Everybody knows Rocky. He’s difficult to miss—from official signage to sweatshirts to posters around the school, Rocky is everywhere. But our fierce mascot is far from the first to represent our school. In fact, Rocky is only nine years old.
So, who came before him? Well, the first version of a Yellowjacket mascot was, as Campus Times reporter Jeff Levy wrote in 2008, “a cap-wearing cross between a mosquito and Popeye.” Then there was another version, significantly more wasp-like and less human-like. Then, in 1983, URBee was born.
URBee, pronounced Erbie, was a large-headed, small-winged bee who represented the school from 1983 to 2008. Opinions on URBee were divided. He was both praised and criticized for his adorableness, which made for great plushies but utterly failed to intimidate rival schools. This split is apparent in how students spoke about him as well;they alternatively described him as “cute and beloved” and “a cherubic weakling.”
Bill Murphy, the vice president of communications, seemed to agree more with the latter description and thought it best to create a new mascot, one that would fully embody the fierceness of the Yellowjackets. Thus, the quest for an URBee replacement began.
The process represented a close effort between the Office of Communications and the student body. Town halls were held to discuss potential designs before opening up voting to the entire student body. Once the design was chosen, the office held a contest to choose a name. They received 1,156 name suggestions that they then narrowed down to the six most popular, which students voted on. Those six choices were as follows: Chester, Mel, R.J, ROC, Stinger, and, of course, Rocky. The official name was revealed at a men’s and women’s basketball night on February 1, 2008, and Rocky has been around ever since.
Yet despite the extensive student involvement in the process, not everyone was happy with the new mascot. Some students, like Mark Fleming in the Campus Times, for example, bemoaned his lack of “quirkiness,” writing, “Rocky does not look capable of holding a stimulating conversation, he definitely does not have the secret talent or odd obsession of a UR student, and he may be easily mistaken for someone else’s bee.”
The bee Fleming is referring to is Georgia Tech’s mascot, which does look uncomfortably similar to Rocky in some ways.
However, minor adjustments in the last nine years seem to have addressed these critiques. Sometime after his introduction, the official version of Rocky was altered slightly to depict him facing forward (he used to be facing to the side) in order to further differentiate him from Georgia Tech’s mascot. As for quirkiness, Rocky’s multitude of costumes, ranging from suit and tie, to cello player, to doctor, certainly give him some individuality, revealing that he does in fact have many secret talents and odd obsessions, just like UR students.
All things considered, Rocky may not be as charming as URBee, but with his fierce expression and resolute stance, Rocky shows that whatever he does, he does with the same level of dedication and determination as the UR students he represents.
Dejong is a member
of the class of 2019.