Old Sarge

The return of a legend

When it comes to maintaining school spirit across Norwich University’s campus, students look for a leader to increase the intensity of the crowd at athletic of school events. That leader is often a mascot, which the Cadets are lacking.

In a recent edition of The Guidon, Editor Audrey Seaman wrote, “I never thought I would see the day when Old Sarge would glide around Kreitzberg Arena.”

However, the university’s old mascot, representing an NCO (non-commissioned officer), made his appearance and the crowd went wild. The old mascot was gliding around on skates, rallying school spirit as the men’s varsity hockey team took on Quebec Trois-Rivieres for an exhibition game.

“The reason [he] came out was fan support,” said Sam Philbrook, 21, a senior history major from Rochester, Mass. “It came out and rallied the crowd.”

Philbrook worked closely with NU alumnus and the current associate director of sports information, Charlie Crosby. “We were brainstorming at the info desk, I actually brought it up,” Philbrook said.

Old Sarge, 1984

Over their conversation, Philbrook came to find out that parts of Old Sarge’s old costume have been hiding away in an office in Kreitzberg Arena. Most importantly, he was able to find the head of the mascot.

Since Old Sarge’s appearance on the ice, students and alumni have been questioning why he has hasn’t been seen in years.

“I recall seeing an Old Sarge, mascot or like a costume at football games when I was a student here,” said Maj. Kristine Seipel, NU ’04 as well as the housing officer for the university.

“I remember Old Sarge walking around with the cheerleaders as a body guard,” Seipel said, “And at hockey games walking around the upper portion of the deck.”

The mascot would get the Norwich fans riled up, high fiving everyone he passed, she said.

“Old Sarge was the school’s mascot in the late 20th century. I don’t know the exact time period,” said Brian Dunne, 21, a senior criminal justice major from Peabody, Mass.

“Old Sarge is a role model,” said Jake Santarelli, 21, a senior criminal justice major from Hamilton, Mass. The mascot is something that is supposed to represent the school, which Santarelli thinks Old Sarge does well.

“It’s got that whole history behind it,” Seipel said, “history of that old sergeant. That guy giving you a hard time during training.” For the past four years during Santarelli’s time at Norwich, there has never been a mascot at any of the sporting events. “We’ve never really had a mascot at a football game and when we do, it’s the rooks,” he explained

Although the mascot hasn’t been seen strolling around campus himself, he is quite a popular figure on NU apparel. Some groups on campus still use Old Sarge as a part of their designs, instead of the more modern designs that are being used by the university.

“Third Battalion (a rook training battalion) was using him on the back of their T-shirts for the cadre and upper level staff,” said Seth Hayes, 21, a senior construction engineering management major from Granby, Conn. “It’s been used for Future Leader’s Camp and Leadership Challenge weekend T-shirts as well,” he said.

Old Sarge 2

Old Sarge hammin’ it up with the ladies back in 1988.
Photo: Norwich Archives

However, the director of integrated marketing and communications for Norwich, Jay Ericson, sought to clarify Old Sarge’s status: “It’s not an official representation of the university.” The image of Old Sarge is not a logo and Ericson doesn’t know if it was ever even officially sanctioned by the university.

Through word of mouth, Philbrook heard that it used to be the mascot of Norwich, but Texas A&M had claimed it as well. This was simply a rumor. According to Aggie Traditions found on the official website of Texas A&M, the schools official mascot is Reveille, a border collie and the highest ranking officer in their Corps of Cadets.

After a few efforts from the administration to contact Texas A&M University, Norwich has yet to hear any word back on whether or not Norwich is able to continue using Old Sarge to rally spirits, said Hayes, who is also a member of the uniform committee.

“We can’t actually use it until we have written permission,” he explained.

In order to work around this issue, students have proposed renaming him something different, like Top, a nickname commonly used in the United States Army for the first sergeant, Philbrook said. The first sergeant is the highest ranking NCO in a company.

“NCO’s [non-commissioned officers] train officers and leaders which are what we do here at Norwich” said Philbrook, “hence Old Sarge.”

“I mean we really don’t have a symbol that the whole school can rally behind right now,” said Hayes, “It’s difficult with different lifestyles, but as far athletics go we are the Cadets.”

According to Ericson, a few years ago, a committee looked into possibly creating a new mascot but never reached a conclusion. “Unfortunately, nothing came out of that work for various reasons,” he said. One of the major reasons was that the committee was looking for a mascot that fit both of NU’s student lifestyles: the traditional and the Corps of Cadets. “We’re the cadets obviously, and that in a sense is a representation, that is who our sports teams is,” Ericson said.

The Old Sarge mascot does suggest representing the Corps of Cadets more predominantly. “I think that was why it was phased out was a tie to the military aspect of Norwich,” Seipel said, “If you’re trying to achieve one university, you need to pick something that identifies all students.”

The Norwich athletes are the Cadets, however, and they wear that name on all of their uniforms. “There are a lot of athletes that are not in the corps, but they still carry the name Cadets with pride. Why not be able to use Old Sarge as the sports mascot?” Hayes questioned.

In order to have a successful mascot, “you have to think about how a mascot is going to be used interacting with ideally fans in the stand in athletics event,” said Ericson.

Ericson pointed out that if you have a mascot, it needs to bring you back to experiences you had while on campus. “The feeling that somebody gets the emotional and personal connections they have with the university, that is what you want in a symbol or a mascot.”

“The trick is finding a symbol that elicits that connection when somebody looks at it. With a mascot, you need an icon of what represents Norwich,” Ericson said.

“I’m nostalgic. I like the Old Sarge,” Dunne said. “It stands for pride. Pride for the alma mater and it’s a military-type symbol and Norwich started as a military- type school.”

If nothing else, the Norwich community can come together over patriotism, which Old Sarge’s military background represents. Though the students are still without an official mascot, the Old Sarge sighting roused the school spirit and sparked a bit of interest in resurrecting the character.

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