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    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Wuffing It Up

    NC State in 1946 was looking for a new nickname and mascot. Until then they were called the "Red Terrors.'" But the contest to find a new nickname — which offered six season passes for football as a prize — drew some rather uninspiring entries: The North Staters, the Cardinals, the Hornets, the Cultivators, the Cotton Pickers and the Pine-Rooters (a down-east name for pigs), the Auctioneers and the Calumets. The latter two were in reference to tobacco auctions that had been common for nearly 200 years in the state.

    In the end, there were more letters in support of retaining the Wolfpack nickname than anything else, which inspired a mechanical engineering student named Ira Helms to build a seven-foot tall mechanical robot with size 16 feet and a 120-inch chest. It was hollow inside and Helms climbed inside the contraption for the 1946 football game between NC State and Wake Forest.

    It was so hot that Helms refused to climb inside again, but the mascot was considered a lucky charm during the team’s 8-2 regular season, which earned the school its first bowl bid. The Wolfpack lost to Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl, 34-13, with the mechanical wolf in attendance. But it was retired after the season.

    All athletic teams adopted the nickname “Wolfpack” in 1947 and cheerleaders continued to use live wolves, nicknamed “Lobo,” when they could be found, as mascots for football. In 1966, a new wolf, Lobo III, was purchased to commemorate the opening of Carter Stadium.

    However, following the season, an NC State zoology professor named Fred Barkalow discovered that Lobo III was actually a coyote, not a wolf. In the fall of 1967, the Wolfpack was called the “Kool Kyoties,” a name that was popularized by Sports Illustrated following the Wolfpack’s stunning upset of No. 2-ranked Houston.

    Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, however, the cheerleading team also used a student in a wolf costume to rally the crowds at football and basketball games. He was called “Mr. Wuf.” When the school added women’s athletics in 1975, a female wolf mascot was introduced as well. She was called “Ms. Wuf.”

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