Named after the upstate New York city in which the main campus resides, Syracuse University is home to some 19,000 students at any one time who will always be linked to the lovable mascot Otto the Orange.
The manifestation of Otto, the round, plump orange-shaped guy with human features, is a direct result of the Syracuse University nickname, which has been officially the “Orange” since 2004. Although the gender-neutral nickname has only been officially in place since 2004 The old long-standing names were simple adaptations in the form of Organgemen and Orangewomen. Nicknames based on gender are still used quite frequently today.
The source of Orange’s unique nickname is said to be based simply on the fact that the school’s original color was declared orange in 1890, some twenty years after the school was founded. As strange as it may seem to simply make a university’s nickname the same as the school’s official color, researchers should consider that in an earlier era this was more common. Making a college nickname synonymous with school color happened much more regularly in generations past than it is seen today. A good example can be found on the coast opposite Syracuse at Stanford University in California, where the official nickname and mascot is simply the color Cardinal (not the bird or the Catholic clergy of the same name). Another example can be found in the metropolis of Dallas, Texas, where the University of North Texas proudly proclaims on the outside of its football stadium that it is the home of the “Mean Green.”
The evolution of Otto the Orange is rooted in a disproven campus legend and an olive branch extended to soften racial stereotypes. In 1931, Syracuse chose a Native American warrior as a mascot after an article described a similar archaeological find during an excavation on campus. The Warrior quickly became the athletic mascot and even when the article describing the find was revealed to be a hoax, the wheels were already in motion and the mascot continued to serve the university for another four decades. Four years after formally retiring the Warrior mascot out of Native American sensibilities, fans adopted the Orange cartoon giant named Otto in 1982.
The name Otto was eventually chosen over the alternative consideration of Opie the Orange due to fear that rival schools would resort to calling the lovable mascot with the big blue hat and blue pants “dumb” (a play on Opie). It would be another thirteen years after the inception of the Orange giant before Syracuse University officially accepted Otto the Orange as its official mascot in 1995, after Otto received a tremendous outcry for student support.