By Kristy Koehler, October 23 2018 —
In late August, the CBC took to Twitter to incite an inter-university rivalry. Using the hashtag #CdnMascotMadness, the public broadcaster pitted 16 well-known university mascots against one another.
Rex, the beloved red dinosaur mascot from the University of Calgary, seemed like a shoe-in for the win on account of his fierceness, but was ultimately knocked out in the first round. However, he wasn’t always fierce — and he wasn’t always Rex.
In 1964, two years before the U of C officially gained autonomy from the University of Alberta, the dinosaur mascot was adopted to pay homage to the plethora of paleontological sites in the area. The bipedal, lizard-meets-snake creature was far from fierce — or anatomically correct.
Photo courtesy Dinos Athletics
In the ‘70s, a more aggressive dinosaur figure was launched to represent the athletic teams but it was complicated and difficult to use in merchandising. As a result the Students’ Union decided to make their own mascot. The SU spent $3,000 in the early ‘80s to bring their mascot to life and a naming contest coined a moniker for him —‘Dexter.’
In the Sept. 10, 1982 issue of the Gauntlet, then-SU president Dave Singleton wrote:
“One of my personal goals this year is to boost the level of school spirit here on campus. It is my belief that the Students’ Union’s recently acquired Dinosaur Mascot will be a giant step forward in this area. The yet-to-be-named mascot will be appearing at many of our activities, as well as at athletic and community events. It is my hope that he will become a recognized symbol of the University of Calgary.”
A few incarnations later, a renaming from Dexter to Rex and a spat between the university and SU over the rights to the mascot led to the current version of Rex. Unveiled in 2013, the Rex we know came from a desire for a modern, recognizable icon to represent the university that would be simple to use across campus.
While Rex was eliminated from the CBC’s mascot competition in the first round, the way in which so many students, faculty and alumni leapt to his defence was a testament to the power symbols like mascots hold. Not only do mascots lend their jollity to sporting events, they provide a connection to the institution as a whole.
Courtney Burton, a U of C student who once brought Rex to life as the person inside the dinosaur, believes that having a visible school mascot is incredibly important.
“Having a tangible connection to the teams is important. Having a mascot with a personality gives people a reason to get excited about sports and I think Pack the Jack and the Crowchild Classic are great examples of that,” Burton said. “People go to see the games but having a representative of the team there to take pictures with and interact with gives them an even stronger reason to rally with the team.
“I think with our school especially in addition to the sports games, having Rex at induction and at other school related events creates a great campus community, because everyone knows and recognizes Rex,” she added.
Photo courtesy Dinos Athletics
Burton took her role as Rex to heart.
“For me being Rex was really cool because the campus community felt stronger than it did when I was just walking to and from class everyday,” she said.
One of Burton’s favourite stories comes from the Crowchild Classic.
“I was there as Rex for the 50th year celebration so I got to go up to the boxes and take pictures with Alumni who still felt connected to the university even though many of them were at the university when Dexter was the mascot,” Burton recalled. “It was super cool to know that there was a strong connection to not only the school but the sports teams as well and Rex was a catalyst for it.”
Burton wants students to embrace Rex.
“[He] is probably the most polite, sportsman-like, cheerful character I have ever had the pleasure of portraying and I encourage everyone, if they see Rex around the university, to take a picture with him because he’s one cool dude,” she said.