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Not Your Average Joe


Published Jul 1, 2011 8:00 AM

From the files of the UCLA History Project ...


(1) 1919: UCLA's mascot was just a cub. (2) 1920s: The Grizzly took over as mascot, but only briefly. (3) 1930s: Joe Bruin looked like Mickey Mouse. (4) Our Bruin in the '50s. (5) 1980s: UCLA's mascot went silhouette. (6) Joe Bruin today.

Ever wonder how UCLA got its mascot?

Originally, UCLA students were Cubs, a nod to the school's fledgling status — but the notion of a diminutive bear didn't sit well for long. So in 1924, one year before the arrival of head football coach William H. Spaulding, students adopted the more ferocious Grizzly.

In 1926, however, as UCLA looked to enter the Pacific Coast Conference, the University of Montana — already a member — pressed its case for Grizzly ownership.

Once again, UCLA was in search of a moniker. After considering everything from Buccaneers to Gorillas, students remained in a quandary. At the time, UC Berkeley was using both Bears and Bruins. Berkeley's student leaders voted to give the Bruin name up and finally, UCLA had its totem.

UCLA's earliest mascots were live bears, which entertained the home crowd at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The bears were given a variety of names, but Joe Bruin stood the test of time.

What are your favorite Bruin customs and legends? Discover their origins at the UCLA History Project.

More Hail to the Hills ...

In 1961, alumni presented the campus with the first Josephine Bruin, a little Himalayan bear. Josephine lived in the Rally Committee chair's backyard until she grew too big, and was moved to the San Diego Zoo.

Costumed student mascots took over the job in the mid-1960s. Several students were selected to take turns playing Joe, who was joined in 1967 by a costumed Josephine — or Josie, as she is more popularly called. Joe's costumes and depictions have evolved over the years, from a Mickey Mouse-looking Bruin in the 1930s to a smiling Joe (known today as Retro Joe) in the '70s.

Joe's current design, unveiled in 1996, marks its 15th anniversary this September.