Ambassador of Fun
Mascot Blaze embodies school spirit
Cal U’s biggest fan is a sport management major who loves working out at Herron Recreation and Fitness Center. He was voted “best smile” in his class by fellow Cal U students. He always wins at arm wrestling. He loves eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and watching Chariots of Fire.
He’s also got an enormous head and sandaled feet the size of swim fins.
He’s Blaze, Cal U’s fierce-but-fun mascot and community ambassador. And he has a secret.
“I’m a 130-pound girl,” says Victoria Kuntz, a senior business administration major who puts her experience as a personal trainer to good use when she wears the Blaze costume.
“I’m actually looking out of Blaze’s mouth.”
Mostly, it’s fine. However, things turned a bit rambunctious at the end of last year’s Coal Bowl victory over IUP at Adamson Stadium.
In a burst of enthusiasm, the football team swarmed Blaze, all 6-feet, 2-inches of him, not realizing who was inside.
“Blaze held it together,” Kuntz says, rather proudly.
“I love being Blaze and also talking about Blaze. I feel like he’s his own person!”
Technically, he’s a cartoon-style Vulcan, the Roman god of fire who, in various forms, has been a symbol of California pride since the 1930s.
With a Facebook page — www.facebook.com/calublaze — and an email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, he does seem to have a life of his own.
He is definitely getting out more.
There’s Blaze at California Riverfest. At Kennywood KidsFest. At Take Your Child to Work Day. At the California Volunteer Fire Department fish fry. At the Kraft Hockeyville™ USA event at Rostraver Ice Garden.
The Cal U mascot shows up for community events free of charge and full of enthusiasm, explains Jamison Roth ’04, director of Recreational Services and mascot manager.
“We seem to add more requests each year,” Roth says. “A lot of it is word of mouth — people see Blaze at one event, and then they want to add him to their own event.
“We had a Harry Potter literary conference on campus in the spring, and the high school students were so excited to take selfies with Blaze.”
As Blaze branches out from his traditional role as chief cheerleader at athletic events, he spreads even more school spirit. Prospective and newly admitted students sometimes see him at open houses and orientations.
“I absolutely love our mascot,” says Dr. Tracey Sheetz, dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Cal U.
“If you’ve been accepted to Cal U as a future Vulcan, Blaze gives you a way to identify with the school. Everyone relates to characters — just look at Disney or the Geico Gecko.
“Blaze also relates to our region’s identity, with steelworkers and coal miners and the rugged grit that you have to have to succeed. It’s a cool tie-in.”
Blaze would probably agree, but like most mascots, he doesn’t speak when he’s on duty.
A big thumbs-up will have to do.
By Wendy Mackall, assistant communications director at Cal U