The costume's changed, as have the men inside. But 92 years after its conception, the Nittany Lion mascot is still the most recognizable and most beloved symbol of Penn State sports­ and the Penn State spirit. 

Nittany Lion as of 2013



first Nittany Lion on all fours, black and white photo
Richard Holmes Hoffman 1923 Sci, known as "Nittany Leo I," got the role after his animalistic turn in the 1920 production of Andrae/es and the Lion. Many of Hoffman's stunts—marching in time with the band, clumsily join­ing team warm-ups—are still part of the Lion's rep­ertoire today. One tradition that didn't endure: walking on four legs. 
two black and white photos side by side of the Nittany Lion in the 1920s
After spending several years in storage, the Lion suit was revived by Leon Skinner '27 Agr, '33 MA Lib. Skinner made four appearances at football games—all losses for Penn State. Superstitious coach Hugo Bezdek (with Skinner as the Lion at right) banned him. 



black and white photo of the Nittany Lion standing upright on two legs
Young gymnastics coach Gene Wettstone '79h helped bring the Lion out of retirement-with a new look. A custom-made costume from New York City featured a less prominent mane. The man inside the suit? Wet­tstone himself. After his tenure as the Lion, the coach oversaw the auditioning and training of the mascot until the mid-1960s. 



side by side black and white photos of the Nittany Lion's antics on the football field in the 1940s

In the late 1940s, Lion Mascot Wendell 0. Lomady '49 H&HD teamed with head cheerleader and gymnast Bill "Fuzzy" Bonsall '49 H&HD to produce memorable skits featuring elaborate costumes, props, and gymnastic stunts. 

black and white photo of the Nittany Lion being pulled off the field in a stunt during the 1940s




black and white photo of the Nittany Lion with cheerleaders
The lion suit was showing signs of wear and tear in the early 1950s, when bald spots were frequent­ly repaired with patches of sheep's wool. A cam­pus fundraising campaign helped earn the $600 needed for a replace­ment, a thick, 20-pound ensemble made of rabbit fur. Jack Behler '60 Lib was the last mascot to wear an animal-skin suit; the costume went synthetic in 1958. 



photo of the Nittany Lion posing beside the Nittany Lion sharing

Marty Serota '67 Lib, the mascot from 1965-67, started performing push-ups for every point on the scoreboard—a tradition that's been carried on ever since. Serota was also famous for keeping his identity a mystery during his years in the suit, never appear­ing "headless" in public. He was finally unmasked when a Collegian article published his name and photo in 1967. 

black and white photo of the Nittany Lion framed in a doorway under a sign that reads at the sound of horn evacuate building




black and white photo of the Nittany Lion with a mane being carried by a group of students

Bored of this early-'70s look, the Lion costume, then worn by Andy Bailey '77 Sci, got a short-lived makeover: a long mane, exposed teeth, and a ferocious expression. It was replaced after one game. Bailey told the Collegian that, when he approach­ed the crowd, he recalled "toddlers crying." 

black and white photo of the Nittany Lion playing drums with the marching band


side by side black and white photos of the Nittany Lion in basketball uniform


black and white photo of the Nittany Lion recycling in a large Salvation Army drop box in 1977
Hoping fellow students would "follow suit," the Nittany Lion made Penn State history in 1977 when he was the first to recycle a newspaper on campus. 



black and white photo of the Nittany Lion standing with two men on the football field

A fixture at football games, the Lion branched out more than ever in the 1980s, appearing at other sporting events and campus functions. The high demand for mascot appearances results in a grueling schedule of more than 250 gigs per year. 

black and white photo of the Nittany Lion on the basketball court




the Nittany Lion talking to fans on the sideline at a football game
"Whenever I put on the suit, I feel like I'm a completely different person." -Ricky Williams '95 Eng, Lion mascot 1993-95.



Sources for photos: The Nittany Lion: An Illustrated Tole by Jackie R. Esposito and Steven l. Herb '74, '76 MEd, '87 PhD Edu, and The Pennsylvania State University Archives.