In 2015, the UR Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) team wanted to make merchandise using an original design they created of Rocky — a design which can only truly be described accurately as “badass”. But once UR found out about “Ricky the Honeybee,” the Baja team was told not to use it at all. Why? Because the orientation of Rocky is actually really important.
In 2008, UR decided to change the school’s mascot from URBee to what we know today as Rocky. At least 3,400 members of the UR community agreed that URBee was too cute for UR Athletics, and the new mascot needed to be “intimidating” and have an edge.
URBee gave the following parting statement: “I didn’t have the name. I didn’t have the looks. I didn’t even have the fingers for downs and quarters. But I had heart, and I wore it on my sleeve each and every day. I like to think that counts for something.”
That same year, our beloved Rocky made their stunning debut during a basketball game.
But Rocky has a doppelganger: Meet Buzz, Georgia Institute of Technology’s mascot, who debuted in 1980. Buzz is also a yellowjacket. Buzz is also a very intimidating yellowjacket. To some, Buzz may look very similar to UR’s own intimidating yellowjacket, Rocky.
Rocky’s design is based heavily on UR’s own history with the insects. The yellowjacket mascot was first introduced in the 1920s and went through several variations until landing at the current iteration.
Georgia Institute of Technology was involved in the 2008 redesign process of Rocky, but the details of UR and Georgia Institute of Technology’s agreement are not publically available. There is an agreement between the schools that allows the bees to coexist.
Comparing the two, there are some clear distinctions. The orientation of Rocky and Buzz is different. Rocky will almost always be forward-facing, and must always have the “R” on its chest. UR’s official guidelines on custom Rocky designs is to treat Rocky like a paper doll according to the UR Identity Guide.
Georgia Tech has been in mascot rumbles in the past. In 2017, the town of Damascus in Maryland wanted to paint their high school mascot, the Swarmin’ Hornets, on their water tower to celebrate the town’s high school football team. The town raised the money to get their own intimidating hornet on the water tower until Georgia Institute of Technology stepped in and shut it down.
In years prior, Georgia Tech had requested that the Damascus High School change their mascot to not be so similar to Buzz, and a licensing agreement was signed. The agreement did not include a painting of the hornet on the water tower, which Georgia Tech was quick to point out.
In 1988, Georgia Tech filed a copyright infringement suit against a minor league baseball team in Salt Lake City called the Buzz, and who also had an intimidating yellowjacket as their mascot. The Salt Lake City baseball team lost the lawsuit, and had to pay Georgia Tech $600,000 dollars.
The team’s lawyer, Gregory D. Phillips, commented on the suit to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“Georgia Tech might think their mascot is famous, [but] no one here has ever heard of them,” he said. “No one ever showed up at a game out here expecting to see a Georgia Tech game, and no one ever showed up out there looking to go to a Salt Lake Buzz game.”
The non-public agreement between UR and Georgia Institute of Technology seems to have prevented a “bumble” between the two universities.
Rocky and Buzz do have their differences as intimidating yellowjackets, but it can be difficult to differentiate which yellowjackets UR departments, clubs, and organizations can use. The UR Identity guide has been made to help navigate the UR yellowjacket identity and mascot world of intimidating yellowjackets.
The UR Baja SAE team is not the only group to accidentally venture into the confusion of what Rocky imagery can be used. When the Campus Times was creating our newspaper-themed Rocky design, we ran into the cut and paste game of intimidating yellowjackets, too. If you were to go to the bottom floor of Meliora Hall at the moment, you might find this sign:
Look a little off? That’s actually Buzz. That yellowjacket goes against the UR Identity Guidelines, and is not Rocky.
Rocky’s image has been carefully curated to not bug the other intimidating yellowjackets, which is why UR’s so protective of the way it looks.
What URBee lacked in intimidation in 2008, he at least made up for in heart and copyright legality.