UW branch needs new bark

On the eve of the 100th Apple Cup, here’s a topic that comes close to heresy: If and when UW North comes our way, maybe the nickname won’t be the obvious.

Sure, I’m a Husky. I spent five great years at the University of Washington earning that Dawg degree. And after nearly 30 years in Snohomish County, I’m pleased to see serious movement toward the opening of a UW branch here.

On this day of shopping and feasting on leftovers, let’s set aside serious talk of a branch campus. Let’s talk Huskies, Dawgs or whatever else might be stamped on sweatshirts of those first students who’ll hopefully come through UW North’s doors.

Sure, I’m a Husky, but my mind isn’t closed to the possibility that someday some UW students here may not have that label. If a new campus is to have its own identity, and be seen as a destination school with high-demand offerings, why not create a distinct mascot?

It’s hardly an unprecedented idea.

To settle on a mascot for the newest campus in the prestigious University of California system, “we had a contest open to all the elementary schools,” said Tonya Luiz, a spokeswoman at UC Merced. Opened in 2005, it’s the 10th UC campus, and the only one sporting the nickname Bobcats.

So far, Luiz said, UC Merced has only intramural and club sports, among them flag football, volleyball and basketball. “There’s quite a bit of Bobcat spirit, and we’re starting a cheer team,” she said.

Like the other UC schools, Bobcat colors are in the blue-and-gold family. The nickname is the latest on the UC list that includes the offbeat Banana Slugs at UC Santa Cruz to the time-honored California Golden Bears at UC Berkeley.

California isn’t the only state with different mascots in the same university system. Texas, too, has a separate nickname for each of nine schools under the University of Texas umbrella. The Texas Longhorns (the mascot’s name is Bevo) are at Austin. At the University of Texas at San Antonio, they’re Roadrunners, with a mascot called Rowdy; at El Paso, they’re Miners with Paydirt Pete as mascot; Dallas has Comets; Brownsville has Scorpions; and Tyler has Patriots.

Why not keep the Husky at the Montlake campus and go with variations on the canine theme at other UW branches?

Pick your favorite dog — er Dawg — breed, preferably one with a smart and fast reputation in keeping with UW North’s emphasis on science and technology. My Google search on “smart dog breeds” turned up border collie, poodle and German shepherd, in that order. Poodle probably isn’t a great choice.

In the spirit of Apple Cup, Washington State University’s branches in Vancouver, Tri- Cities and Spokane could take on feline nicknames, in keeping with the Cougar. Cheetahs, snow leopards and jaguars come to mind. Let’s be careful, though. I wouldn’t want some WSU Lynx whipping a sweet little UW Beagle in any future version of Apple Cup rivalry.

In his book “Mascots: the History of Senior College &University Mascots/Nicknames,” Roy Yarbrough lists some unusual ones. At Sweet Briar College in Virginia, they’re Vixens — yes, they’re all women. Also in Virginia, there are Fighting Squirrels at Mary Baldwin College.

I’m partial to California’s Whittier College nickname, the Poets — yes, they have football.

In our own state, there’s a doozy at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. If it weren’t Apple Cup eve, I’d be tempted to sing the fight song: “Go, Geoducks, Go.” I won’t, though. It’s high time for a rousing rendition of “Bow Down to Washington.”

Woof — in any Dawg-breed voice you like.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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