Visitors to SUNY Buffalo State’s campus are being welcomed by two new greeters—a pair of larger-than-life-sized Bengal tigers statues.
Unveiled to coincide with the arrival of the fall 2013 semester, the statues can be found in two well-trafficked, outdoor campus locations: the Student Union Quad and outside of the Sports Arena.
“I’ve always felt that our students, alumni, faculty, and staff, deserved an inspiring campus landmark that conveys what it means to be a Buffalo State Bengal,” said Susanne Bair, vice president for institutional advancement.
Designed by the Randolph Rose Company, each 8-by-5-foot sculpture weighs in at approximately 450 pounds, is cast in highly detailed bronze, and depicts an advancing Bengal tiger—the college’s mascot—with head raised in mid-roar.
History of the Bengal Mascot
In 1969, a campus-wide contest was held to find a new name and mascot for Buffalo State’s sports teams. Until then, the college’s teams were called the "Orange" or the "Orangemen," derived from the college's official colors of orange and black.
On December 1, 1969, the Buffalo State "Orangemen" men's basketball team opened its regular season against Toronto University. At halftime, the new team name was announced, and Buffalo State returned from the locker room for the second half as the "Bengals."
The Bengal mascot has been a familiar presence on campus ever since—rallying the crowds at homecoming games, marching in parades, even starring in its own holiday video.
The Bengal Logo
Student Susan Salazar was the winning artist and designer of the Buffalo State Athletics logo in 1969. The logo design incorporated the school name into the body of a bengal tiger.
That symbol was used by the athletics department for 30 years until a new logo was designed in 2002. In that same year, Buffalo State made the "Bengals" the official name for all of its varsity athletic teams.
What’s in a Name?
Believe it or not, the Bengal only recently adopted an official name. In 2012, the college ran a “Name the Bengal” poll on Facebook drawing hundreds of votes. The moniker “Benji” beat out such submissions as “Barry,” “Paws,” and “Rockwell,” to name a few.
The Bengal has recently earned some new stripes—so to speak. The costume’s design has changed several times over the decades, with the most recent look being in use since 1995.
Last year, the long-familiar Bengals costume was retired in favor of a new, updated look. Gone were the costume’s soft features and gentle look, replaced by a fierce stare of determination and bold set of jaws.
“The old costume served us well, but Benji needed a nip and tuck,” said Tom Koller, senior associate athletics director. “I’m pleased to say that the overwhelming response from fans has been very positive.”
The new tiger statues join two other iconic figures on campus—the lion sculptures located near Rockwell Hall—bringing the college’s pantherinae posse up to four. Many other large-scale monuments created by regional, national, and international artists are featured around campus.
The arrival of the statues marks the continuation of an exciting period of growth and development at Buffalo State and will undoubtedly lead to new traditions for the campus community.
“I can’t help but smile thinking about all of the photos that will be taken next to one of the statues in the future,” said Bair. “Whether it is a prospective student on their first campus tour, a group of graduates in their caps and gowns, or a collection of our alumni returning to campus for the first time in years. It is a great day to be a Bengal!”
Special thanks to Dave Meinzer, USG Press Services Director, for archival Bengal photos.