Photo courtesy: @KyleUmlang on Twitter
Mascots hold a special place in college sports, embodying a team's identity and fostering school spirit. Arizona State University's choice of the Sun Devil as its mascot seems like a natural fit, leaving little room for curiosity about its origins. But we're Homefield, and you shop at Homefield, so we're always curious about origins. And as expected, this seemingly straightforward mascot has a fun little twist that we love. Let's get into it.
ASU went through a journey to become the Sun Devils, as most colleges and universities do. The school started with its first mascot—a classic owl. Then, as ASU became a Teacher's College, they wanted to be the Bulldogs instead. Why a bulldog? The school thought it would give them more credibility if they followed the mascot trend set by other colleges like Yale and Georgia.
Then in 1945, when Arizona State College replaced the Teacher's College, the talk of a new mascot got going. It turned out that having the same mascot as other schools wasn't the flex they thought it was. Through their student newspaper, the State Press, the students made a strong case for a mascot that stood out a bit more. They wanted a Sun Devil. And on November 8, 1946, the Sun Devil was chosen in an 819-196 vote. The school went with the vote, and the new mascot was celebrated on November 20, which has now become Sparky's birthday, a perfect nod to the history.
Still seems pretty straightforward, Homefield! Okay, here is where it gets fun: Two years later, ASU enlisted the talents of Berk Anthony, a Disney illustrator, and proud alumnus, to create a design for the newly adopted Sun Devil mascot. He created today's iconic look, initially just designing Sparky as a logo, not a fleshed-out character. It wasn't until 1951 that Sparky made his first appearance at games, donning a satin jumpsuit with a long tail and carrying his signature pitchfork.
But over the years, a rumor circulated that Berk Anthony intentionally gave Sparky facial features resembling his boss, a certain man you may know named Walt Disney. Anthony has since said that any resemblance was purely coincidental, but now that this has been brought to my attention, I cannot unsee it. They are twins. Sparky is Walt Disney.
Regardless of the rumors, origin, or whether or not he is genuinely Walt Disney, we love Sparky, and he has undoubtedly cemented his place as the beloved mascot here at Homefield.