The history of the ISU mascot Sycamore Sam
Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Updated: Sunday, September 13, 2009 08:09
The current mascot at Indiana State University is Sycamore Sam.
Sycamore Sam is responsible for inciting the masses that attend Indiana State to rise up and support their colleges involved in intercollegiate sports.
He facilitates all persons associated with the University through the support and deployment of smiles and big hugs.
He is a positive role model and a principal leader in the surrounding community. Sycamore Sam appears at all men's and women's basketball and football home contests and selected away contests as approved by the Athletic Director.
Sycamore Sam came to ISU in 1995 when the Indiana State University Department of Athletics announced plans to search for a new mascot, which would accompany the traditional "Sycamores" nickname.
On December 6, 1995, Sycamore Sam a unique blue and white animal made the debut at a Sycamore men's basketball game versus Loyola University.
He started his career as Interim Mascot and days later became the official face of Indiana State University.
"Sam, who is species and genderless, was designed to be a university icon," said Cathy Grothe, the assistant athletics director for marketing.
He's blue, white, furry and ambiguous. Some think he's a squirrel, others say he's a coyote.
Alumnus Mike Miller, now a graphic artist, recalls the first time he saw Sycamore Sam.
"At first, I didn't know what to think. But after a while the fuzzy animal began to grow on me. He just takes some getting used to, but it was a lot better than the fighting trees," Miller said.
"I was hand-picked by the old Sycamore Sam," said SamMan, the student who filled the suit of ISU's beloved blue whatever he is during the spring semester 2005.
SamMan has been filling the blue and white jersey since the beginning of the fall 2004 semester.
"I go out and try to stay positive," he said.
To get ready for the games, SamMan practiced tumbling with the Sycamores' cheerleaders.
Usually, Sam comes out to the floor right before the tip-off or the national anthem and greets the fans, getting them excited for the upcoming game.
"There are some times when he can't make it to a game, but when that happens, a cheerleader fills in," he said.
Like any job being Sycamore Sam has its share of highs and lows.
SamMan said the worst part of his job is when the Sycamores play a losing game because the crowd isn't as excited.
However, he loved the children at the games.
Sam enjoys reading, music, sports and technology.
In 1921 a contest was held to pick a name for the athletic teams.
Until this time the term "Fighting Teachers" was frequently used in press accounts of athletic contests.
In January 1922, it was announced that the name "Sycamores" had won a popular vote of the student body.
Indiana State University has used this rather unique name since this date.
The nickname, Sycamores, was chosen to represent the abundance of Sycamore trees in the area.
Athletic teams have been known in the past as "The Fighting Trees." For a period of time in the 1950s and 1960s, a tree mascot was developed.
University archivist Susan Davis said to show school spirit, students took tree branches to games and "even dressed up as trees."
"Sycamore Sam has a little bit of history the name goes back a ways," Davis said.
The name Sycamore Sam came from an advice-giving tree in the 1960s editions of the Indiana Statesman.
Davis said Sycamore Sam is "still a little bit of a mystery" because the creature does not have a back-story.
A committee created the Chief Quabachi concept in 1969 as a mascot for the school.
The Indian Chief was used as a mascot until 1989, when the University dropped its use of the Indian in response to a variety of objections over use of the Indian caricature.
James Willis, a reporter from the Terre Haute Tribune Star, wrote about the chief's dismissal.
"When it comes to visualizing the mascot for the ISU athletic teams, deciphering what a Sycamore, is-beyond the image of a tree with flaky bark, can leave ISU fans blowing in the wind," Willis said.