Our Mascot: Sammy the Banana Slug

Banana Slug Mascot strikes a pose

Say hello to Sammy.

Banana Slug Mascot strikes a pose a different pose.

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.

Former Chancellor Sinsheirmer, on the east field standing with a versions of the banana slug mascot with was a draped over students and you can see their feet sticking out.

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.

ESPN named it one of the 10 best college basketball mascots

The “Every Little Thing” podcast devoted half of a show to the Banana Slug and its history at UCSC.

Original Fiat Slug logo illustration.
Sammy the mascot in the chambers of the Santa Cruz City council holding their hands overhead in celebration.

Day of the Banana Slug

Sammy celebrated 25 years as the official mascot of UC Santa Cruz in 2011. The Santa Cruz City Council declared Sept. 27, 2011, the official “Day of the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slug.”

Last modified: Jul 08, 2024