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How I was involved in the creation of
the Syracuse University "Orange" Mascot costume
by Eric Heath, marionette maker
In the late 1970's, Syracuse University discontinued using the Saltine Warrior, a Native American warrior, as their mascot.  By the early 1980's, when I was a varsity cheerleader at Syracuse, they had tried a Trojan Warrior costume for a couple of years, but it never got much of a following.
In February of 1982 I wrote a letter to "the powers that be" at the University, suggesting they switch to an "Orangeman" and included detailed instructions as to how the costume should be built and drawings (excerpts of the letter and the original sketches are below).  The costume was actually built by someone else.

I designed and built an elaborate magic trick for the Orange's debut appearance football game and worked closely with the guys inside the suit that season (the first were Anthony Sakovich and Mike Crill) and continued to work with the mascot program for several years thereafter.

The Syracuse Orange mascot's first unveiling, that's me, Eric Heath, on the far right

The Orange wasn't  actually adopted as the official Syracuse University mascot until December of 1995 and the official two-dimensional form of the Orange was established by community vote during the spring of 1997.

Original sketch by Eric Heath of design for Syracuse University Orangeman mascot costume

Drawing of the Orange mascot costume as proposed by Eric Heath in 1982
Select passages from the letter I wrote:

Syracuse University needs one official mascot who should be a student, incorporated into the cheer squad and under the supervision of the cheerleader advisor.

I am a member of the cheerleader squad, next year will be my third year on the squad. . .I have had over four years experience in being inside and working around the humorous costume characters that are of the type that I am proposing.  I also have had the opportunity to build three of these costumes while I was at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown College.

Whether or not my idea is accepted I am extremely willing to aid in helping to create it or another mascot costume idea that is found satisfactory, I want to see this idea become a reality.

First of all the mascot must be something that is very representational of Syracuse University.  It also must be unique, attractive, colorful, functional and durable.  The idea that I am proposing is that of an "Orangeman" . . .  It would be basically an orange shaped and colored creature with arms and legs as well as eyes and a mouth.  The costume would be constructed of foam rubber which would give it shape and covered with orange and blue fabric (acrylic pile).  The person inside would see through the fabric that covers the mascots eyes.  The mouth should also be able to opened and closed in order to eat basketballs, footballs, and such, the mouth will normally  stay in the closed position though.  Eyebrows would move up and down either simultaneously or one at a time.  The eyes should be able to look to the right or left, up or down, and spin.  In order to do these things the person will have to manipulate both eyes and mouth from inside the costume.  Therefore the arms of the mascot would be attached to the orange body, would be hollow and allow the person inside to withdraw or replace his arms as he wishes.  When the mascot's arms are not filled they should hang at his sides and be free to swing.

The back side of the orange should have a marking similar
to that of the "Sunkist" marking on real oranges, but should say "Syracuse".

This mascot would be a superb public relations tool - it could be used at such things as freshman convocation, parents and prospective student functions, alumni and Orange Pack functions, local appearances at benefits, goodwill ambassador to or of the city, parades or anything else that would be appropriate or good public relations for the University.  Eventually we could probably have the entire football team and mascot doing orange juice commercials!

One sure way to entertain and excite the crowd at games next year is through the use of a humorous, energetic, bright, colorful and adorable mascot.

Eric Heath
S.U. Cheerleader
506 Univ. Ave. Apt 1-E
February 1982

Note: Many of my recommendations were not included in the final design.

For more about the history of the Syracuse University mascot, please go to:
http://www.syr.edu/aboutsu/memorabilia/mascot.html

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Debra Hathaway and Eric Heath
Dragon Wings LLC
PO Box 801
Easton, MD 21601
USA

Copyright 1997-2016 by Eric Heath and Debra Hathaway