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Great Danes! The History Of America's Greatest College Mascot

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The University at Albany may not have bears roaming the campus like Baylor, but no other college in America has the Great Dane for a mascot. Do you know what a Great Dane is? A lumbering, slobbering, aggressive dog of war that towers over short people. That's right, I said dog of war. Wake Forest's Demon Deacon was regarded as the most frightening college mascot because he reminds students of the looming ravages of time; UAlbany can clobber that argument in the face with this: The Great Dane was bred to help Germans, the genocidal people of Europe, kill things!

According to UAlbany's Athletics brochures, the school selected Scooby as the official mascot in 1965. Before '65, during the manliest era in American history, UAlbany had an equally manly mascot known as Pierre the Pedguin. A Pedguin was an imaginary creature meant to represent UAlbany's status as a teacher college. Penguin and the word "pedagogy" were merged in an epic fail that gave birth to the Pedguin and the school's athletic teams, The Pedagogues. It's nice to think the Pedguin is an extinct, handicapped fourth cousin of the Penguin, vindicating Darwin for totally calling natural selection; but sadly, the Pedguin met a more boring demise.

In 1965, according to back issues of the stunningly handsome Albany Student Press, UAlbany changed mascots from Pierre the Pedguin to the nameless Great Dane. In a shocking turn of events, the state of Pennsylvania also named the Great Dane its official state dog that year. Whether or not Pennsylvania was trying to be cool like their German ancestors, whom if you remember bred these dogs for war, we'll never know. According to StateSymbolUSA.org, "When the Speaker of the House called for a voice vote to designate the Great Dane, yips, growls and barks assaulted his ears from every part of the chamber! With a rap of his gavel, the Speaker confirmed that the 'arfs have it' and the 'Barking Dog Vote' entered the annals of legislative history.” Can't you feel the legislative rush of excitement that must fill the legislative halls of Pennsylvania?

Why change from Pedguin and Pedagogues to Great Danes? Like other American colleges at the time, UAlbany's campus population grew to include more men while the university's priorities shifted from teaching to research. A contest was held on campus and Kathy Earle won a $25 savings bond for her winning contest entry of the Great Dane. Whether UAlbany shares the Great Danes licensing profits with Mrs. Earle today is unclear, but it's safe to assume they do ... right?

Mrs. Earle picked Great Danes because of their, “Size, weight, strength, character, courage, speed, and stamina” according to the sports brochure, but here are some alleged facts from Wikipedia that shaped her entry assuming Mrs. Earle had access to a DeLorean, the Internet, and Doc Brown, if only to say “Great Scott” when appropriate:

  • When the Great Dane becomes bored, it becomes destructive.
  • The Great Dane has a complex and mysterious origin much like popular X-Man, Wolverine
  • The tallest dog ever, a Great Dane, was recorded at 41 inches and weighed 238 pounds.
  • Great Danes have six different coats, none of which are purple and gold.
  • Notable Great Danes include: Scooby Doo, Astro, Marmaduke, Fang (from Harry Potter), and Ace the Bat-Hound.

Dog of war? Check. Connection to Batman? Confirmed. The only mascot of its kind? That's more than enough to qualify as America's greatest college mascot. Until next time, you'll find me taking a dirt nap in the archives after angry Pedguin-loving alumni incinerate my apartment. Those alumni may be old, but if GWU's Colonial taught us anything, it's that old feisty people can mess you up.