Banana Slug Mascot
The Banana Slug, a bright yellow, slimy, shell-less mollusk commonly found on the redwood forest floor, was the unofficial mascot for UC Santa Cruz coed teams since the university's early years. The students' embrace of such a lowly creature was their response 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 uncommon 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. The application required an official team name, and UCSC's chancellor at the time, Robert Sinsheimer, selected a new moniker: the sea lions.
While the chancellor considered sea lions more dignified and suitable to serious play than Banana Slugs, 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 persuaded the chancellor to make the lowly but beloved Banana Slug UCSC's official mascot.
The Banana Slug has attracted a good deal of national attention over the years. In 2008, ESPN named it one of the 10 best college basketball mascots. Four years earlier, Reader's Digest named it the best. People magazine once dedicated a full-page spread to the Santa Cruz Banana Slug movement. The National Directory of College Athletics named it the best college mascot and Sports Illustrated magazine once named the Banana Slug the nation's best college nickname.
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: "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)
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."
In June 2011, Sammy celebrated 25 years as the official mascot of UC Santa Cruz.