West Virginia University’s Mountaineer mascot is incredibly meaningful to the school, the community and even the state.
“The Mountaineer, I think, is just one of the most beloved traditions that we have at West Virginia University because of the fact that we're all Mountaineers, we all embody that,” said Sonja Wilson, co-chairperson of the Mountaineer Advisory Council.
Wilson explained that this tradition reflects the strength of current Mountaineers and also those of the past.
“I’m a Mountaineer. You’re a Mountaineer. Mountaineer nation, we're all mountaineers. And it stands for kind of the strength and courage and all that West Virginians have you know? I think that's why the Mountaineer wears what he wears because that's what people wore back in the day.”
In honor of Mountaineer Week, here are four things you might not know about the Mountaineer.
The Mountaineer mascot tradition started in 1927.
The first official Mountaineer was Lawson Hill, who was the mascot from 1934 to 1935. The tradition, however, began a few years prior with Clay Crouse in 1927.
In total, there have been 70 Mountaineers. The only year with no mascot was 1944 due to World War II.
The first female Mountaineer was Natalie Tennant in 1990. One other woman has had the job since.
A list of all past Mountaineers can be found on the Mountaineer website.
There is a Mountaineer Advisory Council.
Wilson became the Mountaineer’s advisor when Brady Campbell was the mascot from 2006 to 2007. Before this, the Mountaineer had no advisor.
“The reason that came about was because the Mountaineer never really had anyone to work with and you know, they had to go to school,” Wilson said.
The Mountaineer Advisory Council meets at least once a quarter.
“In the age when everybody got cell phones, it became a little bit more hectic for the Mountaineer. And then we got into the age of social media and Facebook and Instagram and all that and people message the Mountaineer and it's hard to keep up with all of it.”
The Mountaineer has an appearance request form.
Did you know that the Mountaineer is invited to go to weddings all the time? According to Wilson, the Mountaineer is regularly asked to attend weddings, birthday parties and even funerals.
As cell phones and social media became more prevalent, more appearance requests began rolling in. To keep up, Wilson created the Mountaineer appearance request form and established some rules for appearances.
Because the Mountaineer is just one person, they can’t go to everything. Therefore, the Mountaineer does not typically attend social functions.
“It's hard for the Mountaineer to say no to people because they're in this coveted role. And what we've done is, I'm the one that looks at all the appearances ahead of time, but, you know, the Mountaineer goes to school too. So we try not to do social functions because you can't do everything and you want to be fair to everyone,” Wilson said.
The Mountaineer does about 250 appearances per year excluding athletic functions, Wilson said. This includes appearances in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, rotary clubs, parades, fairs, festivals etc.
The Mountaineer Mascot recently competed for entry into the National Mascot Hall of Fame.
This year, for the first time, the Mountaineer competed for admittance into the National Mascot Hall of Fame. The top 24 applicants made it to the first round of the competition.
“What is so cool about it is it's not just for college. I mean, there's pros, like mascots for pro basketball, and semi pro sports and all that. So it's really stiff competition. But we were just thrilled to be able to make it to the first round, which is the top 24,” Wilson said.
After making it to the first round, the Mountaineer unfortunately did not receive enough votes to proceed.