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The Wildcat

The Wildcat became Chico's mascot in 1924. It was adopted by the student body because, according to recollections of those who were around at the time, it typified the kind of sassy, spitfire vigor and vitality the students wanted to project.

It may be only coincidence that the year before a sassy spitfire of a coach named Art Acker had taken on a not-too-promising looking team and within two years had whipped them into a fire-spitting unit that came off the field at season's end with the West Coast Championship tucked triumphantly under their arms. At any rate, the wily Art soundly supported the student's choice of mascot. The spirit of the wildcat had caught on.

At first there was a real live mascot - a wild kitten captured in the woods around Burney Falls, the team took it to its heart and carried it onto the playing field in a cage. Its yowls and hisses spurred them into a frenzy of endeavor. But the wildcat was too much of a free spirit. Cages were not for him. He went to an early grave mourning his freedom, but not before his spirit had instilled itself into the halls and athletic grounds of the school. The spirit of the wildcat lived on.

The mascot first appeared on the pages of the Chico yearbook, The Record, in 1925. Its first portrayal was that of a formalized, lean and crouching feline with a defiant curl to its lips. In later years, under a generation weaned on the animals of Disneyland, it took on a sly, mischievous grin and metamorphosed into the prank-playing gremlin of SOX and '50's.

The '60's came and went and in the earnestness of the times, the picaresque symbol faded into hiatus. Grounded in the realism of the '70's, the Chico Alumni Association spearheaded a revival of the original Lynx rufus -the wildcat of nature. The spirit of the Chico Wildcat was captured in a painting by nationally acclaimed wildlife artist Gene Gray, commissioned by and created solely for California State University, Chico.

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