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History of the Mountaineer

The Mountaineer Mascot is the most beloved of all West Virginia University traditions and symbolizes the proud and rich heritage of the Mountain State and its people.

Wearing the heavy custom buckskins and real coonskin cap, the Mountaineer carries not just the weight of the uniform, but the weight of West Virginia on his/her shoulders. The tradition began more than 90 years ago and while the uniform looks nearly the same, the responsibilities of the position have certainly increased.

The Mountaineer attends NCAA football, basketball, and baseball, games, as well as gymnastics, soccer, volleyball and wrestling matches, cheering on the Mountaineers in all venues. He/she also makes appearances at other sporting events, including WVU Club Sports. Today, the Mountaineer attends more than 250 events per year outside the realm of athletic functions, appearing at schools, hospitals, civic organizations and more.

The West Virginia University Mountaineer Mascot has gone through many changes throughout the years, from a fur vest and flannel shirt, to the current buckskins and coon skin cap; however, one thing has never changed – the Mountaineer Rifle. Marvin Wotring, a Morgantown gunsmith, made the Mountaineer’s rifle from 1977 until his death Dec. 2, 2018. Wotring, known as the “man behind the rifle,” will be sorely missed by current and former Mountaineers, along with many others at WVU.

A constant objective of this University is to increase the pride of West Virginians in themselves and in our Mountain State. We are constantly reminded of the strength and courage of the people in our state and how the Mountaineer has preserved this tradition for future generations.

In 1927, Clay Crouse served as the first unofficial Mountaineer Mascot, and in 1934, Lawson Hill became the first official Mountaineer Mascot.

Boyd H. “Slim” Arnold, the first Mountaineer to wear the now traditional buckskin uniform, was also the first Mountaineer selected to serve three years in succession (1937-1939) and was the longest tenured until Rock Wilson matched his three-year term (1991-1993).

WVU did not choose a Mountaineer Mascot in 1944 due to World War II.

William McPherson, a Parkersburg native, was the WVU Mountaineer Mascot from 1960-61. He subsequently served in the United States Army with the rank of Captain. McPherson was killed in Vietnam on Dec. 3, 1965. His buckskins and rifle are on display in a commemorative case located in the Vandalia Lounge of the Mountainlair Student Union on the Downtown Campus.

Natalie Tennant, who in 1990 became the first female Mountaineer, was elected as the West Virginia Secretary of State in 2009. Rebecca Durst, who served as the Mountaineer in 2009, was the only other female to serve in this role.

Implemented in 1992 as a part of the WVU Mountaineer Week Celebration, a Mountaineer Mascot Reunion is held every five years. Each reunion is organized to promote school spirit and to attach our University community to the heritage of our Mountain State. The event rekindles the past by honoring the current and former Mountaineers who were chosen for outstanding enthusiasm and character.

Developed in 1999, the Passing of the Rifle Ceremony, is held on the night before the Gold-Blue Spring Football Game each year to acknowledge and thank the outgoing Mountaineer for all his/her contributions to WVU and the state of West Virginia. The ceremony also introduces the newly-chosen Mountaineer and guests will welcome him/her to the position. At the end of the ceremony, the Mountaineer Rifle is officially passed to the incoming Mountaineer.

The Mountaineer is governed by the Mountaineer Advisory Council, representatives from Athletics, Student Life, University Relations and Mountain Honorary.

The Mountaineer is a WVU student chosen annually by the Mountaineer Selection Committee, which is made up of students, faculty and staff from across the University.

Throughout the rigid selection process, the applicants are asked to complete a written application along with essays, take part in an interview and then participate in the “cheer-off” at a men’s basketball game.

Then, based on these scores, along with outstanding character and enthusiasm, the Mountaineer is announced at the last home men’s basketball game of the season. The Mountaineer officially begins his/her term at the Gold-Blue Spring Football Game held in April.