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,
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.