PITTSBURG, Kans. — When you’re driving through town, the spirit of Pittsburg State University is pretty hard to miss. Gus the Gorilla has been the face of PSU for almost a century. Thursday, Gus the Gorilla is known as one of the NFL’s top college mascots, but back when Pitt State first opened as the “Auxiliary Manual Training Normal School” it was another story.
“For the first 20 years, we were called the ‘manuals’ or the ‘normals’ because we were a normal school, which is an old phrase for a teacher’s academy,” said Steven Cox, PSU Special Collections & University Archives Curator.
In fact, up until 1920, the term ‘gorilla’ wasn’t really a part of the Pitt State community. This all changed thanks to a group of students who began to gather at sporting events.
“They called themselves the Gorillas, not so much as a reference to the animal, but more a term that was used for a group of rowdy young men,” said Cox.
In 1925 the university officially adopted the gorilla as the mascot.
“The logo changed about every 10 to 15 years, sometimes with the changes of the name of the university. The earlier logos, the gorilla was almost a cartoon character, grinning, not really looking all that fearful, but you see the split-face gorilla now, that kind of shows a team that means business,” said Cox.
Over the years, Gus became an intricate part of the Pitt State community. He even started a family.
“There was a female Gus, they called her Gussie, that was popular for about 20 years. They had a baby at one point.”
To this day, Gus continues to remain popular, whether it’s right here in Pittsburg, or beyond.
“It’s in front of homes all over town, in front of businesses, and the stores.”
“There are even visitors from out of town that don’t even have a tie to the university, they know the uniqueness in the mascot, and they’ll pick up the college apparel as a souvenir from their time in Pittsburg,” said Steve Scott, Gorilla Country Owner.