In the early 1980s, the mascot preferred colonial garb
Photos courtesy of Jay Marsh and Intercollegiate Athletics
Mason’s Mascot Wasn’t Always Green
While everyone these days recognizes Gunston’s furry face, many may not realize that in years past, a number of different mascot faces have cheered on our Mason teams. Fans of the sports teams have seen the Patriot mascot evolve from a man dressed in colonial garb to large-headed fuzzy cartoon characters with crazy socks.
The early history of Mason’s mascots is a little fuzzy itself. Perhaps the strangest of all the mascots appeared at the first annual bonfire in 1985—the Mason Maniak, an unidentified animal character with a huge head and a t-shirt bearing the words, “Mason Maniak,” complete with lightning bolt. This furry character wore bright striped pants and was often seen dancing to the cheers of spectators.
George Malenich, a university Physical Plant trades technician, played the Mason mascot for more than 10 years as several different characters, including a patriot, a gorilla, and good old furry Gunston. “It was the only time I could ask other women to dance and not get in trouble with my wife,” he says with a laugh.
In the early 1990s, Malenich wore the Patriot mascot costume, which had a cartoon head with a two-foot tall hat. That mascot was retired in 1993 when George Johnson, then president of the university, decided that a white male mascot did not fully represent the diversity of the university’s campus. Because Coach Paul Westhead, the men’s basketball coach at the time, liked his players to be fast and strong, Malenich says a search was on for a new mascot that was fast and strong. The result was a short-lived gorilla mascot.
The Green Mask, a mascot based on the Jim Carrey movie The Mask, cheered on Mason sports teams during the 1995–96 academic year. Malenich not only played the Green Mask for the Patriots’ games, he also used the costume for several Washington Capitals games, because the team’s goal- tender that year was named Jim Carey.
In late 1996, Mason’s mascot changed yet again, adding Gunston to the roster. During a basketball game against Ohio State, the furry and now-familiar Gunston made his first appearance. Although Gunston’s look was changed three years ago, the name and concept has remained the same.
But who or what is Gunston? According to the George Mason Traditions web site (traditions.gmu.edu), “Gunston’s legend is as mysterious as that of any other mythical creature.” Rumor has it that Gunston may have been hatched from an egg found by the Sociology and Anthropology Department during an excavation at Gunston Hall, the home of the university’s namesake. Whatever his origin, Gunston is Mason’s number one fan, spreading Patriot fever throughout the entire George Mason community.