- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 12, 2005

EMMITSBURG, Md. — The Mountaineer, a sports mascot in bib overalls and a floppy blue hat, hasn’t been seen at Mount St. Mary’s University games lately. His giant, bearded head sits in an equipment room, awaiting banishment to the school’s dusty archives.

Too hillbilly, say officials of the Catholic college.

“The only thing that was missing was the keg with the XXX on it, and that’s not what we’re all about,” said athletic director Harold “Chappy” Menninger.

Retiring the mascot is part of what Mr. Menninger called a “metamorphosis” of the school in the Blue Ridge Mountains, about 80 miles north of Washington.

Last year, the school declared itself a university after 196 years as Mount St. Mary’s College. Now it has hired the New York-based branding firm SME Inc. to create by spring a more marketable identity, including an eye-catching sports logo.

Though officials say everything is on the table, a committee of administrators, alumni, faculty members and students has found little support for changing the school’s blue-and-white colors or calling its athletes anything but Mountaineers — the name they’ve always had.

But there’s no room for the hayseed mascot in President Thomas H. Powell’s vision of the nation’s second-oldest Catholic college. Only Georgetown University, established in 1789, is older.

“We are looking for a way to rid ourselves of the inappropriate costumed mascot,” Mr. Powell said. “Like many universities, we are updating our image with something fitting our almost 200 years of tradition in a manner that reflects our Division I and national status.”

Prospective logos developed by SME include a ranger, a bear, a mountain lion and a hawk. School spokesman Duffy Ross said the image should be as alluring and instantly recognizable as the University of Maryland’s “Fear the Turtle” terrapin.

The swaggering turtle character has helped sell more than $1 million worth of goods since it first appeared in 2000, said Brian Darmody, assistant vice president for research and economic development at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Mount St. Mary’s, known as “the Mount,” has no character logo. Sweat shirts and caps sold at the student bookstore have only the school’s name or initials.

The hillbilly is not an official symbol, just a mascot dating to the 1960s that once carried a jug, said former men’s basketball coach Jim Phelan.

Mr. Powell said the hillbilly character “is not well regarded by students or fans.”

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