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Throwback Thursday, Week 4 – The story behind the Bruin mascot

The Bruin Bear has been a part of UCLA culture for 32 years. (Daily Bruin archives)

By Roberto Luna Jr.

April 21, 2016 2:35 p.m.

If the year were 1925, this past weekend incoming freshmen would have gone to Grizzly Day instead of Bruin Day.

Although UCLA started in 1919, the Bruin hasn’t always been the school’s mascot. For nearly seven years, UCLA’s athletic teams and even this newspaper were marked with the name “Grizzly.”

Then in 1926, UCLA got in a confrontation with the University of Montana, who also had the Grizzly as its mascot. The University of Montana threatened legal action against UCLA unless it changed its mascot, according to an article dated Oct. 22, 1926.

Therefore, after three weeks of discussion, the Associated Students Council voted on Oct. 20, 1926 to change the mascot from the Grizzly to the Bruin, the mascot that UC Berkeley had used.

This change even affected this newspaper, as it changed from the California Grizzly to the Daily Bruin on its Oct. 22, 1926 issue. The lede for that issue’s front page story has to be one of my favorite ledes ever for a breaking story.

The Bruin became the official mascot for UCLA in October 1926, replacing the Grizzly. (Daily Bruin online archive)

“Bruins, not Grizzlies, will swing into action against the Pomona Sagehens in the Coliseum tomorrow afternoon,” the article stated. “The change is officially made with today’s paper.”

Since then, UCLA students have been known as Bruins, and that name has resonated all over the world and back.

And the Bruins have done a lot. They’ve won 113 NCAA Championships and counting. They’ve graduated from 125 different majors, a significant increase from the 13 fields of study UCLA originally offered and which were painted onto the vaulted entrance of Royce Hall in 1929.

The adoption of the Bruin as UCLA’s mascot led to the creation of perhaps the university’s biggest trademark: “The Bruin” statue in Bruin Plaza, more commonly known as the Bruin Bear. However, the Bruin Bear has been a popular photo spot for tourists and graduating students alike for only 32 years.

On Sept. 30, 1984, the UCLA Alumni Association gave UCLA the Bruin Bear as a present to commemorate the association’s 50th anniversary. A photo on the front page of the Bruin’s Oct. 2, 1984 issue shows the ceremony in which the statue was presented to a large audience.

The Bruin Bear now plays an important role at Bruin Day. Incoming students line up to take photos next to or on top of the statue. Are you really a Bruin if you don’t have a photo of you and the Bruin Bear?

In the end, I can imagine UCLA’s school culture playing a key role in its attraction to incoming students – it did to me. When I joined UCLA, I felt like a part of something bigger, that I had become part of such a rich history and I would be able contribute to it.

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Roberto Luna Jr. | News senior staff
Roberto Luna Jr. is currently a senior staffer covering Westwood, crime and transportation. He was previously an assistant News editor from 2015-2016 and a News contributor from 2014-2015.
Roberto Luna Jr. is currently a senior staffer covering Westwood, crime and transportation. He was previously an assistant News editor from 2015-2016 and a News contributor from 2014-2015.
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