Otto the Orange is the mascot for the Syracuse Orange, the athletic teams of Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, USA. Otto is an anthropomorphism of the color orange, wearing a large blue hat and blue pants. Otto can often be seen at Syracuse sporting events in the JMA Wireless Dome and other venues.

Otto the Orange
Logo version of Otto the Orange
UniversitySyracuse University
DescriptionAnthropomorphic orange
First seen1980

Mascot history

Otto the Orange entertains the audience at Syracuse Orange women's ice hockey game at the Tennity Ice Skating Pavilion (2023).

A 1997 article in the Syracuse University Magazine provides a short history of the mascots at Syracuse University.[1] One of the earliest mascots, recorded in 1894, was a dog with a football helmet.[1]

Saltine Warrior


The Syracuse mascot was originally a Native American character named "The Saltine Warrior" (Syracuse's unofficial nickname is the Salt City) and "Big Chief Bill Orange".[2][3] The character was born out of a hoax from a report by student humor magazine Orange Peel, in which it was claimed that a 16th-century Onondaga chief was unearthed while digging the foundation for the women's gymnasium in 1928.[1]

In the mid-1950s, the father of a Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brother owned a cheer leading camp. He made a Saltine Warrior costume for his son to wear at SU football games. Thus began a nearly forty-year tradition of Lambda Chi brothers serving as SU's mascot. In 1990 however the University opened up the mascot traditions to the entire student body (Daily Orange, February 22, 1990).

In December 1977, Native American students successfully petitioned the University to discontinue the Saltine Warrior, citing the mascot's stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans. The mascot was discontinued in 1978.[4] Oren Lyons, Onondaga Nation leader and an alumn, called the warrior derogatory.[1] During the 1978 season, the University introduced a Roman gladiator dressed in orange armor, but the idea proved largely unpopular among fans, who regularly booed the mascot.[2][3]

Otto becomes official


In the 1980s, a new Syracuse University mascot emerged and was described by Sports Illustrated in 1984 as a "juiced-up, bumbling citrus fruit from which two legs protrude", and quickly became popular on campus.[2][5] Then, the mascot was simply known as "the Orange",[4] and was designed and crafted by Eric Heath, an SU cheerleader, according to the SU Archives.[6]

Early on the mascot had multiple monikers, including Clyde and Woody.[6][7] In the summer of 1990, the cheerleaders and mascots were at Cheerleading Camp in Tennessee and the students who were chosen to suit up in the costume narrowed the field down to two potential names — "Opie" and "Otto" — as a new orange costume was made. It was concluded that the name "Opie" would lead to the inevitable rhyme with 'dopey', and settled on "Otto." Later that fall, word got out that the cheerleaders were calling the latest mascot costume Otto, and the name stuck.[3][8]

For 17 years the university did not settle on an "official" mascot until the chancellor appointed a group of students and faculty to create a mascot and logo. University administration considered introducing a new mascot – a wolf ("An Orange Pack of Wolves"[1]) or lion were likely candidates – but the student body supported Otto. He was recognized as the official mascot of Syracuse University in December 1995 by Chancellor Buzz Shaw.[3][4][9]

Another logo of Otto the Orange

In 2016, Otto was named in the top-10 mascots in college football by Sports Illustrated.[10] In the same year, Otto was ranked No. 1 mascot in the ACC by ESPN.[6][11]

On 12 August 2023, Otto was inducted in the Mascot Hall of Fame following a two-week online vote in May.[12][13]

In January 2024, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled an Otto Bobblehead to celebrate the National Bobblehead Day on January 7.[14] The museum previously released two versions of Otto bobblehead in 2017. One celebrated the 2003 basketball National championship while the other showed Otto with a lacrosse stick to honor 11 national championships of the Syracuse Orange men's lacrosse team.[15][16]

Mascot team


There are a team of about 10-12 performers that dress as Otto; this team contains a mix of personalities and genders. As of 2023, over 100 Syracuse students have taken on the role of Otto,[12][7] and 2023-24 featured an all-women cast for the first time in Syracuse history.[17] Similar body builds are required so not one Otto stands out; performers need to be the desired height of 5 feet and 10 inches. The orange costume weighs about 10 pounds,[7] and stunts, dances, gestures and general movement are all practiced and routinized. The Ottos take turns attending events. Otto will never be in two places at once, preserving the magic of the mascot; if there are two sporting events happening at the same time, Otto's appearances will be split between the two events.[18] In the 2022-23 school year, Otto appeared at over 800 on-campus and off-campus events – an increase of 100 than in 2019.[19]

Social media


In general, most of Otto’s social media activity happens through pictures and videos. Additionally, he frequently retweets or shares other University pages in order to promote sports games, events such as the career fair, and instilling pride in SU fans. Mascot Hall of Fame describes Otto as energetic and enthusiastic, friendly and approachable, and mischievous and curious.[12]

Otto has appeared in multiple This is SportsCenter commercials.[20][21]


  1. ^ a b c d e Case, Dick (1 January 1997). "Mascot Memories". Syracuse University Magazine. 13 (3). Syracuse University: 38–41. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Webb, Donnie (31 May 2004). "Origins of Orange: Colors, nicknames and mascots of Syracuse sports over the years (from the archive)". Syracuse Post-Standard. Retrieved 6 March 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d Syracuse University Athletics. "SU's Mascot". Retrieved 15 November 2009.
  4. ^ a b c "150 Years Timeline". Syracuse University. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  5. ^ Croyle, Johnathan (2017-11-10). "Evolution of Syracuse University's Otto the Orange (vintage photos)". Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  6. ^ a b c Boghosian, Alison (7 June 2016). "ESPN ranks Otto the Orange No. 1 mascot in the ACC". The Daily Orange. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  7. ^ a b c Cox, Jay (10 August 2023). "14 Fun Facts about the Orange's Hall of Famer Mascot". Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  8. ^ Messinger, Mitch (2007-04-02). "Letter to the editor: 'Otto the Orange' coined in 1992". Daily Orange. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
  9. ^ "Syracuse's Otto the Orange ranked No. 8 best mascot in college football". The Daily Orange - The Independent Student Newspaper of Syracuse, New York. 2016-09-07. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  10. ^ Axe, Brent (2016-09-06). "Sports Illustrated ranks Otto the Orange as a Top 10 mascot in college football". Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  11. ^ Adelson, Andrea (6 June 2016). "College football roundtable: Best mascots". ESPN. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  12. ^ a b c "Otto the Orange | Mascot Hall of Fame". Mascot Hall of Fame. 16 February 2023. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  13. ^ Weber, Christine (24 June 2023). "Newest Hall of Fame Inductee at Syracuse University: Otto the Orange". Syracuse University News. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  14. ^ Herbert, Geoff (5 January 2024). "Orange you glad? Syracuse mascot honored by Bobblehead Hall of Fame". Syracuse Post-Standard. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  15. ^ Sklar, Phillip (March 1, 2017). "Exclusive Syracuse Orange 'Otto' Bobblehead Being Released". National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  16. ^ Jastrzembski, Chris (17 October 2017). "Syracuse lacrosse has a bobblehead". College Crosse. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  17. ^ Boehm, Rosina (25 March 2024). "For the first time in SU history, Otto the Orange is played by an all-women cast". The Daily Orange. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  18. ^ Kramer, Jeff (2017-03-15). "Otto Unpeeled: Revealing the super-secret life of SU's orange mascot". Syracuse New Times. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
  19. ^ Tagami, Megan (August 28, 2023). "Pay $300 an Hour to Have Your College Mascot Attend Your Wedding". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 February 2024.
  20. ^ Herbert, Geoff (30 December 2022). "Otto's nightmare: Syracuse mascot stars in new ESPN 'SportsCenter' ad (video)". Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  21. ^ "Otto, Syracuse's Orange Pays A Visit". 20 October 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2023.