The University of Minnesota dates back to its opening day as a preparatory school in 1851, seven years before Minnesota was granted statehood – and a nickname, which just happened to be the Gopher State (of course, it’s also known as The North Star State and the Land of 10,000 Lakes). Following closure during the Civil War, the school reopened and was designated as a university, and once its athletics got off the ground, a mascot was needed ASAP.
Here’s how the University of Minnesota found their lovable bucktoothed mascot, why they chose a gopher, and why the heck he’s golden.
Finding a Golden Gopher
When Minnesota was granted statehood in 1858, it became entwined with gophers when it was nicknamed the Gopher State. Fast-forward several decades, and U of M football coach Clarence Spears decided that the earlier connection with gophers made the rodent a natural fit for his team, and the University of Minnesota’s unique mascot was born. The “Golden” part of the mascot’s name came along a few years later when legendary pigskin coach Bernie Bierman’s team was christened the Golden Gophers by announcer Halsey Hall. The reason? Their all-gold uniforms. It also helped that the squad won national football championships in 1934, 1935 and 1936. They were truly golden, indeed.
Goldy is known for a unique move, done only upon request: “Spin your head!” Yes, he actually tilts his noggin and literally spins the head of the costume around one full revolution. The origin of this move is apparently a little controversial, but current students and alumni are all quite familiar with it.
Goldy is also the most recent National Mascot champion – he won his third trophy in 2017 and also took it home in 2011 and 2013.
From Furry Realistic Suit to Clothed Gopher
When Goldy first came onto the field to cheer on his team and rouse the fans, he was bedecked in not much more than a furry suit. The first suits worn, up until the 1970s, featured a narrow head with a pointy nose and pretty closely mirrored the animal itself – quite different from the modern mascot.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Goldy still featured the fuzzy suit, but his features were more amicable and rounded than the earlier version. As the decades went on, Goldy started to don the random jersey here and there, although he occasionally still made appearances in his natural glory.
By the late 1980s, Goldy started to look even friendlier and amicable, with large, close-set eyes and giant buck teeth.
In the late 1990s, Goldy began to resemble the gopher that fans know and love today – big eyes, bigger teeth, a wide, friendly smile – and actual pants.
Modern-day Goldy is much the same as that of the last couple of decades, and instead of entertaining while partially nude, he generally wears full outfits (such as a hockey uniform for hockey games, or a basketball uniform for basketball games).
Get Your Goldy On
Goldy Gopher’s job is to send fans into a frenzy – and also spin his head. No matter which University of Minnesota sport you follow, Fanatics has a huge variety of Golden Gophers garb. Grab it before heading to the next game.