Mascot Mania: The Grizz, Pioneer Pete, Clawzz

The basketball players aren’t the only ones who have returned to the O’Rena. Honey-loving mascots The Grizz and Clawzz are back as well. 

Unlike other bears, these cuddly cubs won’t be spending November eating overweight hikers: they’ll be eating birthday cake.

The furry duo both celebrate their birthdays this month.

Instead of a party, The Post decided to commemorate these two by researching the bare facts of their ancestry.


Pioneer Pete: Aerospace Pioneer?

Remarkably enough, the forebear of The Grizz wasn’t furry. He wasn’t even a bear.

OU’s first mascot was Pioneer Pete (no relation to Oakland Post Pete, see page 13.)

The original leather-clad pathfinder wore a racoon-skin cap and carried a toy rifle. 

But Oakland University’s website says something about Pete that doesn’t quite add up:

‘Pete started out in the 1950s as an aerospace pioneer, but when a student drew a buckskin-clad Pioneer Pete, the image stuck.’

Why would an aerospace pioneer be chosen as the mascot for a school that has virtually nothing to do with aerospace technology?

Well, Pete wasn’t originally an aerospace engineer and wasn’t even developed in the 1950s, according to Oakland University Magazine’s Fall 2007 issue.

The caption in the magazine reads:

‘In 1964 a small group of swimmers and cross country runners got together with then Athletics Director Hollie Lepley and came up with the name “Pioneers”’

The reasoning was because OU was viewed as a pioneering school of sorts.

Pete was originally drawn in buckskin, but also appeared in bathing trunks.

As for the mascot himself, the first person to play as Pioneer Pete was OU alum Charles “Chick” Conklin, in 1977, according to articles found in the Kresge Archives.

In 1998, a new mascot was needed for OU’s move from NCAA Division II to Division I athletics. The final contenders were the Golden Grizzlies, Saber Cats and Pioneers.

The Golden Grizzlies won by a landslide and The Grizz was born.


Big yellow gummy bear

The Grizz is well-known around OU and although he looks like he enjoys eating his honey, he is a ferocious and aggressive predator. 

Grizz debuted on November 17, 1998, but he wasn’t always as fearsome as he is today.

In fact, he was once an even brighter yellow than Winnie the Pooh.

This unbearably yellow bear got a makeover in 2007, according to Adam Panchenko, an admissions adviser who was the ‘yellow’ Grizz for five years.

“People would call me the big yellow gummy bear,” Panchenko said.

Although the Grizz used to be a blonde instead of a brunette, he had the same fighting spirit our present-day basketball bear has.

During his time as The Grizz, Panchenko got into a mascot fight with Oral Roberts’ Eli the Golden Eagle.

“He pushed me, and I pushed him,” Panchenko said. “Eventually he grabbed me right around the back of the head. He was trying to behead me. He broke one of the buckles in the back. I put him in a headlock. I started screaming at him, telling him he messed with the wrong bear. He came back at me and I threw him off. I went back to my side triumphantly. He cried or whatever.”


Clawzz: The bear without a cause

Clawzz first became The Grizz’s pal when he debuted on Nov. 14, 2009.

However, compared to The Grizz, Clawzz looks a little like a baby bear.

His fur is also a lot darker than his compatriot. Although the color of his hair might just be a design difference, it makes sense because Clawzz lives in The Grizz’s shadow.

While Grizz gets a statue and 1,903 friends on his facebook page, Clawzz hardly gets a second glance.

We proved this in an unscientific survey, utilizing a photo of the forgettable bear doing the disco.

Who is this?

Zack Korienek, Senior, History:

“I have no clue.”

Matthew Beitel, Senior, English:

“Grizzly? I don’t know.”

Tyanna Moore, Senior, Psychology:

“That’s Clawzz.”


How are Clawzz and The Grizz related?

Alex Foster, Freshman, Biomedical Sciences:


Danielle Thornburg, Freshman, Liberal Arts:

“Cousins perhaps?”

Matthew Beitel:

“Cousins? Second or third cousins?”


How do you think Clawzz became a mascot?

Jasmine Rowe, Junior, Elementary education:

“Clawzz was probably out looking for a job and Grizz helped him out. The economy is tough on everybody.”

Danielle Thornburg, Freshman, Liberal Arts:

“Maybe the university needed a REAL bear? Something that doesn’t look like a teddy bear. Either way, I hope they pay him enough to dress like that.”

Matthew Beitel, Senior, English:

“Maybe The Grizz’s outfit was less superior?”


Although there is no proof that Clawzz and The Grizz are cousins, it seems to be the general consensus. As for Clawzz’s origins, Panchenko says Clawzz was originally designed to be a more maneuverable version of The Grizz.


Clawzz and effect 

It’s only natural that as OU grew in size, we moved from humble pioneers to aggressive grizzly bears.

Panchenko says a mascot is more than a guy in a suit – they have to represent an organization.

Pioneer Pete, The Grizz and even Clawzz have increased the OU spirit for over 40 years.

So next time you see these mascots, give Pioneer Pete some respect, The Grizz a high-five and Clawzz a hug: our survey proves he needs it.