Mascot Monday: Otto The Orange

This week’s mascot trip takes us up to the snow blizzard Big East and a school traditional known as a basketball powerhouse.  For Syracuse Orangemen, they keep their spirits warm with Otto the Orange.  The bouncy ball fellow seems more home in Florida, but the students and faculty adopted this fellow after a bit of controversy.  Today, Otto works the sidelines of the games in using his juicy disposition.  The help us grab the peelers as we begin pull the rind off Otto and see what makes him tick.

Otto didn’t become Otto until the 1990’s  A bumpy lineage marks Syracuse’s mascot tradition.  The original mascot was the Saltine Warrior, named after an Indian called Big Chief Bill Orange.  Syracuse erected a statue in his honor in 1951 near the women’s gymnasium where his remains were excavated in 1928.  The thing is, this was all a hoax.  The student newspaper made up the story in 1931.  In the mid 1950’s the Saltine Warrior sideline mascot became the brain child of a local fraternity house.  That all changed in 1978.

The Native American student organization successfully petitioned to remove the Saltine Warrior.  So Syracuse had to come up with another mascot.  They tried a Trojan warrior but it ended up being a ‘been there done that’ type situation.  The following years saw Egnaro the Troll (not even close to the Trinity Christian Troll), a Superman figure, and a dude sporting an orange-like tuxedo al la Jim Carrey from Dumb and Dumber.  None came to the top and it wasn’t until 1995 that Otto the Orange came out on top.

Otto was an unofficial mascot that floated around the campus starting around 1980.  The University eventually settled on this guy and it’s not hard to see why.  It’s an orange man.  Simple, yet effective.  That explains his costume setup.  It’s a big, smiley orange.  The arms stick out with cartoon white gloves.  Otto sports a cap that spells out the university’s name.  Underneath?  Warm ups and sneakers.  Straightforward indeed.

So where does Otto fit in Mascot-dom?  He is a happy little fellow.  There are, of course, other blob like mascots and produce mascots out there.  In the weirdness scale, Otto registers only a tiny hit.  In the fearsome scale, zilch.  In cartoony scale, Otto rings a loud bell.  There are already enough offensive Indian mascots out there and to see this lovable replace the Saltine Warrior makes it seem like Syracuse is paying a penance for the Saltine Warrior.  Sure, he’s pretty cool looking but nothing really scary of spirit inducing over here.

Otto the Orange needs to build his own tradition.  The Saltine Warrior had a made up story, why not Otto?   That way, the university can build on the story and make Otto do some signature moves to please the crowd.  That’s the best way a not too serious mascot can get over.  Until then, Otto will be just a plain ole Orangemen.   That may be great for school and it’s mascot history, but it’s not great for mascot lovers across the country.