Mascot Hall of Fame nod may be Nittany Lion’s ticket to immortality

On Friday, Oct. 21, the Mascot Hall of Fame broke ground and announced its 2017 class of nominees, a list that includes the “symbol of our best” as “Hail to the Lion” says.

The hall of fame has been recognizing iconic professional and collegiate mascots for years, but is set to have a brick-and-mortar home in Whiting, Indiana, where honored mascots will have their costume heads permanently displayed. The Lion could potentially join the likes of Mascot Hall of Famers such as Ohio State’s Brutus the Buckeye, Delaware’s YoUDee and Auburn’s Aubie the Tiger. Opening in 2017, the hall of fame will be in northern Indiana, about 20 miles from Chicago.

“Penn State fans and alumni around the world recognize the Nittany Lion mascot as the symbol of our best,” said Curtis White, coach of the cheerleading program, The Lion’s home at the University. “Entry into the Mascot Hall of Fame will be a great honor for our University. The Nittany Lion is a strong element in the tradition and history of Penn State.”

Enshrinement in the hall of fame will be decided by the vote of a committee as well as with a fan vote at http://mascothalloffame.com/.

The ground-breaking included a talk by David Raymond, Mascot Hall of Fame creator and the original Phillie Phanatic, and the appearance of several mascots. White and the Nittany Lion appeared on a live, virtual video conference with media to accept the nomination.

“One of the famous cheers by Penn Staters is 'We Want the Lion,'” White said. “I don’t know of any university that has a cheer solely for the mascot from their fans. It has been many decades that our Nittany Lion mascot has supported the vast number of student organizations, academic departments and sports teams at Penn State.

“The efforts of our mascot have made our big University seem small and connected. The Nittany Lion is also seen as powerful and strong on a national stage as well as a hardworking and unique mascot. Penn State will look at entry into the hall of fame as a humble honor and something well deserved for Penn State’s greatest symbol.”

Adoption of the Nittany Lion as Penn State’s athletic symbol was the idea of Harrison D. Joe Mason, Class of 1907. At a game against the Princeton Tigers in 1904, he and other members of Penn State’s varsity baseball team were shown two Bengal tigers as an indication of their opponent’s fierceness. Thinking on his feet, Mason claimed that the Penn State Nittany Mountain Lion, king of the beasts, could beat the tiger. It wasn’t until 1922 that a student would first don a lion suit, which represented an African lion until morphing into a mountain lion in 1938.

“The mascots have always taken the job very seriously,” said University archivist Jackie Esposito, who wrote “The Nittany Lion: An Illustrated Tale.” “They believe they are the representation of a lot of these qualities that we as Penn Staters believe in when we say ‘We are Penn State,’ and he’s the visual embodiment of that. Whether it’s at a football game or at a children’s hospital or a small alumni event, that’s what you’re seeing when you see The Lion.”

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About the Mascot Hall of Fame

The National Mascot Hall of Fame will be opening its doors in 2017 in Whiting, Indiana, the City that the Mascot Hall of Fame’s founder and creative guru, David Raymond, has called “the silly, wacky city that could!” The 25,000-square-foot, multimillion dollar, multiuse facility will be a state-of-the-art, educational and interactive family fun zone, with a wide range of exhibits, healthy activities, educational programs and entertainment events that celebrate mascot fun. This venue will host the Mascot Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremonies, and other mascot interactions and performances will entertain, teach and enthuse children and their families year-round.

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Last Updated November 15, 2016