Gunston in Peril as GMU Seeks New Mascot

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George Mason University, seeking to capitalize on post-NCAA basketball tourney sports celebrity, wants a new mascot. Green, furry Gunston is a bit ambiguous. A focus group will help pick a successor.

LYNN NEARY, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

The George Mason University men's basketball team may have won a place in the hearts and minds of sports fans during March Madness this year. But Gunston, the school's fuzzy green mascot, his place is nowhere near secure.

Now that George Mason has risen to national prominence, appearing in this year's NCAA Final Four, the university says it needs a new mascot. They're looking for one with a stronger image, something that says George Mason loud and clear. So the athletic department will ask a mascot focus group to propose possible replacements this summer.

Gunston is named for Gunston Hall Plantation, which was the home of the real George Mason, a Founding Father of the United States and the namesake of the university. But a study done two years ago show that 40 percent of students didn't know what Gunston was. And most of those who could identify the school's mascot wanted to replace him.

Gunston looks somewhat like an overgrown, green shaggy Muppet with a yellow nose, and remarkably unlike anything found in nature. Andy Ruge of George Mason's athletic department explained the university's decision this way. It would be nice if a freshman could see him and go, hey, that's our mascot, instead of going, what's that?

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