Unmasking the Mascot: AJ the Bronc

by Christian McCarville

It is unlikely for one to attend a school event without seeing a person in an animal-like costume jumping around and getting the crowd excited. The mascot of a college or university is commonly the face of the school and, in many cases, implemented in how the school brands itself. 

At Rider, it is no secret that the school brands itself as “the Broncs.” However, this was not always the case. 

Back in 1929, when the school was known as Rider College, athletics were first introduced under the first Director of Athletics Clair F. Bee. Needing a catchy name for these athletic teams, Bee came up with the Roughriders.

Rider’s athletic teams were known as the “Roughriders” until 1955 when it was renamed to “the Broncs.” This resulted in the creation of Rider’s current mascot, the lovable AJ the Bronc.

“AJ the Bronc is an important part of Rider University,” said Associate Director of Athletics for External Operations and Development Karin Torchia. “He’s a recognizable figure not only for our Division I athletics teams, but also for the university as a whole.”

While AJ the Bronc is a very recognized name on campus, the Bronc went nameless for almost six decades. In 2016, Rider held a contest to name the Bronc, open to all faculty, staff, students and alumni.

The names AJ, Andy, Blaze, Brock and Rowdy made it to the final five. AJ eventually became the official name of the Bronc, as it was an homage to Rider’s first president Andrew J. Rider. 

AJ the Bronc does not appear exclusively at sporting events, as he can be seen at many locations and events all over campus. There are different variations of the AJ the Bronc costume that are worn by different people on various occasions.

The Office of Admissions frequently has select students being AJ the Bronc and embodying the mascot for events such as Admitted Student Day and open houses. 

Sophomore arts administration major Ethan Manton has worn the AJ the Bronc costume on multiple occasions for the Office of Admissions. 

“I feel like a completely different person when I’m in the suit, almost like a superhero. That being said, with great power comes great responsibility,” said Manton.

Sophomore accounting major Cory Mayo has also had the opportunity to be AJ the Bronc. 

“It gives me a new identity when I put the outfit on. It helps express a side of me that can be difficult to show as myself,” said Mayo. “It’s a responsibility I accept to represent the university. Anything I can do to help boost the school’s reputation, I am all for.”

Rider’s basketball games are where AJ the Broncs shines, as he encourages the crowd to get on their feet and support the team to victory. AJ also occasionally delivers entertaining half time show performances to keep the energy and momentum going between halves. 

AJ the Bronc is present for the home games of many sports, assisting in boosting team morale and energy from the crowd. 

“Mascots are a great way to bring the various teams and the fans attending an event together and AJ often performs during games and gets the crowd excited.”

The Bronc has also competed in various competitions against other school mascots. These mascot competitions are typically held during the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) basketball championships. Seeing AJ the Bronc go head to head with the mascots of rival universities can instill a feeling of pride among fellow Broncs.

“AJ stands out from other mascots in many ways, but mostly for his indomitable spirit and his uniqueness as Rider is the only school in the NCAA Division I (and probably all of the NCAA) with “Broncs” as the school mascot name.  Therefore, AJ is one of a kind,” said Torchia.

Whether he is seen at a sporting event or an Admitted Student Day, AJ the Bronc always brings a high level of energy and school pride that makes him hard to dislike. He has been the face of Rider since 1955, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Published in 2/26/20 edition

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