The search for Stretch the Fighting Longneck, the former UCCS spirit symbol, is over.
Despite speculation that he may have taken a dark turn, it turns out Stretch spent his last few years surrounded by the sounds of young children going about their daily activities at the Family Development Center.
In response to calls for information about Stretch’s whereabouts, Ida Bauer, director, Family Development Center, shared that following Stretch’s retirement from campus athletic events, he came to live at the FDC. There, he spent most of his time in a closet within earshot of story time, nap time, lunch, art exploration and the other staples of a pre-kindergarten curriculum. After a few years, the closet was cleaned and Stretch, now full of holes and worn out, peacefully passed on.
“We are happy that Stretch spent his final days surrounded by future Mountain Lions at the FDC,” Jennifer Hane, director, Alumni Relations, and the leader of Stretch search, said. “After his years of service to UCCS and a peaceful passing of the torch to our new mascot – despite an obvious species conflict – we hope he rests in peace.”
When Stretch retired in 1997, there was speculation by some students that Stretch’s future was doomed and rumors that he was escorted by University Police from campus.
Stretch the Fighting Longneck was the UCCS spirit symbol (the only official mascot at the time was the Buffalo) from 1990 to 1997, according to Mary Rupp, archives librarian, Kraemer Family Library. The Mountain Lion became the official UCCS athletic mascot in 1999, though a costumed version did not appear until 2003.
According to legend, Stretch and the Longneckers athletic moniker were the brainchild of former Chancellor Dwayne Nuzum who was fascinated by giraffes and was a frequent observer of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s prized herd. Nuzum served CU for 38 years as a professor of architecture before his 2005 death.
Hane asked UCCS alumni, as well as members of the Retired Faculty and Staff Association, and the campus community for help in locating Stretch. That the search ended quickly wasn’t a disappointment for Hane. She heard interesting stories of Stretch’s activities from former students, including an alum who promised to share anecdotes from his time wearing the Stretch costume and trying to invigorate the commuter-based student body.
“The search sparked memories in a lot of people’s minds about the university’s past and how far it is has come,” Hane said. “Isn’t that what the 50th anniversary celebration is all about?”
— Photo courtesy University Archives