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Rally Cat Becomes New Face of UVM Athletics

By Jon Reidel Article published February 3, 2004

Rally
Athletics Marketing Director Krista Balogh introduces UVM's new mascot, Rally, before a sold-out crowd at Gutterson Field House. (Photo: Bill DiLillo)

The response of 13-year-old friends Cody Jarvis and Tyler Labelle to Rally, the university’s newest incarnation of its Catamount mascot, captured the general feeling of the younger fans in attendance at the sold-out men’s basketball game against University of Maryland-Baltimore County on Jan. 31.

“Kids will love him. He’s a lot more updated,” says Jarvis, who saw shades of the Tasmanian Devil in the new mascot. “Yeah, he’s cool, kind of like a cartoon character,” adds Labelle.

Rally, a more animated, pumped-up version of Charlie and Kitty Catamount, both now headed to the UVM Hall of Fame, was introduced to Catamount faithful at halftime. The difference between the retired mascots and the feistier Rally cat was glaring as Charlie and Kitty slumbered out to half court, followed by Rally bounding around Patrick Gym to the Gap Band’s “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.”

Some longtime fans had a harder time saying goodbye to Charlie and Kitty, but said they understood the need for change. “Rally is more animated and has more personality,” says longtime hockey and basketball fan Robin Ranon of Shelburne. “He’s got an intense look and he’s a little more intimidating, and that’s what you want.”

Introduced in the 1950s, Charlie was a fan favorite at football games before the program disbanded in the 1970’s. Kitty came on board in the 1980s along with a slightly updated version of Charlie, both donated by an alumnus. Rally was the brainchild of the marketing department with athletic marketing director Krista Balogh and Chris McCabe, assistant vice president of marketing and business development, spearheading the project.

“Rally doesn’t look as much like a Catamount, but he’s [in fact, Rally is gender neutral] a little more intense,” says first-year student Rebekah Shippee. “It’s kind of odd looking and a little scary, but a lot more enthusiastic. The old one just kind of sat there.”

The new mascot was created by Scollon Productions, Inc. of White Rock, S.C. Balogh said the final product was approved after reviewing several possible incarnations of the Rally cat. “Athletics is going through such great change right now and this is a great way to get UVM’s new face into the public,” Balogh says.

Scollon, creators of such legendary figures as the Michelin Man, Barney, Rug Rats, and various Looney Tunes characters, sent fur samples and artist renditions throughout the development process. Scollon is also a major producer of athletic mascots, including Sir Purr of the Carolina Panthers, and Gumbo, the Saint Bernard mascot of the New Orleans Saints.

Rally has ventilation fans with rechargeable batteries installed in its head and an optional “cool vest” with re-freezable ice packs. It also has sport-specific costumes and a more fashionable outfit for community events requiring dressier attire. Rally, a name shared by the Clemson University Rally Cats dance squad, also has to wear his V-cat logo for trademark purposes.

“The key issue today is mobility,” says Scollon President Elery Locklear, who estimated Rally’s price tag at around $3,500. “Mascots are very competitive today and try to push the envelope. I’m sure that they [Charlie and Kitty] were quality items in their day, but the look has evolved. Still, a new mascot can be a dicey thing for active alums. It’s hard to see things that they grew up with change.”