When fans attend the first football game in Princeton Stadium on Saturday, they will be greeted by a redesigned Princeton Tiger mascot.
But because of alumni and student opposition to an athletic department contest to rename the costumed cat, the mascot will remain known as just "The Tiger."
"For the past couple of years we have been trying to create a new mascot that would take people by surprise," said Jamie Zaninovich, senior associate athletic director, who called the old costume "neither fierce nor cute."
The athletics department began its search for a name for the traditionally nameless tiger this summer. In early August, the naming process became a contest on the athletics website, goprincetontigers.com, where visitors could submit their name suggestions.
Athletics received several hundred submissions, including "some very creative, very intelligent suggestions that built upon the history of Princeton, the values of Princeton and the history of the stadium itself," Zaninovich said.
The department soon became aware of student and alumni opposition to the name change. Melissa Moyer '05, a member of the Princetoniana committee, created a group on facebook.com, "Don't Name Princeton's Mascot," to make sure students knew about the potential name change. At its height, more than 600 people were in the group.
"It made me upset that they were changing something just for the sake of changing it," she said. "The fact that the athletic department [was] doing it as a promotion over the summer when students aren't even on campus bothered me."
The Facebook group has over 30 posts from students and alumni, many complaining about the "commercialization" of the mascot and the break with tradition. The groups urged other students to submit "don't name the mascot" to the contest.
After receiving many student and alumni emails opposing the naming of the tiger, the athletics department decided to stick with tradition and continue to call the tiger "The Tiger."
"One of the coolest aspects of Princeton is its amazing tradition and long history, so, unsurprisingly, it's difficult to alter that," said USG vice president Josh Weinstein '09, who emailed athletics director Gary Walters '67 after receiving emails of "opposition" from students. "My personal view is athletics made a great move to cater to the core fan base and maintain the name."
Walters responded to Weinstein with two messages that were later posted on the Facebook group. "The strong consensus is for The Tiger mascot to remain The Tiger mascot," Walters wrote in the first email. "End of story."
In the second message, Walters further elaborated. "Josh, one qualification ... many prefer Tigrrrr, but some consider that name change to be too radical. A few also preferred Uproar, the personal favorite of those with a sense of humor."
Though they were surprised at the overwhelming opposition, the athletic department was appreciative of the community input. They will still unveil the new tiger, developed with the help of a design firm, at Saturday's game.
"It's a more spirited, healthy, athletic-looking tiger," Zaninovich said. "[It] more appropriately exhibits the spirit of Princeton."
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2007/09/11/18534/