What exactly is a Titan? “Why do you have an elephant for your mascot?”
Those are two of the first questions that arise when a Cal State Fullerton athletic team makes its inaugural visit to an area. While the relatively young institution carved out of the Orange County citrus groves may be too new for many traditions, there are some recognized legends.
“It was the students’ decision in a vote,” explained Dr. Ernest Becker, founding Dean of Students, of the nickname “Titans.” “More than a hundred names were suggested, and the Student Council took on the job of narrowing the list down to a few for the purposes of an election. The vote was close, with Titans narrowly prevailing over Aardvarks and Rebels.”
It was a unique student body, all upper division students until 1963. There were 453 of them, mostly female, in 1959, the first year of classes at what was then known as Orange County State College.
“Even when it was decided that ‘Titans’ would be the nickname, there was confusion as to what it represented,” said Becker. “I was thinking of a large mythological figure from Greek history, not unlike Tommy Trojan, but with perhaps straighter, more modern lines. In the same vein, the original dormitories were named Othrys Hall. There were others, however, who related the name to the Titan missile then in prominence.”
Nothing official was done but then along came the “First Intercollegiate Elephant Race in Human History.”
What began as a practical joke attracted elephants from universities around the nation and even Oxford from England. A crowd estimated at more than 10,000 people turned out on “Dumbo Downs” as the hastily graded field became known that spring afternoon in 1962.
To publicize the event, a circus-like elephant called Tuffy the Titan was used and it began appearing on sweaters and notebook covers around the campus. With no other mascot, the elephant was unofficially adopted. Several revisions of the caricature have been made to create a more tenacious Tuffy, or Titus as he also was called in an attempt to make him Greek. The costume that brings the mascot to life also has changed. Tuffy even attracted a female Tiffy in 1992.
The origin of the school colors also bears discussion. The students voted for royal blue and white, but the athletic equipment manager at the time thought orange was appropriate on uniforms for a school known as Orange County State College. The unofficial color was “adopted” and finally was formally acknowledged by the Athletics Council in 1987. A change to a navy blue was initiated in 1992 with a de-emphasis of the orange.