Goshen College announced a new mascot on Monday morning: for the first time in GC athletic history, the Maple Leafs will officially be led by a black squirrel. Since men’s basketball had their first intercollegiate competitions in 1954, there has never been an official mascot, according to Tony Miller, sports information director.The mascot search committee settled on this decision after a multi-year selection process. The committee was composed of staff from the athletic department, theater department, advancement office, communications and marketing office, institutional research, admissions and the office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as well as student athletes. The committee began the process by asking students and other stakeholders to submit ideas and concept designs in the fall.
Jodi Beyeler, vice president for communications and people strategy, said the survey was the “biggest driver” in their decision. They received an overwhelming response, and three-quarters of the responses suggested a squirrel.
Beyeler thinks the black squirrel is fitting because it is a unique mascot (no other school in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has a black squirrel mascot) that “represents our institutional and athletic personality well: fun, energetic, friendly, confident, enthusiastic, small but mighty, strong, clever and quick.” Black squirrels can be seen scampering around campus, so the committee’s choice highlights something representative of GC.
One student whose efforts rose above the rest in the mascot selection process is Dan Eash Scott, a sophomore history major and unofficial interim mascot. Though not on the selection committee, he has been a big voice in the conversation after attending home games in a crowdfunded squirrel costume all year and leading cheers.
Eash Scott said having a mascot helps with school spirit, so it was important to get out there even before the committee came to a decision.
He added that “the squirrel has been a student-led movement — the fact that we all took matters into our own hands says a lot about this student body.”
Eash Scott says players have told him that having the squirrel at athletic events “makes a big difference in energy levels.” He has enjoyed being active in the student section and commented, “My job’s not done yet.”
Kourtney Crawford, head women’s volleyball coach, said that GC students have loved seeing Eash Scott in the squirrel costume. She believes that having an official mascot “will be a morale booster for matches and games.”
While Beyeler said the mascot decision was made separate from Eash Scott’s endeavors, she also commented that “we have to give a huge shout out to him for being a committed and highly energetic interim mascot, and helping our crowds cheer on our winter and spring sports teams.”
Both the mascot’s name and the costume design are still undecided. According to Beyeler, GC is still in the “initial stages of working with a mascot company to design and fabricate the mascot.”
As for the squirrel’s name, she said, “the mascot committee anticipates further involvement and input from our community.”
GC athletic teams will continue to be known as the Maple Leafs, but the mascot will be a lasting and official version of several attempts over the years to have a physically embodied mascot.
Captain Maple Leaf, Jake the Rake and Dan the Squirrel Man each had a time in this role.
Beyeler noted one reason the college made their decision is that “a good mascot can generate enthusiasm for athletic events and promote connections in other areas of campus and community life.”
As for when the Goshen community can look forward to seeing the Black Squirrel in action, Beyeler explained that “plans are being made for an official unveiling of the new mascot during homecoming weekend this fall. The mascot would then be ready for action.”