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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

UCSC Official Mascot

Fred Zlotnick took this picture of a banana slug in his back yard.

Believe it or not, the banana slug is the official mascot of the University of California Santa Cruz.
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 Proceeds from sales of the book benefit the UCSC Foundation and provide for art history purchases and exhibits in the library.
Sounds like my kind of school. I wonder if they need a biochemistry Prof?


  1. The UCSC mascot also made an appearance in "Pulp Fiction".

  2. I did my postdoc at UCSC and that has been hands down the best year of my life so far: I got to live in an idyllic small town with perfect weather, be an active and appreciated member of a top department in my field, raise my profile as a young scholar, and to top everything, I even met my future wife (in a bus to campus, no less!). Reading this post has left me with a smile on my face.

  3. I did the third year of my degree at UCSC; best year of my life!

  4. Aaanndd...did you know that:
    ...the University of California system, which comprises about ten universities including UCSC, has the motto "Fiat Lux" ["Let there be light"'];
    ...the UCSC motto is "Fiat Slug"?

  5. That doesn't look like a banana slug to me -- more like the brown European slug.

  6. PZ Myers,

    That doesn't look like a banana slug to me -- more like the brown European slug.

    I bow to your judgment.

    When it comes to ugly slimy things, you're the expert.

  7. That photo was taken in my front (not back) yard in Butano Canyon, outside of Pescadero, CA, about 30 miles north of Santa Cruz. This is a Redwood canyon, and banana slugs are everywhere. To my knowledge, there are no European Brown or Black slugs here. I'm told they can be found in the Pacific Northwest.

    You can see this and other Banana Slug pix at The color differences are artifacts of my camera (Canon 30D) and lens (Canon Telephoto EF 100mm f/2.8) and my general ineptitude with digital photography.