Wolfie: the growth of SBU’s mascot

Stony Brook University’s mascot, Wolfie the Seawolf, turned 20 years old this year. Stony Brook Athletics transitioned to Division I in the NCAA in 1994, and the name of the sports teams was changed from Patriots to Seawolves.

Today, Wolfie has a busy schedule. He can be found at anywhere from 300 to 500 events each year, according to Andrea Lebedinski, Coordinator of Annual Giving and Branding for Stony Brook Athletics. Lebedinski, who graduated from Stony Brook University in 2008 as an undergraduate and again in 2010 with a master’s degree, has managed Wolfie for the past five years.

Ten years ago, when Lebedinski began attending Stony Brook, Wolfie had a scarce presence. Wolfie would only make a handful of appearances per year, at major events such as Homecoming or championship games.

“I saw that Wolfie was an under-utilized representation of what we are about here at Stony Brook,” said Lebedinski. “For me that was a big thing. I’ve always been into school spirit.”

As an undergraduate, Lebedinski was a student assistant for Stony Brook Athletics and a member of the Dance Team.  “So I took him under my wing and helped create what you see now as the character,” Lebedinski said.

When Lebedinski began the job to improve the use of Wolfie in 2009, there was one student employed as the mascot. The one Wolfie at that time was Chris Murray, who is now the Director of Marketing for Stony Brook Athletics. Murray, a 2010 Stony Brook graduate, is responsible for creating all of Wolfie’s mannerisms, such as the the character’s hand gestures, walking style, and dance moves. “You see at games that Wolfie does specific things that are same all the time,” Lebedinski said, “and that is all Chris.”

Today, to accommodate the numerous requests for Wolfie’s appearance, there are fourteen students employed as the mascot. For football and basketball games, at least two students take turns being out in the costume to energize the crowd and cheer on the Seawolves.

The identity of the students employed as Wolfie is kept secret, though the rule is slack for students who are close to graduation. Jared Reed, a graduate student at Stony Brook University’s School of Professional Development, has been Wolfie since the spring term of his sophomore year. Reed, a former member of the marching band, was one of four Wolfies when he was hired. The Wolfie staff doubled one semester later, and kept growing to the current roster of fourteen.

Reed was Wolfie for the last two Roth Regattas. Reed said his favorite experience as Wolfie was participating in Dancing with the SBU Stars. “The last two years I’ve teamed up with a member on the dance team and learned a dance that we performed,” said Reed. “It was a lot of work, but it was really fun and really rewarding.”

The idea for Wolfie to do dance routines started with Chris Murray, according to Lebedinski. “What was great about Chris was he was always creative,” said Lebedinski. “He would come to me the day of a game and say ‘I’ve got this really good dance skit I want to do,’ and we’d get costumes and all that fun stuff.”

Reed has memories of Murray doing dance skits to songs by Michael Jackson and MC Hammer. “In terms of spirit, especially during basketball games, he sets the precedent,” said Reed.

Murray’s efforts to make Wolfie a fun character brought attention to the mascot that was previously only seen at select games. “It was fun for me to listen to people talk about Wolfie,” said Murray. “If I was somewhere on campus, and I’d hear [someone talk about Wolfie], I’d smile a little bit because they didn’t realize I was right there in the room.”

The dedication of Lebedinski and Murray in enlivening Wolfie has had a positive effect on the mascot’s popularity. The mascot is now not only at all football and basketball games, but is requested to be at hundreds of events each semester.

“We have reached a point where Wolfie is recognized and people associate Wolfie with Stony Brook,” Lebedinski said.

Lebedinski’s job is not limited to keeping track of Wolfie. As Coordinator of Annual Giving and Branding, Lebedinski assists with fundraising campaigns, community outreach, and alumni relations.

Murray’s current job is to create entertaining ways to make athletics games enjoyable for students and the local community. It is not much different from what he did as a student Wolfie. Murray has always thought “How can we make our game days even better?”

The first idea that got a big reaction was for Wolfie to perform “Thriller” with the dance team. “We did it and the crowd went bonkers,” Murray said. “And we said ‘we gotta keep doing this kind of stuff.’ So every year it has become about how we can top the year before.”

The gray-bodied wolf with the red hat, jersey, shorts, and shoes has become the center of Stony Brook University’s spirit and pride. Wolfie has become the defining symbol of the school, and it was accomplished by students. It started with the creativity of Murray and dedication of Lebedinski, and continues today with Reed and all the other Wolfies that in some way brings a unique quality to the character.

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