Three mascots, one university

The current Nanook mascot (left) and the original (right). Photos courtesy of UAF Athletics Department and Sun Star archives

The current Nanook mascot (left) and the original (right). Photos courtesy of UAF Athletics Department and Sun Star archives

Megan Bennett/ Sun Star

This fall semester, UAF athletics retired the old mascot costumes to make way for a new Nanook suit.

Where most universities have a single representation of their mascot, prior to this year UAF had three lurking on campus: one made with a papier-mâché head, the other had black eyes and a closed mouth and, lastly, the new design (pictured to the left).

During summer, all three of the mascots made appearances at university events. These three mascots do not include the little Nook suit that also would appear at university and sports events.

The costumes before were donated by the individuals that volunteered to wear the suit which lead to differing appearances in the portrayal of the mascot. The positions for Nook and little Nook are still on a volunteer basis but this semester UAF athletic took the initiative in unifying the image of the UAF mascot.

This summer, in order to strive for consistency, UAF athletics bought a redesigned Nanook mascot costume. The new mascot head cost the university around $3,000 and rest of the body was another $1,000. It was made to appear more intimidating and last longer with a tougher foam material.

Due to the new design, the other Nanook costumes were discarded with the start of the fall semester.

Though this got rid of the multiple portrayals, the Nanook still consists of two different images. The larger Nanook “Nook” and the smaller Nanook “little Nook”.

Both representations are present at games if there are participant to wear the suit. Last year, role of “little Nook” was occupied by a UAF student that is now graduated.

“Unless someone fills the spot, only the big mascot that will appear at games,” Michelle Laska, assistant athletic director for facilities and events, said.

Currently, the position to wear the “little Nook” suit is open.

The history of the Nanook explains the inconsistency with a uniform image of the mascot.

That role of mascot is also relatively new. From the day the official UAF mascot changed from being the polar bears to the Nanook in 1963 until 1998, UAF didn’t have a mascot at the games.

It wasn’t until UAF fans Darrin Edson and Ted E. Hetrick started coming to the games dressed up in two polar bear suits to vamp up the college sports experience did UAF gave birth to the mascot “Nook” the Nanook.

Regardless of the lack of uniformity in the physical representation of the UAF mascot, they demonstrate the university’s efforts for building a community and forward thinking.

The smaller suit “little Nook” is meant to involve the youth in the university’s events by giving them the opportunity to participate as mascot.

Hurst urges students to take pride in the mascot[s] they do have.

“There are a lot of popular mascots out there but the Nanook is something special to Fairbanks, Alaska,” Hurst said.

Within the whole National Collegiate Athletic Association—an institution that represents all collegiate sports teams in the nation—UAF is only university to have the Nanook as a mascot. The Nanook represents the terrain and tie to Alaskan native culture.

“It’s unique,” Hurst said. “And it’s better than the Seawolf [UAA mascot]. They’re a fish. Polar bears eat fish.”

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