The Sea and the Sword

When imagining a college mascot, eagles, tigers or lions usually come to mind.

They are the most common mascots used by schools in the U.S. because they are often seen as intimidating and ferocious.

Then why a dolphin for SCC?

What if I told you our team was actually known as the Shoreline Samurai from 1965 until 1992? Stick with me; I am not joking.

Samurai were Japanese military nobility who came to power in the 12th century. The college board picked the samurai as the mascot when the school was opened in honor of the school’s Japanese-style architecture.

So again, why a dolphin after 27 years of being samurai?

The original mascot was a caricature of a sword-wielding warrior with a funny face and hairy legs. In 1987, students and faculty raised the question of whether this was a disrespectful portrayal of a traditionally honorable figure in Japanese culture.

Objection to the mascot continued for four years until the symbol was removed from the school’s products and “samurai” was dropped from the faculty newsletter in 1991. A mascot suggestion contest opened for students to join and get a chance to win a $300 prize.

A letter to the Ebbtide in 1992 by Michael Orders, the chair of the mascot-changing committee, said the samurai had “the potential of being offensive and demeaning.” Therefore choosing a non-human mascot would reduce the chance of offending any members of the school.

The Ebbtide published an opinion article that disagreed with this decision. It said the term “samurai” actually applied to all members of the warrior class of medieval Japan, which meant it was just the same as Scandinavian vikings and European knights, both of which are used by sports teams and generally seen as acceptable mascots.

Students received ballots to choose one of three replacement mascots — sea lions, tsunamis or dolphins. Numerous articles and letters from students were printed in the Ebbtide protesting the proposed change and asking instead for a new samurai symbol that was respectful.

Students also led a protest saying they had never gotten to vote on changing the mascot in the first place. About 120 flyers supporting the “Samurai Write-In” were produced by Ebbtide staffers and posted around the campus, but they were torn down by a member of the Student Body Association (precursor to the ASG).

In the end, the dolphin won with only three percent more votes than the write-in votes for the samurai.  

Meanwhile, the Ebbtide filed a complaint letter regarding 10 flaws and violations of election rules in the election, such as the improper conduct of poll workers pushing their support of the dolphin. Yet it didn’t stop the administration from approving the election results.

The college’s Board of Trustees then adopted a new policy saying that an SCC mascot “must be in good taste and must be free of direct or indirect reference to any racial, ethnic or religious group of people.” (The policy was eliminated this past April because of its redundancy caused by another college policy.)

The mascot was officially changed to a dolphin in July of 1992. The “S” on sports uniforms no longer stood for “samurai” but “Shoreline.”

Throughout the years, there have been a couple of incidents advocating for the reinstatement of the Shoreline Samurai. In 2003, a contest for a new mascot drawing was held and Dolphie became the new mascot for all the SCC teams.

What about you? Are you now on the side of the Dolphins or the Samurai? Vote at our ongoing poll on the side of the web page at!

By Frances Hui,
Political Editor