How we became the Golden Grizzlies

How we became the Golden Grizzlies

When Oakland University decided in 1997 to move its athletics program from NCAA Division II to Division I, all aspects of the program were examined, including its mascot, the Pioneers.

To make sure its mascot was ready for big-time college athletics, the university formed a 19-member universitywide Mascot Advisory Committee. The committee was charged with determining desired attributes in an athletic nickname and mascot and to come up with three names and graphic images to pass along to the President's Cabinet for consideration.

The Mascot Advisory Committee spent months working with a professional design firm — SME Design, one of the country's leading firms in creating sports brand identities — to suggest names, create designs and conduct survey and focus-group testing.

Committee members, representing faculty, staff and students, received hundreds of suggestions and narrowed down the possibilities to three - the Golden Grizzlies, Saber Cats and Pioneers.

Before becoming the Golden Grizzlies, OU's nickname was the Pioneers and the unofficial mascot was Pioneer Pete. Pete started out in the 1950s as an aerospace pioneer, but when a student drew a buckskin-clad Pioneer Pete, the image stuck.

When looking for a new mascot, the Mascot Advisory Committee established specific criteria and Pioneers failed to measure up in many ways. The committee's criteria included that the new mascot be animal-based, tough, unique, have regional ties, be collegiate, have graphic potential and be gender- and race-neutral. Pioneer Pete couldn't stand the test of time. He was neither gender- nor race-neutral, a problem many students wanted resolved.

Golden Grizzlies met the committee's criteria and when logo images were created, it quickly became the favorite choice among all groups tested.

"We are really excited about the new name," OU Athletic Director Jack Mehl said when the Golden Grizzlies mascot finally was selected by the President's Cabinet on March 23, 1998. "It's original, it ties in directly with our school colors, and it represents the new, aggressive nature of our athletic program's move to Division I competition."

The "Grizz" made its debut at OU's inaugural basketball game against Michigan State University in the new athletics arena on Nov. 17, 1998.