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Coastline Adopts a Team Mascot -- but Has No Team

September 11, 2006|Roy Rivenburg | Times Staff Writer

After going mascot-free for 30 years, Coastline Community College has finally joined the world of Fighting Artichokes, Anteaters, Battling Bishops, Banana Slugs and assorted other creatures and vegetables.

But the Coastline Dolphins aren't likely to intimidate rival sports teams -- mainly because the college doesn't have an athletics department. It barely even has a campus.

Founded in 1976 so people could study at home via telecourses, Coastline has evolved into a multi-tentacled educational beast that offers instruction via Internet, TV and 50 classroom sites around Orange County.

Hoping to inspire pride and school spirit in the far-flung student body, officials recently floated the idea of a mascot.

Another goal was to create a "brand identity" that separated Coastline from schools similarly organized, such as DeVry, said Michelle Sutliff, campus director of marketing and public relations.

Nominees poured in: Starfish, Sloths, Mermaids, Clams, Whales, Ghost Cats, Sea Urchins, Vikings.

Former student advisory council president Jeri Elder suggested an animated computer, a tribute to the school's online courses. The Coastline Laptops?

School officials pushed for an ocean theme -- unless it involved sharks. "Too violent," Sutliff said.

The finalists included seagulls, condors, white herons and egrets. Students voted online -- naturally -- for their favorite. Once the dolphin emerged victorious, Coastline sponsored a contest to draw the mascot.

Kim Salt, 39, a new Coastline art student, snagged first prize and $500 for her diploma-clutching sea mammal. It was one of several designs she submitted. In one, the dolphin wore eyeglasses, but contest judges "went with the dolphin that had better eyesight," Salt said. School officials are now debating whether to buy a dolphin costume and give it a name.

Meanwhile, as Coastline was adding a mascot, one of its sister schools, Golden West College in Huntington Beach, was trying to dump its signature character, Rustler Sam.

The cowboy mascot was designed for the school in the late 1960s by Tom K. Ryan, creator of the "Tumbleweeds" comic strip.

But last year, as part of an image makeover for the 40-year-old campus, a consultant suggested replacing Sam with something ocean-related.

In a survey of students, the top choices included a surfer, a shark, a stingray and a sea dragon. A final vote was supposed to take place earlier this year, but opposition to Sam's demise caused a delay.

Roy Yarbrough, author of the encyclopedic "Mascots! The History of Senior/Junior College and University Mascots and Nicknames," said he wasn't surprised by the show of support for Sam.

A lot of students pass through California's two-year college system, he said, and many have fond memories of their schools and mascots.

"The roots can run pretty deep," said Yarbrough, a professor of sport management at California University of Pennsylvania (home of the Vulcans).

Golden West College is considering a plan to put Rustler Sam on a surfboard.

If so, it wouldn't be the first time Sam was altered. A few years ago, campus officials removed the cigarette that dangled from Sam's mouth, and erased the stubble on his face.

"It figures," said cartoonist Ryan, a little annoyed. He still produces "Tumbleweeds" from his home in Florida.

But Ryan didn't seem to mind the prospect of Sam himself being eliminated. "I'm delighted they've been able to use him for so many years," he said by telephone. "But if they want to drop him, that's up to them."

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roy.rivenburg@latimes.com

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