The days of having Ozwald the Laker or Oz the Snowbeast leading the chants at athletic events could soon be dawning upon Oswego State.
The Lakers’ search for a mascot has taken another step, albeit a baby step, toward reality, with forums held this week for both faculty and students to express their desires, suggestions and concerns as to what should properly represent the college community.
Mascot ideas ranging from abominable snowbeasts, bears, sea monsters, and even a walking lighthouse character were revealed at the forums. Over a dozen sketches of what the future face of the Lakers could look like were displayed, with more on the way.
"It’s something that is going to fulfill all the roles that everyone wants," said senior Greg Aiello, who, along with fellow senior business administration major Latasha Archer, had started the hunt for an official college mascot. "That’s the most ideal thing that we want."
Aiello, who spearheaded the mascot search in 2008, has been working jointly with Dean of Students James Scharfenberger and the Oswego State Athletic Department to help find an ideal mascot to represent not only the students, but the faculty and the surrounding Oswego community.
"It helps bring recognition to the school," Archer said. "A mascot would help with new students at orientation and international students.
While reaction to some of the designs presented revealed mixed feelings, the crowd remained mostly enthusiastic about the potential of adding a face to the Lakers.
"Mainly they got the point out that we want a mascot to represent the school, and it’s going in the right direction," junior public justice major Marcus Peworchik said. "Being here and seeing how many different ways it can be used through all the sports and all the seasons; it’s a good idea."
"I think we got a good start to spreading new ideas," junior wellness management major Traci Bacon, a women’s basketball player said. "I feel that discussing it really opened new ideas to a new mindset toward it, that it can be child friendly as well as athletically aggressive."
Oswego State has been without a mascot since at least 1986, when the unofficially recognized Oswe-Gull disappeared off campus. The only recognized mascot to ever grace the Lakers was Pucky the Penguin. A scaled-down version that vaguely resembles a penguin is still used in some campus publications, but if a new mascot is named it would be Oswego State’s first official mascot in over two decades.
There remains a fair share of challenges before the plans for a mascot really start getting off the ground, the biggest obstacle at hand is finding out exactly what a "Laker" is to the college community, Aiello said. The Facebook group he created, titled "Mission: Get a Mascot for Oswego, " has seen numerous ideas from students, but not many indicating that students are on the same track. Other ideas presented during the forums included otters, snowmen, and ship captains.
According to Athletic Director Tim Hale, while progress has certainly been made since the initial undertaking, Oswego State may be better served to take a slow and safe approach to picking an official school mascot.
"In essence, we are talking about branding our college and that has repercussions in many different ways, many that we have not even thought of," Hale said in an e-mail. "An effective mascot program will require a significant amount of financial support and number of people involved to make it work, again something that needs to be discussed as we go along."
According to Scharfenberger, one of the most important requirements for any Laker mascot will be ethnic, gender and culture neutrality, meaning that any potential candidate must not discriminate against any particular demographic. This could potentially already rule out any type of character that resembles a human given that it wouldn’t be possible to make it one gender without discriminating against the other.
Despite the numerous hurdles that still need to be taken, aspirations to get a mascot in the stands by the end of the year aren’t hitting the locker room anytime soon.
"We are doing this because 150 years have passed and this place does not have a mascot quite yet." Aiello said. "And we are looking to bring it home."