How the Banana Slug became UCSC's official mascot
The Banana Slug, a bright yellow, slimy, shell-less mollusk found in the campus's redwood forest, was the unofficial mascot for UC Santa Cruz's coed teams since the university's early years. The students' adoption of such a lowly creature for a team mascot was their reaction to the fierce athletic competition fostered at most American universities. UCSC has always offered a wide-ranging physical education and recreation program designed to appeal to the greatest number of students, but it has based its approach on some unusual ideas: that athletics are for all students, not just team members of major sports; that the most important goal of a collegiate physical education department should be to introduce as many students as possible to lifelong physical activities; and that the joy of participating is more important than winning.
In 1980, when some campus teams wanted more organized yet still low-key participation in extramural competition, UCSC joined Division III of the NCAA in five sports. Since the application required an official team name, UCSC's then chancellor polled the student players, and out of this small group emerged a consensus for a new moniker--the sea lions. It was a choice that the chancellor considered more dignified and suitable to serious play than the Banana Slugs. But the new name did not find favor with the majority of students, who continued to root for the Slugs even after a sea lion was painted in the middle of the basketball floor.
After five years of dealing with the two-mascot problem, an overwhelming proslug straw vote by students in 1986 convinced the chancellor to make the lowly but beloved Banana Slug UCSC's official mascot. By the time the chancellor had left office, he was won over to the proslug camp, even to the point of featuring the Slug on his personal holiday card.
In May 2004, Reader's Digest named the Banana Slug the best college mascot. The Banana Slug even figured in a court case involving campus mascots. Judge Terence Evans, writing the opinion for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, stated the following: "We give the best college nickname nod to the University of California, Santa Cruz. Imagine the fear in the hearts of opponents who travel there to face the imaginatively named 'Banana Slugs'?" (Crue et al. v. Aiken, June 1, 2004)
Our Sammy the Slug mascot has been appearing around campus at sports events and other functions. And, when the men's tennis team played in the NCAA championships, their T-shirts read: "Banana Slugs-No Known Predators."
UC Santa Cruz Foundation trustee Anne Neufeld Levin wrote a children's book, Sally Slug, illustrated by UCSC alumna and former Foundation trustee Patricia Rebele. The book, published in 2002, is available at slugstore.ucsc.edu. Proceeds from sales of the book benefit the UCSC Foundation and provide for art history purchases and exhibits in the library.
Links to Additional Banana Slug Information
The Story of the Web's Favorite Mascot