Zotting Since 1965: The Story of our Mascot
Imagine it: It’s 1965 and it’s your very first day of college. Around the world, the Space Race is on, Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office, The Beatles are on their US tour, Martin Luther King Jr. is leading the march into Selma and a dozen egg carton cost 53 cents. You were one of the 1,589 students of the very first class of UCI.
Classes continue normally for the first couple months until you begin hearing some strange talk going around campus. You overhear your classmates’ conversation about it during lecture and you catch only a couple words. “Mascot...the chancellor...a vote.” You wonder what to make of this and decide to find out the real story of what’s happening.
Luckily, the very next day, the school’s newspaper publication, New University, releases an article on the gossip. Apparently, a group of students are looking into finding UCI a new mascot. Three students, two of them being water polo players and the third an artist of some sort, met with UCI’s founding chancellor, Daniel G. Aldrich, and asked him his opinion on the matter. Chancellor Aldrich considered it and after speaking with the other deans, replied with a proposition.
They decided to allow the student body to submit four animals as candidates and an election for the most voted option would be UCI’s mascot. The options were: a Seahawk, a Golden Bison, a Roadrunner and a Unicorn?...A unicorn? Really?
It’s quite clear that the student body is not pleased. You begin to see flyers in protest of the chancellor’s options around campus and debates are brewing. All that everyone is talking about is either the mascot debacle or the school’s first upcoming sports game, which was a water polo match against Cal Poly Pomona.
As the days go on, a new wave of gossip begins to spread, but this time, the reaction isn’t as negative as before. Your friend tells you that the same three students who talked to the chancellor before are now proposing a campaign for everyone to rep an anteater at the water polo game as a test run for a new mascot. You can’t help but wonder where these weird animal ideas are coming from but in the end, agree to stand behind it.
In the coming weeks, you begin to see it everywhere: “Zot!” It’s on banners, buttons, decals and bumper stickers. It’s even etched on a hill that overlooks the campus in the distance. You have no idea what it means, but are later told that it’s the sound an anteater makes. There’s a rumor it’s inspired by Johnny Hart’s comic, B.C., where an anteater is the superhero. That rumor is later proved to be true.
The day of UCI’s very first athletic event arrives and you decide to attend the game with a few friends to show support. True to their word, as you enter the pool area, students hand you party blowers and remind you to yell “Zot Zot Zot!” whenever UCI scores.
The game is packed, you would guess almost 900 or so people were in attendance. Students and staff fill the stands and an excited, yet nervous tension fills the air. Suddenly, the game begins.
Both crowds on the sides of the pool roar and cheer. People blow into their party blowers, the unrolled paper resembling an anteater tongue in action. You hear a student yell, “Give ‘em a tongue!” and another repeats something similar. And of course, the bellowing chant of a “Zot Zot Zot!” echoes every time a UCI player makes the ball hit the net. Again, and again, and again.
The crowd jumps and roars in excitement as the buzzer sounds off. UCI won! They beat Cal Poly Pomona 22-6. It may have nothing to do with it, but you can’t help but feel that the undeniable school spirit in the form of an anteater pushed UCI to victory.
It’s a week later and the voting for the new mascot has finally opened. As you walk to the booth to make your vote, you look at the ballot. Your pen hovers over the four boxes to check off and none of them just seem right. So you do what any reasonable person would do in that situation ... you turn over that ballot and write confidently: “Anteater.”
Turns out, over 56% of students and staff did the same exact thing and thus, as the chancellor promised, we finally had an identity. We were the UCI Anteaters. True story, by the way.
So flash forward to now. It’s 2018 and anteaters can be seen all over campus. Peter the Anteater makes his appearances, students wear anteaters on their clothes and at any given time, you can probably hear a “Zot Zot Zot!” in the distance by the Infinity Fountain. A sign at John Wayne Airport reads, “Welcome to Anteater Country.” We are the UCI Anteaters and we’re proud of it. Why wouldn’t we be?
We’ve been zotting for 53 years and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.