Whether he’s busy spinning his head in the endzone of TCF Bank Stadium or scooting around campus on a moped, Goldy Gopher is a national treasure—er, should we say, a University-wide treasure. But where did all of this gopher business begin?
A Golden Timeline
Although the Goldy mascot we know and love hit campus lawns in the 1940s, the University’s first tie to gophers came when Minnesota was dubbed the “Gopher state” in 1857. In the 1930s, the University of Minnesota football team became known as the Golden Gophers, and 1952 brought the first Goldy mascot when an assistant bandmaster bought a fuzzy wool suit and asked one of the marching band members to climb into it. Thus, Goldy Gopher was born.
Our gopher soon found his way onto all kinds of merchandise, advertisements, and was embraced by "The Gopher," the annual University of Minnesota yearbook. Throughout the 1970s, Goldy grew chubbier cheeks and took on a teddy bear-esque look.
Meanwhile, many a student held the mantle of wearing the gopher suit at sporting events, each putting their own spin on the mascot tradition. One student was even known for climbing the goalpost at football games. Learn more about the students behind the suit on the College of Liberal Arts History and Traditions page.
By the 90s, the Goldy look became closer and closer to the gopher (er, 13-lined ground squirrel) we know and love today. And, something else changed as well. Since 1952, the student inside the Goldy Gopher costume had always been a member of the University of Minnesota marching band, but in 1990, the Gopher Athletic Department began holding university-wide tryouts. Since Goldy had to be present at a number of University events, several students were tapped to play the grinning gopher in order to cover the busy schedule.
Although Goldy is no doubt still changing, he'll always be our #0—speaking of his football jersey, of course. Our titular gopher is present all across the University, whether it's on posters in various campus buildings or statues, such as the one on the right or the six-foot tall statue outside Coffman Memorial Union. What's more, Goldy has consistently been labeled one of the Big Ten Conference's best mascots, and has two national mascot champion titles (2011 and 2013) under his belt.