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    Wolfpack Mascot History

    Editor’s note: This story was originally published in “The Wolfpacker” and is reprinted with permission from Coman Publishing Company. It was sourced from The Wolfpack...Intercollegiate Athletics at North Carolina State University and private interviews.



    RALEIGH, N.C. -- The “Wolfpack” was first mentioned in association with NC State athletics in 1921, when an anonymous letter-writer to the school newspaper suggested that some of the school’s football players were as “unruly as a pack of wolves.” That season, North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts became a charter member of the Southern Conference, and newspapers began referring to the team as “the Wolfpack.” After a season-opening 21-0 victory over Randolph-Macon, The News and Observer of Raleigh reported that the team was “living up to its newly acquired nickname.”


    All other athletics teams were called the “Red Terrors,” a name that was popularized around 1920 because of the team's bright red road uniforms and because one of the football players at the time was named nicknamed "Red" Johnson.


    In July, 1946, Chancellor J.W. Harrelson asked students to consider a new nickname for football, noting that German U-boats were called “Wolfpacks” and the name had developed some seriously negative connotations during World War II. “The only thing lower than a wolf is a snake in the grass,” Harrelson said.


    But the contest to find a new nickname which offered six season passes for football as a prize drew some rather uninspiring entries: The North Staters, the Cardinals, the Hornets, the Cultivators, the Cotton Pickers and the Pine-rooters (a down-east name for pigs), the Auctioneers and the Calumets. The latter two were reference to tobacco auctions that had been common for nearly 200 years in the state.


    In the end, there were more letters in support of retaining the Wolfpack nickname than anything else, which inspired a mechanical engineering student named Ira Helms to build a seven-foot tall mechanical robot with size 16 feet and a 120-inch chest. It was hollow inside and Helms climbed inside the contraption for the 1946 football game between NC State and Wake Forest.


    It was so hot that Helms refused to climb inside again, but the mascot was considered a lucky charm during the team’s 8-2 regular-season, which earned the school its first bowl bid. The Wolfpack lost to Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl, 34-13, with the mechanical wolf in attendance. But it was retired after the season.


    In 1947, all athletics teams adopted the nickname “Wolfpack,” and cheerleaders continued to use live wolves, nicknamed “Lobo,” when they could be found, as mascots for football. In 1966, a new wolf, Lobo III, was purchased to commemorate the opening of Carter Stadium.


    However, following the season, an NC State zoology professor named Fred Barkalow discovered that Lobo III was actually a coyote, not a wolf. In the fall of 1967, the Wolfpack was called the “Kool Kyoties,” a name that was popularized by Sports Illustrated following the Wolfpack’s stunning upset of No. 2 ranked Houston.


    Throughout the 1950s and 60s, however, the cheerleading team also used a student in a wolf costume to rally the crowds at football and basketball games. He has been called “Mr. Wuf” since 1983, when then-student Scott Joseph put that name on his costume.


    When the school added women’s athletics in 1975, a female wolf mascot was introduced as well. She is now called “Ms. Wuf.”


    In 1981, in a pregame ceremony before NC State played Wake Forest in basketball, Mr. and Ms. Wuf were married by the Demon Deacon at midcourt of Reynolds Coliseum. After more than a quarter century of wedded bliss, the couple remains pupless.


    According to former mascot Scott Joseph (1981-84), the wolves were given their unique names “Mr. and Ms. Wuf,” during the early 1980s.


    “Before then, the Wolf didn’t really have a name,” Joseph said. “Back then, you also had to create your own costume. The only thing that was provided was the head, which weighed about 25 pounds and was made out of fiberglass. It attached to a belt that went around your waist and tail.


    “The rest you had to come up with on your own. My mom sewed a suit out of fur and gave me a jersey. So we sat down and decided to call him Mr. Wuf” and she sewed that on my jersey. It just kind of stuck.”


     (Source: The Wolfpack...Intercollegiate Athletics at North Carolina State University, Touchdown Wolfpack!, the Wolfpacker and Technician archives.)

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