Grove City College’s beloved Willie the Wolverine mascot is on the prowl ’mid the pines again this fall, ready to energize sports fans and delight the campus community.
The mascot’s appearance last week at the annual Night Game marked a return to full time duty for Willie after a few fallow years for the furry super fan. The pandemic’s impact on collegiate sports and a lack of big events and crowds for Willie to work put the mascot suit on mothballs, occupied only occasionally by an ad hoc assortment of students or staff members.
This fall, Athletic Director Todd Gibson ’00 put out a call for students who might be interested in taking on the mascot role seriously. The job requirements included being very “mascot-y,” an ability to wear the Wolverine suit for hours at a time, learning cheers and dances, possibly riding a small bike or tricycle, and “other Wolverine requirements to be determined later,” according to the job application sent to all students.
“We are looking for someone who stands for all things we love about Grove City College, and can make people happy,” Gibson said. Within hours his campus-wide email, Gibson said he had two dozen response from interested students. More would come in for the auditions that followed.
“We had several students with significant experience being mascots, and then several others with the right personality and skills,” Gibson said.
In the end, seven students were selected for the role of a college lifetime. Members of Team Willie -- who will remain anonymous to maintain the mascot’s mystique -- will take turns wearing the suit. After a successful debut at the Night Game, they'll be back on the job this weekend for the College’s Homecoming 2022.
What began as a challenge ended up being an uplifting experience, according to Gibson. “The interviews were a lot of fun for me. I was nearly emotional by how nice and passionate these kids were about Grove City College. It was very uplifting,” he said.
“It was great spending 15 or 20 minutes with all these students who just love Grove City, and they want to do anything they can to build up the brand and just make other people happy,” Gibson told The Collegian, Grove City College’s student newspaper, for a story this week. “One hundred percent of the people that we talked to, it was very clear that they loved Grove City College, and they wanted to be part of bringing joy to other people. It was just refreshing to be around people that were willing to go that extra step for other people. They're not getting paid; they're just doing it because they want to help,” he said.
Students on Team Willie were equally excited about the mascot’s return to full time status.
“I really want Willie to become a symbol of team spirit and unity on campus,” one told The Collegian. “I’m hoping that the presence of Willie will ignite a fire of school spirit that draws more students to support our athletic teams. Team Willie is here to bring joy to friends and families. I’m thrilled to be a part of that mission.”
Willie the Wolverine made his first appearance at the 1948 Homecoming game. For more about the mascot’s hisstory, visit the College Archives at alumni.gcc.edu.
Check out The Collegian, available Friday, for more on this story.