One of the most famous mascots in college sports, the Saint Joseph’s Hawk has been flapping its wings for 57 years.
The Hawk, which celebrated its golden anniversary in 2005-06, is best known for staying in constant motion by flapping its wings throughout every basketball game and representing the Saint Joseph’s motto, “The Hawk Will Never Die.”
In 2014, the Hawk Mascot was named as the “Best College Basketball Tradition” by NCAA.com.
Jim Brennan originated the idea for a hawk as mascot during the 1954-55 season. Brennan, an ex-Marine and SJU cheerleader, at first wanted to secure an actual hawk, but later switched to the costume idea. The student government raised the 120 dollars needed to buy the initial costume, which Brennan donned for three years. He made his debut as the Hawk on January 4, 1956, a 69-56 win over La Salle at the Palestra. Since then, and including this season, a total of 34 SJU students, have donned the costume. The Hawk has not missed a men’s basketball game since that first season.
There have been two women to serve as the mascot – Sara Brennan in 2000-01 and Brienne Ryan in 2009-10.
In addition to the constant flapping, the Hawk is also recognized by its “flying” in figure eights around the court during timeouts. The constant motion, coupled with the scrappy play of the University’s athletic teams, helped to spawn the school’s familiar slogan “The Hawk Will Never Die!” A few years ago, ESPN used a “flap-o-meter” on the national telecast of a Saint Joseph’s game to estimate that the Hawk flaps its wings 3,500 times during a regulation game.
The Hawk is unique because it is one of the few mascots in the nation that travels to every game, and the student who holds the position gains a full scholarship. The student, who is selected through an interview process during the previous spring semester, also serves as a team manager for the men’s basketball team and travels with the squad.
The most decorated mascot in the country, The Hawk has garnered numerous accolades in its 50-year history. The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Street & Smith’s Basketball Yearbook and ESPN College Basketballmagazine have selected it as the nation’s top mascot. Eastern Basketball tabbed The Hawk as the Atlantic 10 Conference’s best mascot, while The Hawk won a “Best of Philly” award from Philadelphia Magazine in 2003-04. More recently, The Hawk was named as a nominee for induction into the 2008 Mascot Hall of Fame.
Saint Joseph’s athletic teams have been recognized with the nickname “Hawks” since 1929. At that time, the school’s yearbook editor, Charlie Dunn, initiated a contest among the student body for a symbol. More than 100 submissions were narrowed to two, with “Hawks” winning out over “Grenadiers” (World War I soldiers who specialized in tossing grenades) by a slim margin in the final vote. John Gallagher ’31, a catcher on the Saint Joseph’s baseball team, submitted the winning suggestion. He won a sweater with a special Saint Joseph’s monogram for selecting the winning name. According to the student annual, the name was appropriate because it typified “the fighting spirit of our crimson and gray athletes and it is suggestive of the aerial attack which has made our football team famous.” Ironically, football was discontinued at Saint Joseph’s following the 1939 season.
But it has been the connection with the storied tradition of the Saint Joseph’s men’s and women’s basketball programs that has given The Hawk mascot its prominence on the national level, making it one of the most recognized mascots in college athletics.