Howard Garnish ’27, a former writer for Campus Times, is usually credited for the inception of the “Yellowjackets” in 1925. Since then, several versions of a Yellowjacket mascot emerged, landing on the cuddly and lovable “URbee” in 1983. Unfortunately for URbee (“Erbie”), cuteness was to the detriment of the intimidating image UR athletics hoped to cultivate. So in 2008, our mascot became the tougher-looking “Rocky.”
Rocky may be a consistent character to sports fans and event-goers, but the true identity of our mascot is constantly changing. Who is inside the bulky striped suit? The names of students who masquerade as Rocky are kept secret until they graduate, but you can narrow down the list of suspects to those with the ability to excite a crowd and radiate charisma without speaking — fundamentals that Spirit Coordinator Shawn Bihler looks for in candidates.
“Rocky is a very mischievous, but caring character so it is important that our volunteers are able to encompass that,” Bihler said.
Of course, nobody is perfect, and former Rockys recall that blunders are difficult to avoid in such a clumsy costume. One graduate admitted to slipping on the slushy floor of Strong Auditorium and grabbing two incoming freshmen for support. However, students that don the costume all agree that the Rocky suit allows them a certain degree of freedom through anonymity.
“Just be outgoing and don’t care who’s around you,” said one outgoing Rocky, “because you’re in the suit, and no one knows.”
Being in a variety of social situations as a completely different character has been an interesting, and sometimes bizarre, experience for some.
“Frat boys never paid any attention to me until I was Rocky and then they loved me,” said one 2014 graduate.
It might seem like Rocky never strays far from his home hive, but our mascot attends events both on and off campus on a regular basis — even congregating with other Rochester college, sports, and business mascots at Rochester Red Wings Mascot Night.
New this year, Rocky volunteers will be part of a secret Facebook group and attend exclusive bonding events throughout the semester. Additionally, free Wilson Commons swag and meal vouchers are up for grabs after a certain amount of hours of spreading school spirit.
“We want those who volunteer as Rocky to feel more a part of a family,” Bihler said.
Auditions this year will be held on September 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. with free pizza, and training workshops will be held for students selected to portray Rocky.
Most importantly, said Bihler, “Students should have a passion for spreading spirit around campus both in and out of the costume.”