— Woof, Woof — Adrian College mascot history is a mystery
Adrian College mascot history is a mystery
Oh where, oh where did Adrian College’s (AC) mascot name “Bulldogs” come from? Who decided a Bulldog would be Adrian College’s mascot and why was its name changed over the years from T.C. (The Champion) to Thundar and then Bruiser?
Woof… Mascot: a person, animal, or object adopted by a group as a symbolic figure, especially to bring them good luck.
WOOF… MASCOT: A PERSON, ANIMAL, OR OBJECT ADOPTED BY A GROUP AS A SYMBOLIC FIGURE, ESPECIALLY TO BRING THEM GOOD LUCK.
While this story of AC’s mascot has as many holes in it as one of Bruiser’s squeaky dog toys, we offer it up for you to chew on… Our search for the history of the mascot dug up a few old bones and questions. We searched high and low, however, no one had ever seen a compiled history on AC mascots. A request for new information even went out to alumni and not one response came in.
The search begins — In “A History of Adrian College (1994),” by A. Douglas MacNaughton, it states the college’s first organized team was fitted up in 1873. It was a baseball team organized by Frank Y. Hamilton ‘74. Football came later, in 1888 against high school teams, with J. H. Cowan elected football manager. Games against other colleges didn’t take place until 1892. Some form of football, however, was played as early as the spring of 1875 when junior and senior classes had a game that looked like soccer or rugby.
Sports headlines and game reports in The College World referred to the “Canary and Black” when discussing the College’s teams before the first mention of “Bulldogs” was seen in an October 22, 1926 football report against Battle Creek
The first notation of a mascot we found was in the student-run newspaper, The College World, in a May 5, 1896 report on a “Base Ball” game between Adrian College and Adrian Furniture Factory (AC won 7-4). It mentioned, “’Rastus the mascot took up a collection, which was sufficient to clear expenses.”
Rastus (Waters) the mascot was not on the roster but played in at least two baseball games for Adrian College, as a backup pitcher and third baseman. Rastus was never officially adopted as the college mascot, perhaps because of having a negative connotation. During that time period, “Rastus” was typically depicted as a stereotypical happy black man in minstrel shows.
In the book “No Victory Without Work, A Pictorial History of Adrian College (2009),” it features an official team photo of a 1905 Adrian College baseball squad where the players are surrounding a live cow. It is unknown if the unidentified bovine was the team’s mascot.
During our search, we found that Adrian College’s colors are officially noted as being “Canary and Black” in the first Adrian College Athletic Association Constitution on February 15, 1896.
Sports headlines and game reports in The College World referred to the “Canary and Black” when discussing the College’s teams before the first mention of “Bulldogs” was seen in an October 22, 1926 football report against Battle Creek (The article noted, “It was the first football game in the history of the Battle Creek institution. The squad is carrying out an experiment of Dr. Kellogg, who refuses the players meat.” AC won the season opening game 6-0.). The subhead reads, “Bulldogs Outweighed But Are Not Outfought.” The story combined both titles, noting “The squad from the ‘cereal city’ outweighed the Canary and Black, but the Bulldogs made up for that in experience.”
A College World sports report on football in November, 1927 mentioned the Bulldogs earned their name. “Undoubtedly, the Bulldogs looked better in this game than any previous one and they truly deserved the name ‘Bulldogs’ with their backs to the wall during many stages of the game, the Bulldogs showed their teeth, and in one instance held Ypsi for four downs when a touchdown looked almost certain.” The 20-0 loss was the first in five years for the Canary and Black on their home field.
An official college yearbook was produced for the first time in 1920, however, there was no mention of the Bulldogs in the publication. The task of creating an annual proved to be so financially difficult that another wasn’t made until 1937 when The Mound was printed. In it, the football, basketball and “base-ball” teams were called the Bulldogs. The baseball team was better known as “The Pirates” because the players wore Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club uniforms, likely provided by Samuel E. Watters ‘15, an AC alumnus who was the Club team’s secretary-treasurer. Adrian College had discontinued baseball in the early 1930s during the great depression and probably lacked sufficient uniforms when reinstating the sport in 1936.
[During that era, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Baseball Club used color combinations of red and blue before switching to black and gold, the colors of the city’s flag, in 1948.]
Digging into the history of this popular dog unearthed even more head-scratching questions. Over the years, the look of the Bulldogs’ mascot has changed significantly. Today, the mascot’s name is Bruiser. However, on October 16, 1986, The College World had a feature story titled “Adrian’s Lovable Mascot: The History of T.C. Bulldog Uncovered.” The story, written by Roxann Stec, said the mascot got its name from a “Name the Bulldog” contest. There were 96 entries, including several uncommon names such as Beeb, Barraca, Mergatroid, Otto, Pug and Rigger. Some of the more common names suggested were Bowser, Bruiser, Butch, Dog and Rocky. The committee whittled their selections down to a final three, The Champion (T.C.), Pawa, and Victor. — T.C. won “paws down,” and the new mascot made his first official appearance in February 1984.
(Fun fact: AC Board of Trustee Gina Valentino ‘86 and former AC homecoming queen Lillian Brueckman ‘20 have both pepped up fans in the mascot costume.)
In archived photos, there have been live Bulldogs depicted representing Adrian College’s mascot at various competitions. A Bulldog pictured in the 1990 Mound named “Thundar” officially entertained the crowd during a homecoming halftime.
A completely different live Bulldog is pictured with no name in the 1992 Mound but is never seen again.
The 2010 Mound brings us to modern times when a live English Bulldog named “Bruiser” was introduced to the campus as the official live mascot. A total of 360 people cast their votes to name the mascot in 2007. Bruiser received the most votes with 127, while Brutus was second with 77. Other popular names were Bo, Bruce and Spike.
Bruiser was born in Bristow, Okla., and brought to Adrian when he was four-months old. His birthday was September 20, 2009. Janine Grier was his caretaker. The Bulldogs’ official live mascot passed away of natural causes on November 17, 2017, soon after his eighth birthday. He is buried behind the Bulldog Statue in Docking Stadium.
On Christmas day in 2018, the College introduced Bruiser II, a 10-week old, 15-pound puppy. His duties include blocking fan shots between periods of hockey games, delivering the game ball at home football games, wishing graduates good luck at AC commencements, riding in the homecoming parades and greeting students on his walks around campus. Grier is his caretaker.
Adrian College plans on continuing Bruiser’s reign for many years to come, and will refer to its next live mascot as Bruiser No. 3.
While the complete history of the mascot remains a mystery, one thing for certain about this “Dawgs” title, it has been embraced by thousands upon thousands of Adrian College students and graduates who are forever proud to be Bulldogs!