fans in attendance to stay far away from gymnastics. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to leave a football game because the fans are being disrespectful to the other team. There’s a fine line between heckling and just being outright rude, so let’s keep that nonsense away from gymnastics.

Emma: I don’t know how much this plays into spirit, but standing. Football games are LONG and my legs feel like jelly by the time they’re done. At gymnastics meets I can sit down, enjoy my popcorn and still have working knees the next day. Let’s keep it that way.

READ THIS NEXT: CGN Roundtable: Mainstream Sports Coverage

Article by the editors of College Gym News

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