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Michigan State University

Sparty History

The Original Sparty: 1955-1989

Old Sparty mascot helmet

The first mascot appeared in 1955 and was a papier-mâché Spartan head made by Theta Xi fraternity brothers Donald Pais, Kenneth Roberts and Don Bauer. The head was six feet tall and weighed more than 60 pounds. Fraternity brother Bill Clithero was a perfect fit for the larger-than-life mascot costume. This Sparty debuted at a Jenison Field House pep rally before the Notre Dame football game.

By the 1956 Rose Bowl Game, the papier-mâché head had been replaced by a fiberglass version that was thirty pounds lighter. In 1960, the MSU student government assumed responsibility for the head. Records from that time to 1981 provide no information on who portrayed Sparty or how many years the fiberglass head was used at sporting events.

Learn more about Cy Stewart who appeared as Sparty from 1959 to 1963 donning the 30-pound fiberglass head with pride for his university. Here is a link to a video interview with him.

The Current Sparty: 1982-Present

Sparty at a football game

In 1985, MSU Alumni Association Executive Director Chuck Webb attended an alumni directors’ conference. There he saw a “Bucky Badger” table tent produced by the University of Wisconsin. Webb brought a sample back to East Lansing and asked Alumni Association Graphic Designer Dave Giordan to create a Spartan version. Giordan was to draw a muscular Sparty in full body armor. Based on this design, Sparty table tents were produced for use at alumni events and became a treasured keepsake.

Early in 1989, a group came together to design and revamp the Sparty mascot. Research was conducted on Michigan State’s
mission, community and traditions. The result was an “approachable, fierce yet kind, man for all seasons” mascot. Sparty would reflect the university’s strength and character. To introduce MSU's new mascot, six billboards were positioned around East Lansing announcing his Spartan Stadium debut on September 16, 1989.

Since the current mascot was introduced in 1989, the MSU Alumni Office has had the honor of overseeing the Sparty Mascot Program.

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