The school cites its large amount of on-campus squirrels as reason for the change

On Wednesday, Azusa Pacific announced it plans to change its mascot from cougars to squirrels starting next school year. This change came as a surprise to many since there has been no prior indication of the university having any plans to change its mascot. 

However, it isn’t difficult to change the name of a mascot that a school has had for decades because no one really knows what the legal and logistical process is to even do that.

APU chose the cougar to be their mascot originally because of the neighboring foothills spanning across the northern border of the San Gabriel Valley. The powerful mountain cat is known for its intimidating snarl and large size. As an apex predator of California and much of North America, it seemed to be the perfect mascot. Combine that with the “Brick and Black” color scheme synonymous with APU and the school had its look.

When walking around APU’s campus, you might notice the beautiful trees, smiling faces, occasional chair in the middle of a walkway and, surprisingly, squirrels. Squirrels are literally all over the university’s campus. They can be found walking the concrete pathways for leftover scraps, playing in the trees, exploring the landscaping of East Campus and everywhere in between. You might even find one on a trolley if you look hard enough.

Over time, seeing squirrels becomes like seeing an acquaintance on Cougar Walk, you nod at them and keep walking. Because of this, President Paul Ferguson decided it was finally time to change the university’s mascot.

“Squirrels are everywhere. I mean, do you see any cougars walking around campus? No,” said Ferguson. “That would be a major threat to safety. Squirrels aren’t a threat unless they have rabies, or so I’ve read.”

Although squirrels might not be as intimidating as cougars for obvious reasons, they have some upsides. Their names, however, are not one of them. It’s so tough to spell because you’ll find yourself debating on whether it has two R’s or two L’s or maybe you forget that there’s two of any letter. Cougar is certainly the easier mascot name to spell and sound out, but there is a silent ‘U’ in there, so be careful.

What is really interesting about this change is how the clout of the athletics teams on campus is really going to take a hit within the PacWest Conference. Many are wondering how the various teams are going to effectively intimidate their opponents with a mascot that runs in front of traffic for no reason and then stands perfectly still as if they’ve never seen their neighbors flattened to the pavement. That will certainly be a tough challenge to navigate, but Athletic Director Gary Pine doesn’t see an issue.

“I think it would have been cooler if we went with ‘Flying Squirrels.’ That was the name I submitted, but this is cool too,” Pine said. “Squirrels can haul multiple peanuts at a time with just their mouth. And have you ever seen them run? They’re super fast even though they don’t have a great sense of direction or control.”

Many students are confused by the decision to change the mascot. Some have even resorted to starting a protest demanding that the mascot be changed back to the beloved cougar. Unfortunately, Zoom only allows 100 people in a video chatroom with their free subscription, so the protest has been put on hold like everything else in the world.

There are some financial issues that are attached to the name change as well. President Ferguson suggested that the school might have to raise tuition next year to facilitate the change. 

“We just have so many t-shirts to reprint and stuff. Not to mention that big statue outside of Wilden Hall is going to have to be replaced,” Ferguson said. “Now that I’m thinking this through, I realize I didn’t really think this through.”

Regardless, squirrels will be the new mascot starting in the 2020-21 school year. Although their final year might have been cut short due to unfortunate circumstances, at least the class of 2020 won’t have to say they go to a school with a squirrel for a mascot.

Early entries for the new name of the actual physical mascot seen at athletic events include Steve, Cougar the Squirrel, All of the Above, Squirrely McSquirrelface, Scrat, Go Back to the Old Mascot, Insert Text Here, Nugget and April Fools.

This is an exciting time for APU even though the decision is confusing and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Hopefully, all of this is just one big joke and the mascot will, of course, stay the same because asking one of the friendly cashiers at Paws ‘N’ Go if I can pay with “Squirrel Bucks” would be incredibly embarrassing.