Say hello to Sammy.
An unconventional mascot for an unconventional campus
Is there anyone who doesn’t love Sammy the Slug?
In a counterculture reaction to the fierce athletic competition at most U.S. universities, UC Santa Cruz students chose the Banana Slug as their teams’ unofficial mascot in the early years.
In 1980, when some campus teams wanted more organized yet still low-key competition, UCSC joined Division III of the NCAA in five sports. They had to have an official team name, and student players agreed on the Sea Lions—a choice the chancellor at that time considered more dignified and suitable for serious play than the Banana Slugs.
But the wider student body would have none of it, and they 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 pro-Slug vote by students in 1986 convinced the chancellor to make the humble but adored Banana Slug UCSC’s official mascot.
Students in a Banana Slug costume with Chancellor Robert Sinsheimer, on the East Field. (Photo courtesy of UC Santa Cruz Special Collections)
Fittingly, Sammy gets lots of attention. The iconic mascot has been featured in People magazine, Sports Illustrated, and more.
Maybe most famously, John Travolta wore a UC Santa Cruz T-shirt with the Fiat Slug logo in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 hit movie Pulp Fiction.
The “Every Little Thing” podcast devoted half of a show to the Banana Slug and its history at UCSC.