Makeover of a Mascot

Head football coach Bob Diaco will not be the only one making his debut at Rentschler Field on Aug. 29, when the Huskies open their 2014 season against BYU.

A sleeker, toned-up costumed Jonathan mascot will also be introduced to Husky fans, looking more like the redesigned logo image unveiled last year with the new athletic uniforms.

Jonathan the Husky and cheerleaders throw T-shirts to the crowd during the UConn Football pep rally held on Fairfield Way on Aug. 28. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Jonathan the Husky and cheerleaders throw T-shirts to the crowd during the UConn Football pep rally held on Fairfield Way on Aug. 28. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

“Jonathan’s been working out, and it shows,” says Joe Briody ’86 (BUS), ’95 MA, ’96 Ph.D., associate director for leadership development in the Department of Student Activities. “The crowd will notice a more pumped-up torso and a stronger, more fit look.

“It looks outwardly more like a dog,” adds Briody. “One of the things that will hit folks right away is that it’s not all white. It has greys and blacks throughout its head and body. That’s the most striking difference. It reflects the transformation the University has been going through that’s represented in the logo and seen all over campus. This is us moving forward with the University.”

Over the past year, the staff of the Spirit, Pride, and Tradition program in Student Activities has worked with a company specializing in mascot costume design to develop Jonathan’s new look, Briody says. Students contributed their reaction to potential costume designs during the annual Midnight Breakfast held during spring finals week, and at events in the Student Union this past spring.

“We received hundreds of comments and feedback from students about the design,” Briody says. “Then we went back and forth with the designer to make a costume that is going to capture not only the logo as it is drawn, but the spirit, friendliness, and pride of being a Husky.”

An important consideration for redesigning the new costume was improved comfort and functionality for the students who have the responsibility of making Jonathan come alive for fans at football games, men’s and women’s basketball games, special events, and in the community.

“The old costume had shoes, which literally were work boots wrapped in fur. They were very clunky, and made it hard to walk around,” says Briody, who was the mascot when he was an undergraduate. “We redesigned the feet, so they can wear sneakers or athletic shoes and be more mobile and agile.”

There is also a better fit for the head to the costume, including a chin strap that allows a more natural motion and better vision for those wearing it. Most importantly, there will be improved ventilation for the wearer of the costume and an opening allowing the student to sip a drink. Those wearing the previous costumes could hydrate only during a break, after taking off the head piece.

Jonathan the Husky in 1974. (Courtesy of Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries)

Jonathan the Husky in 1974. The costume first appeared in the 1960s. (Courtesy of Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries)

“Overall it’s pretty good,” says one of the students who wore the new costume and, like all who appear as Jonathan in 2014, remain anonymous. “[In the old costume] the feet were one of the biggest limitations. You couldn’t move very quickly or be agile. You can actually run in the new feet.”

The costumed Jonathan says having a chin strap for the costume head and hand coverings with five fingers provides an increased range of motion that will provide opportunities for those inside the costume to expand routines with Husky fans on the football field and the basketball court.

The Jonathan costume first appeared in the 1960s, after one of the real dog mascots became upset by large crowds at men’s basketball games, according to information in the University Archives. Since that time, the Jonathan mascot costume has become the most recognized and photographed symbol of Husky pride and spirit.

Briody says the new costume will help to allow the Jonathan mascot to develop new ways to engage with fans.

“This is a costume that allows the student inside to be more animated,” he says. “It will be exciting to see what the students do with it, and how they bring it to life.”