Goldy Gopher: The evolution of a beloved mascot
Goldy Gopher doesn't say much, but behind those wide eyes, buck teeth, and warm smile (or is it devious grin?) is a Minnesota icon with a great story.
Goldy began an illustrious career as the U of M mascot in the 1940s, but the origins of our famed gopher begin almost a century earlier. In 1858, the year it became a state, Minnesota acquired the nickname the Gopher State.
Decades later, U of M football coach Clarence Spears picked up on the natural connection and named his team the Gophers in 1926. We can give Spears lots of credit, because at about this time he was recruiting Bronko Nagurski—one of the greatest football players of the 20th century—to come to the U of M.
A few years later, under legendary football coach Bernie Bierman, the football team picked up the nickname the Golden Gophers from announcer Halsey Hall, a reference to their all-gold uniforms. The Gophers truly were golden in those years, winning national football championships in 1934, 1935, and 1936.
The earliest rendering of the mascot appeared in the 1940s and was used for merchandising purposes. Goldy's look and logos have changed greatly over the years, drawing comments and even criticisms from fans wanting the right balance between fierce and friendly.
Original gopher is depicted as a line drawing of a 13-lined ground squirrel.
At first Goldy looked like any other gopher, but became "golden" thanks to Bernie Bierman's championship teams in the 1930s.
First official U of M Goldy mascot, drawn by artist George Grooms.
Goldy takes on a more animated appearance.
1960s and 1970s
Goldy represents various University sports.
UMAA celebrates its 75th anniversary and hires former U of M student and artist Bill Stein to develop Golden Gopher mark.
Athletics hires Jostens to redesign Goldy with a more aggressive look. U of M alum Steve Wanvig draws new mark.
In response to public criticism, Athletics asks Wanvig to make Goldy look less fierce.
Goldy has now become a face of the University and a sought-after ambassador. You can see Goldy not only at sporting events, but at other school functions, birthday parties, and even weddings. Goldy has also made a name on the national stage, winning national mascot champion titles in 2011 and 2013.
In September 2013, the University unveiled a six-foot tall statue of Goldy outside Coffman Memorial Union. The statue - made of bronze as well as maroon granite, was designed and sculpted by U of M alum Nicholas Legeros.
The statue has spawned a new tradition on campus: Students and fans can be found rubbing Goldy's teeth and making a wish, be it for a Gopher victory or for success in the classroom.
What will Goldy look like in another 70 years? Stay tuned!