Nittany Lion officially inducted into Mascot Hall of Fame

June 17, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s Nittany Lion was officially inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame on June 16 in Whiting, Indiana.

The Nittany Lion was one of four mascots enshrined over the weekend, including Tommy Hawk from the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawk, Benny the Bull from the National Basketball Association’s Chicago Bulls and Sluggerrr from Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals.

The Penn State mascot was nominated for the hall of fame in October 2016, and a public, online voting contest ran through January 2017. The Nittany Lion emerged as one of six finalists, who where then evaluated by a panel of Mascot Hall of Fame lifetime voting members and executive committee members. Four mascots were ultimately selected to be honored in the 2017 class.

Nittany Lion on stage at Mascot Hall of Fame

The Nittany Lion and other mascots enjoy the induction festivities at the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Indiana.

IMAGE: Curtis White

The Nittany Lion traces its origins to 1907 graduate Harrison D. “Joe” Mason. Before a baseball game against Princeton in 1904, Mason and other members of the University’s baseball team were shown a statue of Princeton’s Bengal tiger, which the Princeton students claimed was “the fiercest beast of them all.”

In recalling the moment four decades later at the Nittany Lion Shrine dedication, Mason said, “An idea came to me, and I replied, ‘Well, up at Penn State we have Mount Nittany right on our campus, where rules the Nittany Mountain Lion, who has never been beaten in a fair fight.’”

Nittany Lion in convertible

The Nittany Lion mascot arrives at the Mascot Hall of Fame on the back of a convertible Chevrolet Malibu on June 15, 2019.

IMAGE: Curtis White

The first photographic evidence of a student donning a lion suit came in October 1922, when an African lion-style suit appeared at the Penn State-Syracuse game at the Polo Grounds in New York City. By 1939, the mascot’s suit evolved to look more like a mountain lion, according to Jackie Esposito and Steven Herb’s “The Nittany Lion: An Illustrated Tale,” the definitive history of the mascot.

In the coming decades, the Nittany Lion evolved to become “the symbol of Penn State’s best,” appearing not only at athletic events, but at celebrations, fundraisers and outreach efforts on campus and in the local community.

Last Updated November 25, 2019