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WVU’s Mountaineer

Mascot with a Mission

By Dan B. Fleming, Jr.

WVU Mountaineer mascot
West Virginia University Mountaineer mascot Derek Fincham at a football game in 2004. Photograph by Pete Emerson, courtesy of the WVU Sports Information Office.


What do oranges, buckeyes, beavers, tigers, spiders, and turkeys all have in common? They are mascots for college athletic teams. Mascots can represent ethnic groups or nationalities, such as the “Ragin’ Cajuns” or the “Fighting Irish,” while others relate to occupations, such as cowboys or boilermakers. Some, like “Hoyas,” “Hokies,” or “Hoosiers,” well, nobody seems to know what they are. Only a few serve as the symbol for their school and state, and none does it better than West Virginia University’s Mountaineer.

I served as the Mountaineer mascot from 1952-53, while a student at WVU. Nothing has been more exhilarating to me than leading a crowd of exuberant freshman, wearing their blue and gold beanies, onto the field before a football game, or heading a homecoming parade down High Street in Morgantown. At basketball games, I had a grand time carrying out pranks, such as tugging the unhappy wolf mascot of North Carolina State around by his tail or running into the stands to exhort the crowd to greater fervor. Equally satisfying was talking one-on-one with children, who looked up to the Mountaineer as a hero.

When I became Mountaineer in 1952, I was issued a new uniform made of deerskin by a New York firm. My outfit differed from the older version in that fringes were added across the back of the jacket and down the sides of the pants. The jacket was also different in that it had a collar and two front pockets. I provided my own musket, had no financial support, and paid my own travel costs to most away games.

As the new mascot, I had very little briefing as to what I could do and could not do, and I rarely heard from university officials except when I did something wrong. Once, I was chewed out for firing my musket in the field house during a basketball game. The day after the game, I was called into the office of athletic director “Legs” Hawley, who read me the riot act. Apparently, a member of the university’s Board of Governors, who attended the game, suffered from shell shock from his wartime experiences. Needless to say, I never fired my gun at a basketball game again.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.