A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 24, 2004
Violets, Bobcats (NYU teams)
NYU has a sports symbol from...a library catalog?

History of the Bobcat

For more than 100 years, New York University athletes have worn the distinctive violet and white colors that were derived from the violets that grew under the shade of the trees in Washington Square Park. While some questioned the resulting nickname-The Violets-because it lacked the aggressive, competitive connotation that goes along with sport, generation after generation of NYU athletes have carried the Violets name with pride and distinction into the arenas and onto the playing fields of virtually every sport invented.

From time to time, campus groups have tried to change the nickname. Suggestions of Vikings, Vanguards, and Victors were just a few. Each of these attempts was met with a resounding "no" on behalf of the long-standing Violets tradition.

In 1984, something happened in a somewhat unlikely campus location that would ultimately address this decades-old dilemna. The Bobst Library began the process of computerizing its catalog. To lead students and faculty through the new system, a Bobst Catalog character was derived to instruct users on how to prompt the new system. The Bobcat (from Bobst Library Catalog) was the character. Bobcat images appeared all over the library, in campus publications, and in many other campus locations. The Bobcat was a cartoon-cute and user-friendly.

Meantime, the athletic department had only a year earlier reinstated its men's varsity basketball program. With great fanfare, the department kicked off the reinstatement of the program in a game against CCNY at the Coles Center on November 26, 1983. In preparation for this contest, the Violets nickname was personified in the form of a walking, talking, acrobatic Violet. Clad in a skintight, green body suit; arms in the shape of green violet leaves; a necklace of large purple petals; and a purple face with yellow hair, the Violet was unveiled at a pep-rally right before the big game. The Violet served well. It was most amusing and was a good source of great entertainment for NYU fans. But in no way did this mascot instill any sense of awe or foreboding in our opponents.

Ultimately the time for executive action arrived. NYU president Dr. L. Jay Oliva directed that the Violets mascot be replaced by a new mascot-the Bobcat. The Bobcat would wear a violet uniform and even bear the name Violets. The original Bobcat was constructed in the NYU Tisch School of the Arts costume shop and looked like the cartoon character from the library. More important, the Bobcat came to represent the strong link between academic and athletic excellence that New York University was striving to develop through its athletic programs. How fitting it was the new mascot would arrive at Coles by way of the Bobst Library. It was also fitting that while our athletic teams had a new mascot, the nickname Violets had been preserved. It should also be noted that as late as 1920, the American lynx, or bobcat, was still seen occasionally roaming the remaining rural areas of Manhattan, Central Park, and much of the Bronx.

29 January 1892, New York Times, pg. 2:
"Gentlemen, lift up the banner of violet, and be proud of New-York University."

11 May 1902, New York Times, pg. 13:
Lehigh University's athletes were beaten by the sturdy representatives of New York University yesterday afternoon in the dual meet which took place on Ohio Field. The wearers of the "brown and white" took the honors in the sprints, half-mile and one-mile runs, and the violet of the New York University was in the van over the high and low hurdles, the wuarter-mile run, and in all the field events the local mean predominated.

4 March 1905, New York Times, pg. 10:
In a dual gymnastic meet at University Heights last night Lehigh was defeated by New York University by a score of 29 to 19. It was evident after the first few events that the Violet team would win out.

12 May 1920, New York Times, pf. 12:
Rutger's scarlet-clad athletes have won the title twice, while New York University's Violet contingent has annexed the championship once.

Posted by Barry Popik
Education/Schools • Wednesday, November 24, 2004 • Permalink

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