Nittany Lion named 2017 Mascot Hall of Fame inductee

The Nittany Lion at a football game in 2017. During the course of a year, the Nittany Lion mascot makes hundreds of appearances on and off campus at athletic events, charity events, celebrations and announcements. Credit: Madeline Pryor / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Since 1904, the Nittany Lion has been the “symbol of Penn State’s best.” A century later, he’ll be enshrined along with the best professional and collegiate mascots from around country.

The Nittany Lion will officially be inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame (MHOF) after a year-long competition. Announced today (Nov. 6), the Nittany Lion is one of four mascots who made the cut for the 2018 class of inductees.

After the nomination was announced in October 2016, a public, online voting contest ran through January 2017, when the Nittany Lion was announced as one of the remaining six competitors. The final voting process was completed by the MHOF lifetime voting members and executive committee members, which resulted in the Nittany Lion’s selection to join the ranks of fellow Mascot Hall of Famers.

“A lot of fans look at our lion as a symbol of the University, and they get really excited when they see him,” said Penn State cheerleading and Nittany Lion coach Curtis White, of the nomination. “He’s our celebrity on campus. And, he does a lot of great things in the community, too. It’s a great honor.”


Before the Nittany Lion was adopted as the athletic mascot, Penn State fans drew their affection towards Old Coaly, a mule who was born the same year that the University was founded and who helped carry limestone to the construction site of Old Main as it was being built. A few years later, a baseball player came up with the idea for the Nittany Lion as mascot.

While preparing to face Princeton University, the Penn State baseball team was shown two Bengal tigers, showing the fierceness of the Princeton mascot. Harrison D. Joe Mason, a student and varsity baseball player claimed that the Penn State Nittany Mountain Lion, king of the beasts, could beat the tiger. It wasn’t until 1922 that a student would first don a lion suit, which represented an African lion until morphing into a mountain lion in 1938.

After multiple tryouts in the spring, a new Nittany Lion mascot is picked once the current one finishes his degree. The student chosen keeps their identity a secret until they reveal their faces by removing their helmet during a recognition ceremony during the final home Penn State football game of the season.

The lion is not just an athletic symbol, either. The Nittany Lion shows support for the University and surrounding community by appearing at various events such as charity fundraisers, celebrations and outreach efforts throughout the year.

The Nittany Lion will be honored in 2018 at the MHOF’s new, 25,000-square-foot physical space, currently under construction, in Whiting, Indiana. Alongside Tommy Hawk (NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks), Benny the Bull (NBA’s Chicago Bulls) and Sluggerrr (MLB’s Kansas City Royals), the Nittany Lion is the only collegiate mascot picked in this class of inductees. Past collegiate inductees include Ohio State University’s Brutus the Buckeye and Auburn University’s Aubie the Tiger. The Mascot Hall of Fame will open in 2018 in Whiting, Indiana. The 25,000-square-foot facility will hold an interactive family fun zone, exhibits, educational programs and more. For more information, visit

Last Updated December 11, 2017