WHY CENTAUR? (Part1): Mascot in the Making

Posted on Oct 19, 2012

You’ve heard this before, and you will again: Back when Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales was barely more than constructions sites in a cornfield, the place was making it up as it went along. Every. Single. Day.

And then in the fall of 1967 there came the day to make a mascot.

Enter the Centaur. But why a Centaur?

A show of hands, please, if you know that a Centaur is …

Some sort of half-man, half-beast creature.

I see many hands.

Another show of hands, please, if you know that a Centaur is maybe said to be …

… the son of Apollo and Stilbe … … or the son of Ixion, who got together with the mares of Magnesian … … or the son of Centaurus (himself the son of Apollo).

Fewer hands.

So, another show of hands, please, if you know … … that Centaurs lived in the mountains of Thessaly and Arcadia … … that Centaurs got into it with the Lapiths over Pirithous’s bride, whom Centaurs tried to kidnap … … that when Centaurs fight, said altercation is known as a “centauromachy.”

Not. Many. Hands.

Sorry, not finished with this Internet research mash-up.

Did you know that … …Centaurs are often depicted on ancient artifacts as drawing the chariot for the wine god Dionysus … … and/or as being tied up and/or ridden by the god of love himself, Eros … … and/or can be, and likely have been, variously described as hedonistic, profligate, dissolute, lustful, rakish and orgiastic, not to mention vulgar, wanton, fornicative, concupiscent, unbridled, beastly and, more than likely, hircine… … and also known for not being able to hold their liquor, as if THAT surprises!

Perhaps Keats more lyrically described it:

She might, so noble from head

To great shapely knees …

… been fit spoil for a Centaur

Drunk with unmixed wine. 

Or maybe Keats didn’t. (Seriously: “Fit spoil for a Centaur”?)

All of which more or less explains why in the Year A.D. 2000, when Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales changed its name to DeSales University, this small, liberal arts, Catholic co-educational institution also decided that in the competitive enviroment that is today’s higher education marketplace, a mascot with an ancient reputation for deflowering virgins wasn’t exactly — how does one say? – ideal.  Thus was the Centaur banished. Replaced by the bulldog. A French bulldog, no less, in a tip of the beret to the patron, Francis de Sales

What all of the above does NOT explain, however, is “why a Centaur?” in the first place.

To muddle matters more, in August 1972 torrential rains morphed into a flood that engulfed De Sales Hall, at the time the school’s all-everything building, including the library. If documents chronicling the Centaur Creation Myth ever once existed (and who knows that answer?), they were wiped forever from the face of the Earth in a wrathful act by God himself.

Or something. Sorry, but the Biblical imagery is irresistable.

Anyway, here’s what I think I know.

In the fall of ’67 Allentown was taking its first tentative steps into varsity athletic competition, first with cross-country harriers, then with a hoops five.

A mascot, we need a mascot!

CENTAUR won out in a college-wide vote over the A.C. Alley Cat and the A.C. Spark Plug.

(A word on the losers. The alliterative A.C. Alley Cat wouldn’t have passed muster. I’m told the school president associated “Alley Cat” with other such terms as “Lady of the Evening” and “Fallen Woman.” A.C. Spark Plug, on the other hand, would’ve been a fabulous bit of cross-promotional product placement decades ahead of its time.)

But why a Centaur?

Here’s what you’re thinking. Dude, we’re talking the Sixties, man. Free-looove, baby!  Some horndogs at an all-male school got one over on the administration with a tiny tough of talismanic tomfoolery. Good on them!

Hard to argue. Consider this headline in the school newspaper from December 1967:




But no.

So why a Centaur?

Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales isn’t actually IN Allentown, Pennsylvania. No, it’s a couple of miles south, in Center Valley.

CenTER Valley. CenTAUR Valley. That’s it.

Seriously. I mean, beyond knowing that a Centaur is half-man-half beast, the students at the college didn’t know much of the rest of it. Just like you didn’t.  But embrace it they did, from the get-go.

Unconfirmed legend has it that Ron Scarcelli (’74) – student, artist, one-time Golden Gloves boxing champ and then an Oblate seminarian — put pencil to paper and brought forth the primordial Centaur.

The rest is history, if not mythology.

So. Why a Centaur? Why NOT a Centaur?

At least that’s the story. And I’m sticking to it.

On October 19th, 2012 at 9:57 am, Turtle said:

Oh contraire mon frère!!
It was Don Signorovitch (’70 & Bishop Kendrick ’66), who was in fact, the artist.

On October 25th, 2012 at 7:29 am, Steve McKee: Centaur Season said:

[…] WHY CENTAUR? (Part1): Mascot in the Making […]


Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS: A ‘memory blog’ of the basketball beginnings of a half-good, half-bad, all-new college team.

Once, I was a Centaur.

I played basketball for Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley, Pa. I was on four of the school’s first seven teams, was MVP senior year and in 1974 graduated in the fifth class.

My junior year I kept a diary: A History of the Events of the 1972-1973 Allentown College B-Ball Season, as Chronicled by, and With the Personal Memoirs + Occassional [sic] Philosophizing of the Author, One Stephen J. McKee.  One-hundred-forty-five hand-writ pages. (Yes, I was an English major.)

But it occurs to me now: Were I today a “Bulldog” playing for “DeSales University” (both mascot and name changed in 2000), my private “History” would be not a diary but a blog.

So starting November 30  “…Personal Memoirs…” will be re-imagined as CENTAUR SEASONS

A blog before its time, posted 40 years after in real time.

Meanwhile, beginning on September 24, here at CENTAUR SEASONS the preseason has already tipped off, with stories, interviews and reminiscences of the people, the place and the purpose of those early years of Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.

Check back often. Sign up for CentaurSeasonAlerts. Email CENTAUR SEASONS to friends.

We were not a bad team, we Centaurs. We just weren’t very good. Winning was always the goal, if never exactly the point. How could it be, with victories so few?

Back then Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales was a couple of buildings in some cornfields.  Our commitment to the school’s basketball program was far greater than was the school’s commitment us. So what? We got to play college ball – and paid for the privilege! In return, we got to be part of a team, wear the red and blue, be Centaurs. And we got to create a place that was, right then, as much concept as it was college, making itself up as we went along.

What we got was a once-in-a-life-time chance.

All we had to do was keep showing up -- next practice, next game, next season. And so we did.