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Mascot Mania: How Gonzaga became the Bulldogs

At one point in the 1930's, there was a movement for the Zags to change their mascot to one that, well, is certainly not prevalent.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Inland Northwest is a unique place for college athletics. 

We have four Division I schools, which is not super common for an area with our population size. Each one of these schools has their own distinct history, and as we’ve discussed over the last few weeks, their own distinct mascot. How did these colleges land on their mascot, and how have they evolved over time?

In our third installment of our Mascot Mania series, we’re delving into the history of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. We all know Spike, but how did he come to be? Well, there have definitely been some twists and turns on the journey.

FIGHTING IRISH, BULLDOGS, AND... EMPERORS?

Back in the early 1900s, Gonzaga’s teams were consistently referred to as the Jesuits or the Blue and White. Obviously, Gonzaga was referred to as those things because they're a Jesuit school and their school colors were blue and white. By the way, a ton of Jesuit schools have blue and white as their colors because most of them are devoted to the Virgin Mary.

There was one year where the Zags’ football team was referred to as something else though. In 1911, there were so many Irish Catholic boys on the team that they were called the Fighting Irish. Nope, this has no connection to Notre Dame, just a coincidence.

Ten years later, the school picked the Bulldogs as their mascot. Some people have said the Bulldog was chosen because someone wrote that the football team fought tenaciously like Bulldogs, however there is no evidence to support that.

Credit: Spokane Chronicle

In April of 1921, Gonzaga’s first live mascot appeared, Teddy Gonzaga.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

A year later though he was poisoned. Potentially one of the reasons? Gonzaga teams across all levels performed poorly after Teddy was introduced.

It might seem weird that the first Bulldog mascot was a Boston Bull Terrier, but there were a lot of iterations of the Bulldog that weren’t exactly a bulldog back then.

Mickey came along in 1925.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

Then there’s this unnamed mascot in 1928, who I would not want to see in a dark alley.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

Or this unnamed mascot in an ambiguous time in the 1930’s.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

Or this unnamed mascot in 1933.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

Finally, in 1934 we get a Bulldog that looks, well, like a Bulldog.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

During this time though, some students wanted the mascot to be changed from the Bulldogs to … the Emperors. This change was suggested for many reasons, including its fit with the region’s nickname of the Inland Empire, it embodied Gonzaga’s spirit better than a sluggish Bulldog, and it was unique. That’s one way to put it. Even Bing Crosby supported the idea.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

Mercifully, the Emperors movement fizzled out, and in 1937 Crosby helped introduce the school’s first fight song, complete with a Bulldog on the cover.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

BULLDOGS, BULLDOGS, AND MORE BULLDOGS

The next picture we have of a mascot was in 1949 of a Bulldog named Finnegan McGinty the First. Now that is a name. He was also known as Corky.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

The year 1951 brought along Bullet, a female bulldog.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

There was a competition to name her and the person who named her won a carton of Chesterfield cigarettes. Apparently, her maiden name was Petunia?

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

I’m thinking this means her original name was Petunia, which, to be honest, I like way better.

Michael O’Shaugnessy patrolled sidelines in 1959. 

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

Yes, that was the dog’s name. Ironically, he was an English Bulldog.

Then Salty came along in 1966. Salty is definitely the most colorful of the live Gonzaga Bulldog mascots. 

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives
Salty is the bulldog on the right.

During the 1966-1967 basketball season, he ran onto the court and bit a ref after a call went against the Zags during a game against Idaho. The event got so much notoriety that it appeared in Sports Illustrated. 

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

Salty definitely had a mind of his own. In late November of 1966, he escaped and was found outside of a tavern in the area that is now The Globe. 

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

His owner said it was ironic because the tavern Salty ended up at was his owner’s favorite tavern. Unfortunately, Salty died in 1967.

In 1970, General Chesty Puller took over responsibilities. He was named after the most decorated marine general ever and was named that before Gonzaga bought him. 

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

Chesty was a total scaredy cat though, and didn’t even like walking on linoleum, according to a Spokesman Review article. He also was banned from a game by a referee once. People believed it was because of Salty’s incident.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

A SPIKE IS BORN

In 1980, the Bulldog mascot took a turn. Student Mike Griffin wore a cape and called himself Captain Zag, although to be honest he looks more like an early rendition of Pikachu.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

1985 was the first year that Spike came to campus. 

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

I think it’s safe to say we’re all happy the suit has gone through some changes over the years, because this guy is a bit creepy.

By 1993, Spike looked more like the Spike we know today.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

However, in 2001 he looks a mix between the 1985 and 1993 versions.

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

By the way, the person standing next to Spike in this photo is Lee T. Mauney, who was the first student to wear the Spike costume.

During this time, Gonzaga also got their last live Bulldog mascot. 

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

Q was gifted to school in 1999 after the Zags’ first NCAA Tournament run. He was named after former Gonzaga basketball player Quentin Hall.

By 2003, Spike looks around the way we know him today, and has more or less remained the same since. 

Credit: Gonzaga Digital Archives

That’s how the Bulldogs became the Bulldogs.

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