Mascots are a talisman of pride in social, professional and educational arenas. But in the world of athletics, sports teams also designate power and intimidation to their mascots, even in the most unlikely figures. Some colleges and universities choose panthers or knights, while others choose mascots that don’t seem to carry the same clout.
To some, the Mills Cyclone is among those less-than-intimidating mascots. Still, the blue felt natural disaster has prevailed as the school’s mascot after two campus-wide competitions.
Mascot contenders from the second mascot competition of 1997 included the Mariah (the wind), the One-eyed Rabid Squirrel, the women and, the Dragons and Magic, according to a 1998 issue of the Mills Weekly.
“Oh no,” said sophomore Maia Caballero in response to the mascot candidates. “I would have picked Cyclones too then.” However “weird” the candidates were, the Mills soccer athlete admitted that they are more emblematic of the Mills community than a cyclone. “Because of the squirrels and Harry Potter fans,” Caballero said.
Upon the establishment of the athletics program the department held its first mascot contest where students and sport teams made nominations. For reasons unbeknownst to the Mills community today, Cyclones won the contest and was represented by a logo.
Realizing that cyclones are not a common occurrence in Oakland, the mascot coordinator at the time, Colette Bowler, ran the second mascot contest in 1997 that reaffirmed the Cyclone as the school’s official mascot.
“People talked about wanting to change [our mascot] to a more appropriate one,” said Bowler, now the head soccer coach, special events coordinator and physical education coach. “I was surprised actually that the Cyclone won again, but it did and it won by a bit.”
One year later Bowler introduced the 6-foot, wide-eyed Cyclone costume, which the athletic department purchased from an online vendor in 1998.
“We figured it would bring more spirit on campus,” said Bowler. “All schools have mascots [not just a logo] and they’re usually affiliated with the athletics. we just wanted to make [sports] more visible.”
Bowler said the department is still open to the idea of a third contest if there was enough student interest. In that event Caballero said she would vote to change the Cyclone to “something that isn’t a natural disaster. like a lioness,” she said laughing.
Senior Claudia Bugarin who wore the Cyclone costume at this year’s Orientation said she would vote to keep the Cyclone. “Even if [a cyclone] is kind of silly. I say keep it because Mills is about tradition and the Cyclone is a part of our tradition.”
Although a cyclone might seem less-than-cool, the college website Classes and Careers online list of the “10 Strangest College Mascots” reminds students that Mills could have a mascot, like the one-eyed rabid squirrel, that would land them on the infamous list.
In 1972 students of the North Carolina School of the Arts suggested the Fighting Pickles as a joke, but the mascot won and has stuck. The mascot for the University of Arkansas at Monticello is the Boll Weevil, which is considered the most destructive cotton pest in the U.S. And then there’s the Artichokes of Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, which arose out of a 1970s protest against their administration’s use of scholarships meant for Native American students to attract out-of-state athletes.
Nobody knows why the Cyclone was originally selected in the 1970s but Themy-Jo Adachi, director of Athletics and Physical Education, who has been with Mills since 1982 said, “I have often heard stories told that we are the Cyclone named after Cyrus Mills. Not sure that’s true, but it makes for good legend.”