Many symbols represent Tech to its students and the world at large, but none as well as our favorite black-and-yellow striped Buzz. Our loveable mascot resembles an anthropomorphized yellow jacket, complete with white gloves and stylish black Converse high tops.
Back in the 1890s, the term “yellow jackets” was used to describe Tech’s fans, who would literally wear yellow jackets to sporting events. On October 29, 1905, Coach John Heisman told the Atlanta Constitution to refer to Tech’s teams as the Yellow Jackets instead of the variety of names they’d gone by before, which included “Blacksmiths,” “Techity Techs” and “Tech Boys.”
Buzz as we know him today is a relatively recent development, though. According to a 2004 letter to the editor in the Alumni Association’s Tech Topics magazine, Judi McNair was the original inventor of Buzz. In 1972, she donned a homemade yellow jacket costume and performed at “a couple of the home football games,” rode on the Ramblin’ Wreck and was in the 1972 Blueprint.
Apparently without knowledge of Judi McNair’s costume or experience, another student performed a similar feat a few years later. In 1979, Richie Bland paid $1,400 to a costume designer at Six Flags to make a yellow jacket costume. The first appearance of this new-and more expensive-Buzz was at a pep rally before the Tennessee game that year. Bland didn’t ask anyone for permission, but he managed to get away from security and ran onto the football field; most people assumed it was just part of the act. By the following spring, Buzz was part of the cheerleading team and the school’s official (human) mascot.
In 1981 Bland passed on his Buzz duties to his friend Jeff Cooper, who invented the process to audition potential Buzzes and recruited a second Buzz because “there was so much to do.”
Other traditions have developed since then. The current Buzz does pushups at football games, one for every point scored by Tech. Buzz is also known for the “Buzz Flip,” a front flip sometimes considered to be his trademark move. Buzz has parachuted onto the field before, and conducts the Tech band for the Budweiser song.
In 1985, Buzz inspired the now-familiar Buzz logo, initially designed by Mike Lester. There have been a few disputes involving the name and logo since then. The most notable of these came when Tech and the Salt Lake Buzz, a minor league baseball team in the Pacific Coast League, were engaged in a trademark dispute from 1996 to 2001. In the end, the courts declared Tech the winner, ordered the Salt Lake Buzz to use a different name and awarded Tech $600,000.
Buzz has also participated in numerous mascot competitions, with some interesting results. After Sports Illustrated (SI) named UGA IV America’s best collegiate mascot in 1997, Access Atlanta (an online arm of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) created a poll to verify SI’s results. A student posted about the poll on Tech’s newsgroups, and several students worked to make sure Buzz won this time. In the end, Buzz reigned supreme with 162,297 of 243,080 votes, while UGA IV was left in the dust with a mere 9,091 votes.
The 1997 Technique joked that “some Bulldogs must have voted for Buzz.” Tech’s winged mascot has also competed in the Capital One Mascot Challenge, earning around 500,000 votes and tying with seven other mascots for fifth place. In 2004 and 2006, Buzz placed second in the Mascot National Competition in Daytona, Florida.
Buzz may not be as old as the Ramblin’ Wreck, but he’s every bit as much of a mascot and one of Tech’s most nationally known traditions. Whether he’s crowd-surfing over the SWARM or riding in his ramblin’ go-cart, everybody loves Buzz.