The Stetson University family welcomed the newest member into the fold on Friday night when John B., the new Athletics mascot, made his debut at the Edmunds Center.
Shrouded in smoke, John B. made his first public appearance at halftime of the Hatters’ Atlantic Sun Conference basketball game against Florida Gulf Coast. With sirens blaring and his whip cracking, he delighted the crowd while performing with the Stetson cheerleaders.
John B. is the first Stetson Athletics mascot in more than 10 years since the old Mad Hatter was unofficially retired. The new mascot, with his signature Stetson hat, green bandana and alligator skin boots, will be a fixture at future Stetson events, and will also make guest appearances throughout the community.
“I am thrilled with the new mascot,” Stetson University Director of Athletics Jeff Altier said. “John B. represents the University’s heritage and embraces the traditions that are so important to our students and alumni. I am confident he will be received well because he is what being a Stetson Hatter is all about.”
John B.’s grand debut was sponsored by the Stetson Co., makers of fine hats, apparel and accessories since the 1860s. The event was also supported by the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
In 1889, Stetson University was named after John B. Stetson, the Philadelphia hatmaker who gave generously of his time and fortune to the university. Because of this, Stetson athletes and alumni will forever be named the Hatters.
“But we want to give the Hat an attitude, a personality that rallies school spirit and gets people fired up,” Joel Jones, Stetson University director of Creative Services, said.
Stetson University’s Hatter mascot has taken on a variety of looks over the past 50 years – from a 10-gallon hat with big eyes and curled eyelashes to a leprechaun-looking Mad Hatter. There was even a pot-bellied statue that stood on the Hat Rack patio.
The last version, a Mad Hatter with a crazy “Doc Brown” hair-style and giant teeth, was rumored to have scared children, and stopped making public appearances 10 years ago.
In spring 2011, Stetson kicked off a Mascot Challenge to give the Hatters a new look and personality. Alumni, students, faculty, staff, student organizations and university departments were invited to submit ideas and drawings, and everyone including the general public was given an opportunity to vote on the 70 creative submissions. Ideas ranged from a Hatter-pillar, a bear, several cowboy types and even a few fictitious creatures.
“The breadth of involvement we had, with the 70 submissions and the thousands of online votes for the finalists, was very rewarding to me because it indicated how important this mascot is to so many people associated with the university,” Altier said. “Every member of our constituency was involved in the process and we were able to call on professionals in the industry to help in the final design.”
From the top five mascot submissions, a committee began its work last summer to select the new mascot and then develop and refine the new Hatter. The committee included representatives from the Athletics Department, community, alumni and Disney's character division.
Judging was based on originality, feasibility and overall appeal. Each of the five finalists in the mascot contest will receive a genuine Stetson hat as part of their recognition for participating. The author of the winning submission will receive a Walt Disney World vacation stay at the Swan & Dolphin Resort.
After careful consideration, choosing the final mascot and winning submission was unanimous. The new Hatter mascot embodies the history, tradition and spirit of Stetson University. Just like John B. Stetson himself, the new mascot captures the pioneer spirit of those daring individuals who founded the university and helped settle Florida more than 150 years ago. From the Stetson hat to the alligator boots, the new Hatter mascot embodies the history and spirit of Florida’s first private university.