Univ. to phase out unofficial hippo mascot

by Sarah Scire

Related: Senior officials never discussed hippo phase-out (Sept. 21)

The hippo, the University's unofficial mascot for almost a decade, is set to become a footnote in GW history.

Administrators said Wednesday that the hippo - made popular by former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg - is being phased out of merchandise and University events for legal and branding reasons. GW will continue to be represented by its other mascots, George and Big George.

"We are trying to get better brand recognition in the national collegiate market as GW," said John Och, the University coordinator for licensing and trademarks. "The hippo is not a registered mascot and it's better for us to put forward one unified brand."

The GW Bookstore will continue to stock plush stuffed animal hippos, but no more items imprinted with the hippo will be ordered, said Follett Director of Public and Campus Relations Elio DiStaola. The unofficial mascot will still make appearances at University events, but mostly at functions with children or when the official mascots are at away games.

The hippo, which became an unofficial mascot in 2001, arrived in Foggy Bottom when Trachtenberg brought a bronze statue of the animal to display on the corner of 21st and H streets in 1996. The animal has also been linked to GW's pseudo-secret organization, the Order of the Hippo.

Unlike official mascots Big George and George, the hippo is not trademarked by the University.

"We regulate marks and logos that we own as a university," Och said. "But from a legal perspective, we don't have any recourse to regulate the hippo."

Although phasing out the large, river-dwelling mammal as a GW mascot was a branding and legal decision, the move also erases one of the most prominent and popular remnants of the former University president.

Trachtenberg, who was president from 1988 to 2007, said he has reservations about making the Colonial the only mascot.

"Change is inevitable and it's true the Colonial is our official mascot," he said. "But it's a lame mascot. It's very hard to cheer, 'Go Cols!'"

Another branding decision will change the "athletic yellow" tone of the official buff and blue colors to a "sparkly Vegas gold," Och said.

The gold, already used on the men's and women's basketball team uniforms, will be featured more prominently on University apparel and goods in an attempt to standardize the school's colors.

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