Every Ohio University student is proud to be associated with the Bobcat brand. With honor, they continually shout “Go Bobcats!” to cheer on OU teams during games. But has anyone wondered how “Bobcat,” an animal’s name, became the nickname of Ohio University? Maybe not, but here it is.
In 1925, members of the Ohio University athletics board saw the need to have a nickname for the schools’ teams which were simply referred to as “OHIO” or “Green and White.” Schools that had nicknames mocked and called OU all sorts of names including “The Nameless Wonders.” Obviously, this did not sit well with the athletics board.
One morning, they announced a contest to allow students bring in their suggestion. Hundreds of names were submitted for a winning prize of ten dollars. After much scrutiny and deliberations, the name “Bobcat” was chosen. Hal H. Rowland, a student at the time, and resident of Athens took home the prize. The name was officially passed and adopted by one of OU’s former president, E.B Bryan on December 7, 1925. This was 29 years after the colors green and white were chosen. So, imagine three decades of no name. Your guess is as good as mine.
The 1925-26 baseball squad, the first team to play with the new name proudly used it in their next game and beat Denison 33-21.
Giving life to the Bobcat
The time was ripe to give life to the Bobcat. Men from Lincoln Hall made this decision to create a life-size costume of the character for the 1963 Homecoming because they wanted to “donate something permanent to the university.”
Plans were underway. A committee was formed to oversee the process. Schantz, a fine arts major and a costumier, created several designs until a final one was chosen. The head of the character was sent to France for creation after failed attempts to get it done in the U.S.; most importantly, labor was cheap. In cities like San Francisco and New York, the technique for the head, “papier-macheing,” was also not present.
The pants and gloves were sent to Van Horn and Sons in Philadelphia for sewing. A different company also in Philadelphia received contract for the hand-knit sweater which was expected to be 62 inches long and 42 inches wide.
The Lincoln Hall men spent a total of $250 on the mascot. The head costs $100, the sweater, $60 and the pants, $28. Padding for the stomach and rear was $35 and gloves, $6. After, the search for the person going to wear these was the next hurdle. They needed someone shorter than 5’ 11’’ in height. A member of the 1963 class and a Lincoln Hall resident, Dan Nicholas became the proud “Mr. Bobcat” as it was called. Then they decided the tradition must go on, and that, all Mr. Bobcats must come from the hall. Mr. Bobcat was then made a permanent member of the cheerleading group at all football and basketball games. His first appearance was during the 1960 Homecoming celebrations.
Mr. Bobcat’s first game
During the Homecoming, OU was scheduled to play their arch rival Miami Redskins (now the Redhawks). The Redskins had always been a thorn the in flesh of the Bobcats, winning all of the games played so far. On October 22 of this same year, they visited the Bobcats hoping to clinch their fourteenth victory. Little did they know Bobcat was now a living character that was going to ensure his kingdom was not defeated.
“The “animal” sprang from the tunnel under the stands, gave the hated Redskins a menacing sneer and signaled victory for Ohio.” The crowd stood and roared with a vengeance.” Ohio eventually won by thrashing Miami 10-0 and crowned the NCAA National College Champion. All credit went to Mr. Bobcat.
Since then, the mascot has undergone several changes in appearance.
Photo Credit: Ohio University Archives