SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Why does a state university located adjacent to a shopping mall, a golf course and a lush, green park have a mascot named after a creature more commonly found in the Florida Everglades? San Francisco State University in the city’s Laurel Heights district is known as being a highly diverse urban commuter school offering majors that include business, education and health, as well as its renown arts, journalism and ethnic studies programs.
Since 1931, the school has also been known for its mascot, “The Gator.” But why a gator? Were alligators once native to nearby Lake Merced? Did one escape from the SF Zoo and rampage across campus?
No, there’s in fact, no connection between the SFSU mascot and an actual alligator. According to a post on the university’s library answers website, Gator is a derivative of “Golden Gater,” which was selected as the school’s original mascot because San Francisco was known as the city of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A thread posted in the school library archives from 1931 from the school paper, which in those days was called “The Bay Leaf,” showed there was a lively debate around choosing a mascot at the time. Some of the other options floated included the “Golden Panther,” “Golden Owls” and “Golden Seals.” Even gulls and otters were among the animals considered.
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Ultimately, on May 7, 1931, the Golden Gater was officially chosen as the school mascot, narrowly beating out the panther in the voting. In addition to the Golden Gate reference, the Gater, and later Gator, was chosen because it was “steadfast, moving steadily toward its goal” and “strong and it is hoped that the college teams will be strong.”
While early references to the mascot name it as a “Gater,” by August of 1931, The Bay Leaf was referring to it as the Gator. Nine decades later, the Gator, with its trademark toothy grin, is recognized around the city and around the world as the mascot for SF State.