By Nicole Veenstra
One of the most recognizable faces on campus is furry and approximately five times the size of the average person’s. This face belongs to Rider’s mascot, the Bronc, and brings to mind five very basic questions: who, what, when, where and why?
Luckily for those who are wondering, all of these questions can be answered — except for one, “who is behind the mask?”
According to Karin Torchia, associate director of Aathletics for External Operations and Development, keeping the person within the costume a secret is “part of the mystique of the mascot.”
“The students in the suit always tell me, ‘I feel like I can do whatever I want because no one knows it’s me,’” she said. “It gives our students the ability to be a little more crazy.”
Although the Bronc is at the center of most school-sponsored activities, the individual responsible for its dance moves and high energy is not the only mystery. Where the original idea for the mascot — there is only one other college whose mascot is a Bronc, University of Texas-Pan American — came from is also relatively unknown.
Rider was first referred to as the “Rough Riders,” but after having difficulty writing the alliteration into headlines and stories, the media decided to shorten it to the Broncos because “a rough rider is a cowboy who rides on the back of a bucking bronco,” Torchia said. She added that Rider’s mascot went through its final name change when a typo brought it from “Bronco” to “Bronc.”
The identity behind Rider’s mascot does not seem to matter during games, however, and most fans will agree that the energy and excitement in the room intensifies with all of the Bronc’s spontaneous dance routines and use of props.
Breanne Pratt, a junior on Rider’s cheerleading squad, said that the Bronc brings something extra special to every event.
“[The Bronc’s] energy during the games while we cheer on the sidelines helps us because [it] gets the crowd pumped up and makes the games more fun,” she said.
Keenan Bailey, a junior on the dance team, agreed with Pratt, saying that personality makes the biggest difference.
“Someone who takes on the challenge of the Bronc has to be an energetic person who isn’t afraid to go for it,” he said. “They should be someone who cherishes Rider because [the Bronc is] a symbol for the university.”
Since the Bronc is such a recognizable symbol of Rider, changes need to be made every once in a while to keep it looking its best, which is something Donte Carty, graduate assistant for athletic marketing, knows plenty about.
Last year, the Bronc’s entire appearance was transformed from a worn-down steed to a “feisty horse” — a term the tour guides have been told to use when describing what a Bronc is to potential students and their parents, according to Torchia.
Carty was asked to take the reins of the project, deciding what the mascot was to look like and what company would bring the mascot he envisioned to life.
“It really wasn’t us wanting it, but us needing it,” he said about the change.
While the old suit can still be seen at certain community events, the brand new one is used at every athletic event — weather permitting.
New suit or old, however, it still comes with challenges, such as the heat — which has gone down slightly because of new ice packs and fans within the uniform — and weight of the costume. For that reason, high energy and a willingness to keep the Bronc’s permanent smile from seeming phony are necessary, no matter who is behind the mask.
Fortunately, the individuals who put on the suit have impressed fans of the Bronc, proving they are well fit for the job.
“The Bronc adds so much life to the dances and makes people laugh,” Bailey said. “When the Bronc and the dance team opened at Midnight MAACness I couldn’t help but yell and cheer.”