College Basketball

As Main Mascot, Gunston Looks Like a Goner

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
Friday, June 2, 2006

After George Mason's Final Four run, Coach Jim Larranaga received a contract extension. So did Athletic Director Tom O'Connor . Boosters were treated to a black-tie dinner. Three senior starters earned invitations to an NBA pre-draft camp. Forward Jai Lewis was signed to a football contract by the New York Giants.

Everyone, it seems, was a winner. Well, everyone besides Gunston .

The school's fuzzy green mascot, who became a national media star this spring, could be out of a job by next basketball season. The athletic department is planning to convene a mascot focus group by the end of this month, which will propose about a half-dozen possible replacements. A new mascot likely will be chosen by the end of the summer and unveiled sometime during the fall semester.

Gunston will continue to represent the school, mostly at youth functions -- "he's not being offed," Associate Athletic Director for Marketing Andy Ruge said reassuringly -- but will no longer be the Patriots' primary mascot.

"We need to develop a mascot with a strong image, more of an immediate connection with George Mason, something our community would be proud to have," Ruge said. "It would be nice if a freshman could see him and go, 'Hey, that's our mascot' instead of going 'What's that?' "

The school already has been through a variety of mascots over the past several decades, including "The Mason Maniak" "The Green Mask" and a gorilla. A white male mascot of a Patriot was retired because he did not fully represent one of the most diverse campuses in the country, and Ruge said he "would be shocked" if the new mascot were a white male.

As for Gunston, his job has been on the line for some time. A study two years ago found that 40 percent of students didn't know who he was, and that a majority of students who could identify Gunston wished he'd be replaced. A survey of fans last season found Gunston's approval rating at Vice President Cheney levels, with an average score of 2 on a scale of 1 to 5.

While speaking to a 60-student marketing class last semester, Ruge was asked why the school would consider replacing its mascot after the recent burst of positive publicity.

"I said 'Let's just stop; how many people like Gunston?' " Ruge said. "And no one raised their hand. I said 'That's why.' He's not creating excitement if he's not loved and embraced."

-- Dan Steinberg

More in the Sports Section


Terrapins Insider

Get the latest updates on Maryland basketball and football.

Recruiting Insider

Recruiting Insider

Josh Barr keeps you in the loop on the local and national prep talent.


D.C. Sports Bog

Dan Steinberg gives you an inside look at all of your favorite local teams.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity