Photo credit to Cheryl Seligman

As a UR tour guide, there are a few things I like to point out at the beginning of my tour.

For example, I like to mention that UR was built on a former golf course, indicate that our colors are “Rochester Blue” and “Dandelion Yellow” and while standing in Hirst Lounge underneath the large Rochester banners, point out that our mascot is “Rocky the Yellowjacket.”

Some tour-goers nod, examine their surroundings and continue to listen to the tour — but every once in a while a family will humorously nod, point and ask some variation of, “Isn’t that the Georgia Tech mascot?”

“Buzz” the Yellowjacket, one of two official mascots at Georgia Institute of Technology, and “Rocky” the Yellowjacket are of the same anthropomorphic insect family, but have very different appearances. While Georgia Tech’s school colors are officially “old gold” and “white,” Buzz is outfitted in a more traditional depiction of the yellowjacket, being primarily yellow and black (but with the school colors expressed in a “GT” logo on his chest).

Rocky, on the other hand, also features an emblazoned logo on his chest (the Rochester “Spirit R”), but is outfitted exclusively in blue and yellow. In addition to these, the Buzz costume features small wings, a large stinger and a smaller build to the mascot costume overall — Rocky is more humanized, having been reinvented to include larger wings, Schwarzenegger-esque muscles and no stinger.

With the similarities between the two, naturally one of the first thoughts in people’s minds  is, “Who came first?” Even more inevitably, perhaps, is the question, “Which one is better?”

Mascots typically represent athletic strength and herald school spirit, using a particular symbol of the home university to rally the student body. They are also prided for their originality, however, so the presence of two schools with similar mascots is inescapably a cause for inquiry.

Buzz was actually the second Georgia Tech mascot, as the first was documented to be the “Ramblin’ Wreck,” which is alleged to have been a symbol of Georgia Tech since 1926. The Buzz costume was said to have been invented in 1972 when a student participated on the cheerleading squad by using a homemade costume, and the mention of identifying Georgia Tech students and athletic teams as “Yellowjackets” dates back as early as the 1890s.

Rocky, on the other hand, has a more convoluted history, as he has been re-invented several times since his birth. Having actually been termed “UR Bee” around what is suggested to be the 1990s (although the yellowjacket costume has been in action since the 1980s), Rocky has only been recently created. In a 2008 re-invention of the mascot, students, faculty and alumni voted on the name “Rocky,” and he received the makeover that transformed him from a cute, fuzzy bee to a gargantuan, sneering warrior. Mention of the UR students and athletic teams as “Yellowjackets,” however, dates back to 1925.

In print, the two mascots look scarily similar — images of Rocky, for example, must be carefully constructed and produced so that they avoid any and all likeness to those of Buzz, and vice versa. As the images of Buzz have been in circulation much longer, and those of the re-invented Rocky are only just reaching popularity, I am inclined to believe there is more UR avoidance of copyright infringement than that of Georgia Tech in replicating images of Buzz.

Overall, it can hardly be argued that Buzz is the first of the two Yellowjackets to achieve and maintain longstanding popularity, as well as having the luxury of being backed by a significantly larger school body. Rocky, on the other hand, maintains his status in a relatively small student body and minority of athletic appearances and is an important addition to the UR perception of school spirit and symbolism.

It would be silly to conclude, however, that there is only enough room in the world for one yellowjacket and that either maintains a superior status over the other — rather, we should recognize that the mutual representation of the two universities is superfluous compared to the rallying of spirit that they hope to accomplish.

Cicoria is a member of

the class of 2012.



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