Homecoming is upon us once again – and thus, plenty of Slippery Rock alumni from the past and present will be on campus to take part in the annual celebrations. As a result, it is once again time for me to discuss Slippery Rock University’s brand – specifically our mascot, Rocky.
I’m sure most folks on this campus are familiar with the background of our mascot by now. Our current mascot, Rocky the Lion, was unveiled at Homecoming 1999, exactly 20 years ago this week, after a vote by the student body, replacing the original Rocky – an actual anthropomorphic rock – who had been representing the Rock since 1978. Rocky the rock adorns all sorts of university memorabilia: t-shirts, sweaters, hats and the like. In the past year, even, stickers adorned with the original Rocky illustration from that era have been popping up around campus. While it is true that Rocky is a relic of the past, Rocky is also emblematic of all the things that make Slippery Rock unique.
For most people, Slippery Rock is an anomaly of a university. A public college of 10,000 situated in a city of 3,000 with no real metropolitan areas within 30 miles. Slippery Rock alumni are prevalent nationwide, including Donnie Iris and former US Secretary of Health (and one-time vice-presidential candidate) Richard Schweiker. Not to mention, most curiously, it’s named Slippery Rock of all things! The name of the university is unique and strange enough to elicit a reaction from mostly everyone. Slippery Rock University is a distinctive college with a special background. At one stage, we had a unique mascot to go along with it. Instead, nowadays, we have a lion – which fits in perfectly well with the 7 other Pennsylvania state colleges with generic animal mascots (Bloomsburg Huskies, Cheney Wolves, Clarion Golden Eagles, IUP Crimson Hawks, Kutztown Golden Bears, Lock Haven Bald Eagles and the Westchester Golden Rams) – but doesn’t quite live up to the unique and distinct atmosphere that Slippery Rock has cultivated over the years.
In addition to the unique aspect, Rocky the Rock is far more representative of our team name than Rocky the Lion. Whether you like the name or not, Rock Pride is definitely more invocative of a literal anthropomorphic rock than a lion. The obvious response to this is that “pride” is the technical term for an actual group of lions, but that’s not how it’s been used with regard to Slippery Rock. If that were the case, I would expect the mascot to be more than a singular lion, seeing as a single lion is not a pride.
This newspaper is no stranger to articles in support of Rocky the Rock – he was last covered in a chronological history article in October of last year and an opinion piece similar to this one was published in the April 24, 2014 issue of The Rocket. In fact, it seems that preferring Rocky the Rock is not an unpopular opinion among the campus community; faculty and students I’ve talked to in all different backgrounds, in all different majors and departments, have mentioned that they preferred him to our current Rocky, not to mention the popularity of Rocky stickers distributed by anonymous folks in random buildings on campus. I firmly believe that if you polled students and faculty on campus, you would find a preference for Rocky the Rock over Rocky the Lion by a decent margin. Of course, this doesn’t even begin to touch on the popularity of Rocky with alumni and the community in general. An acquaintance of my mother, who graduated from Slippery Rock in the later 1980s, will regularly request I use my position as news director of WSRU to spearhead a campaign to return Rocky the Rock to prominence (I believe she is massively overestimating my audience). People in online communities of SRU alums discuss the mascot situation at least once a week, by my measurements. Rocky the Rock is universally a hit, a truly unique mascot that fits Slippery Rock in a way no other mascot really does.
It was 20 years ago this homecoming season that the university unveiled Rocky the Lion to the world, retiring Rocky the Rock for good. Since then, we’ve had two Rocky the Lions, neither of them particularly memorable nor iconic. I believe it’s time we bring back Rocky the Rock for another generation – and, indeed, I call on President Behre to hold a university wide vote to decide.
Or maybe I’m just taking this all a bit too seriously.
Happy homecoming, folks.