BY ALLISON GUY
Walking into Salisbury University’s school store, one is greeted almost immediately with the prevalent image of a white bird wearing a maroon sweater adorned with a gold “S” emblem. Although some people might view Sammy the sea gull as unfit for the university or downright silly, he perfectly captures the spirit and history of Salisbury University.
Everyone who attends Salisbury knows that our mascot is Sammy the Sea Gull. This bird is everywhere, from banners to sweatshirts to hats to decals. He even has stuffed animals made in his honor! He makes appearances outside of the school store, too—he can be seen cheering on SU’s athletic teams and posing for pictures with students at special events. Students should not forget the statue of him, which stands proudly across from Perdue Hall.
Many people do not know the history behind the mascot, which dates back to over fifty years. Salisbury University, which was initially called the “Maryland State Normal School,” opened its doors to students in 1925. However, according to the Salisbury University website, a mascot was not chosen until 1948, when the Student Government Association held a “name the mascot” contest. The winning entry? Interestingly enough, it was “Golden Gulls”–and “Sea Gulls” was only the runner-up.
In 1963, the university was renamed to “Salisbury State College”. At athletic events, the university’s teams became known as the “SSC Gulls” (Salisbury State College Gulls), and when people said this out loud, “C Gulls” sounded the same as “Sea Gulls”. And due to this minor mix-up, Salisbury’s official mascot became the Sea Gull.
However, it took some time for the Sea Gull to take a physical form. The first appearance of a Sea Gull mascot in Salisbury’s yearbook came two years later, in 1965. And in the 1970s, though the exact origins are unknown, the Sea Gull was finally given a name, and thus Sammy the Sea Gull was born, and he has been embraced by the university ever since.
As far as mascots go, Sammy is unique. There are only a handful of other colleges in the country that have a sea gull as their mascot, including Endicott College in Massachusetts and Rappahannock Community College in Virginia.
In addition to being rooted in history, Sammy the Sea Gull also reflects Salisbury’s location. Sea gulls can be found in abundance on the Eastern Shore, especially on Ocean City and Assateague Island beaches. Our mascot also pays a nod to some of the other well-known bird mascots in Maryland, such as the Baltimore Orioles, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Chesapeake Bayhawks (a Major League Lacrosse team based in Annapolis).
Although Sammy the sea gull may not be the most fearsome or threatening mascot, he is one that brings the campus community together.
During open houses, university hosts encourage the people on the tour to take a picture with the Sammy the Sea Gull statue, and many do. Taking a picture with Sammy make many feel as though they were being introduced for the first time to the Salisbury community. During orientation week, group leaders told everyone in the group to touch the statue, because legend has it that will help any student get a 4.0 for the semester.
This, above all else, is the importance of a mascot—something that unifies a campus and makes students feel proud of their school. Sammy has most certainly accomplished this.