The sharks will become Cal State Long Beach’s new mascot, the university announced Friday, May 10.
After a months-long process to replace Prospector Pete, sharks came out on top in a student vote earlier this week. The ocean predator also came in first in an online community poll last month.
Sharks garnered 53% student support after the three-day vote, held Monday to Wednesday, May 6 to May 8. President Jane Close Conoley, the ultimate arbiter of the next mascot, ratified the student selection Friday, according to the announcement.
“We have benefited from a thoughtful, thorough, and inclusive process by our students,” Conoley said in a statement. “I am grateful to all the university’s stakeholders for their participation.”
The students’ choice was apt, the university statement said, because of the university’s renowned Shark Lab — often featured in the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” — and the campus’s proximity to the beach.
Selecting the sharks as a mascot, its entry description read, would make the university the only Division 1 school with the “king of the sea.” Sharks are also fearless and never stop swimming — representative, the entry continued, “of our students in their tireless pursuit to make a difference in the world.”
The decision came about six months after the university’s leadership removed Prospector Pete, following years of criticism that he was offensive to indigenous peoples.
Genesis Jara, president of Associated Students, Inc., said she’s happy the campus will “finally have something that represents us and is inclusive.
“I’m super excited,” she added. “The entire process we’ve gone through, to end up with the sharks, has been a collaborative and well-thought-out process.”
The university began accepting submissions for mascots in February, ultimately receiving hundreds of ideas. A selection committee narrowed those submissions down to six options for a community poll in April. Besides sharks, those semifinalists were stingrays, giraffes, pelicans, the mythical beast kraken and “Go Beach,” essentially a no-mascot vote.
Nearly 13,000 participated in the community poll, which was open to residents, alumni, faculty and anyone else who wanted a stake in the choice. Nearly half of the participants in the poll were alumni.
Sharks, stingrays and “Go Beach” made the final round, open only to students. More than 10,000 students voted online this week, Jara said, with sharks winning by a wide margin. “Go Beach” received 25% and stingrays garnered 22%, Jara said.
While Prospector Pete hasn’t been the mascot since last year, the term “49er” will remain an informal nickname for anyone affiliated with the university. The term — and Prospector Pete — derive from the university’s founding year, 1949; but it also eventually became a reference to California’s Gold Rush Era, during which prospectors often committed atrocities against indigenous peoples.
Several campus organizations continue to use the term, however, including the ’49er Foundation and the Daily 49er, the campus newspaper.
The university will begin a year-long development process to determine the visual look of the mascot, its personality characteristics, and the design of its uniforms and illustrations. A university steering committee, with stakeholders appointed by Conoley, will lead that process.
In February, Michele Cesca, vice president of university relations and development, said the new mascot shouldn’t impact other nicknames. The baseball team, for example, goes by the Dirtbags. The athletics program, which ditched Prospector Pete as a mascot a few years ago, will continue to use “Beach Athletics” for the coming year, according to Friday’s statement.