What is furry, yellow, stands about six feet tall and wears a lab coat?
To the students at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, it’s a Eutectic. To anyone else, it’s a total mystery.
The term “eutectic” was adopted as the nickname for the school’s athletic teams in 1993. Call it a bit of pharmacological whimsy that students proposed and voted for a name that describes the process of combining two solids to form a liquid.
Because a scientific process is a little hard to turn into a physical mascot, the school created a Eutectic creature, complete with a big head, bulging black eyes, wide grin, yellow body and white lab coat.
“It has no connection at all to what eutectic actually means, which makes it even more interesting,” says Tyler Edwards, a third-year student who has worn the Eutectic mascot suit at home basketball and volleyball games since going to tryouts on a dare. “Most people pretty much embrace the weirdness of it and love it.”
Edwards admits he had no idea what a Eutectic was when he arrived at the school.
“It’s not even an actual thing,” he says. “It’s just something they made up.”
Other schools can have their Eagles, Warriors or Spartans. The St. Louis College of Pharmacy, which has never won a national championship in any sport and has an entire student body (about 1,250) enrolled in a six-year pharmacy program, is the only one with the Eutectics nickname and a hard-to-define mascot that Edwards says looks “like a giant gremlin.”
“It’s just one of our fun, wacky things,” says Edwards. “We don’t have a whole lot to define us, so it’s kind of fun to have something creative and fun.”
The school also has a cheer that reflects its students’ droll (troll?) sense of humor and rhyming skill:
“Be a Eutectic!
Smack it down, reflect it!
Our scary pharmaceutic troll
Will smash you in his mortar bowl!”
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The Eutectics (pronounced you-tek-tiks) have nine teams, and play in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as a Division II member of the NAIA.
The school’s identity carries over to its gym, “The Pillbox,” where its basketball and volleyball teams play. Last year, the Eutectics also began an annual basketball series against the Albany (N.Y.) College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in which the winner gets the Apothecary Cup -- a trophy that features a large mortar and pestle.
Each year, too, the school plays Principia College of Illinois, a school for Christian Scientists.
“We always thought [it] was a bit ironic, since some people call us the pill pushers,” says Briana Hepfinger, the former athletic director at SLCOP who now serves as part-time sports information director.
Much of Hepfinger’s time is spent answering questions about the school’s nickname and mascot. Most incoming freshmen have no idea what a Eutectic is, she says, and neither do new coaches, opposing coaches and players, fans and parents. Current Athletic Director Jill Harter also constantly responds to questions about Eutectic and the mascot (which officially goes by the name of Mortarmer “Morty” McPestle).
“They’ll ask what is that, how do you pronounce it and what does it mean,” says Harter. “So I have kind of the standard spiel that I give visitors.”
A strange school nickname is nothing new for Harter, a former field hockey standout at Saint Louis University.
“I’m kind of used to the whole, ‘What’s a Billiken?’ thing, too, so I get it,” she says, laughing.
Whenever someone starts putting together a list of the most unusual nicknames in college sports, St. Louis College of Pharmacy gets a call. In 2009, Time magazine labeled the Eutectics as one of the 10 worst nicknames; this year, the nickname made the top 25 of the “Cheesiest Mascots” ranked by a snack foods company; it’s also been picked among the five “weirdest” nicknames and as the nation’s most esoteric nickname.
Before 1993, the school’s teams were known as the Volunteers and represented by a big purple dinosaur mascot named Rex (for Rx, of course).
“I think at one point the students decided they needed to upgrade that, partly because of the Barney issue, the purple dinosaur,” says Hepfinger. “They didn’t want to be associated with that. And then also the whole idea of a dinosaur being an aging [thing]. They kind of wanted to look like we were more modern, not being phased out like the dinosaurs were. …
“People just suggested names, and the Eutectic is what got the most votes.”
The mascot has been updated a couple of times, most recently in 2009 when the school held a “re-birthday party.” A new, fiercer logo was unveiled and the mascot went from being brown to yellow.
Now, says Hepfinger, “He looks more gremlinish.”
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This isn’t Notre Dame or Alabama. The athletic department is small, there’s no football program and, sometimes, a student has a conflict and can’t make it to a game to wear the mascot suit.
A few times, Harter has had to pinch-hit. She’s donned the costume and run out on the court incognito to lead cheers, stomp, clap and try to fire up the crowd.
“Only when I need to,” says the athletic director. Sometimes, she says, she does it because, “Quite frankly, I don’t think some of the fans know when they’re supposed to cheer.”
Most nights, it’s gone well. Once, it didn’t.
She was in the hot suit during a volleyball game and had unfastened the chin strap on the mascot’s head when she decided to sprint across the floor and do a belly slide.
“The head fell off,” says Harter. “So I thought I’d do a little army crawl, have my head covered with my hands until I got to the head. I don’t know how far that head flew, but it went, it just kept going and going apparently, so I looked up and finally I just had to get up, scoop it up. I was hoping people wouldn’t know it was me, but that was kind of a giveaway when I had to uncover my head to go pick up the mascot head.
“Luckily, it was mostly parents, and they thought it was funny, but I apparently horrified one or two small children. But the damage was not lasting, I guess.”