School spirit rally introduces Concord’s new mascot Grizz

Concord High officially transitioned to the Bears as the new school nickname with a spirit rally in Don Lockyer Gymnasium and unveiled its new mascot Grizz, who celebrated his birthday on Feb. 2 in front of packed bleachers. Grizz wears the No. 66 signifying 1966 when the school opened. (Jay Bedecarré photos)

CONCORD, CA (Feb. 15, 2024) — Concord High School officially changed its nickname from the Minutemen to the Bears at a school spirit rally in Don Lockyer Gymnasium highlighted by the introduction of new mascot Grizz celebrating his birthday of Feb. 2.

The mascot honors the extinct California grizzly bear wearing a Concord High uniform No. 66, symbolizing 1966 when the school opened. Of course, that is also when the school adopted the nickname Minutemen in honor of the men who formed the Minutemen militia in Concord, Massachusetts as the American Revolution was beginning in 1775.

The controversial decision by the Mt. Diablo Unified School District’s governing board to change the nickname to Bears—a name selected in a student vote last school year—followed on the heels of Ygnacio Valley High changing from the Warriors to the Wolves a year earlier.

The only controversy noticeable during the school rally was in the several competitions between the four grades with freshmen and sophomores in different sections of the packed gym and the junior and senior classes splitting the larger bleachers.

Rally Commissioners Keira Molina and Brennen Pangilinan kept the action moving during the 45-minute rally before Grizz made an appearance along with student athletes modeling a variety of the new team Bears uniforms in the school’s traditional green and gold colors.

School board members Linda Mayo, Cherise Khaund and Keisha Nzewi had center court seats for the festivities. Last August the school board approved the change in a 4-1 vote, ending 57 years with Minutemen as the school nickname in order to make the school “more welcoming and inclusive” to its students.

At that meeting several alumni spoke before the board vote, all in opposition to the change. One of those speakers mentioned that of 2400 comments on the issue in an online forum there was not one comment in favor of the change.

Expensive rebranding cost

Just as they did for the Ygnacio Valley High rebranding, the Mt. Diablo board approved up to $200,000 to pay the estimated cost to remove all vestiges of the school’s Minutemen mascot name and image and produce new Bear identity on campus. This includes uniforms and school SWAG, the gymnasium floor, scoreboards, football/soccer turf field, Concord Boulevard school marquee and staff parking signs.

Given the timing to implement the design and production of uniforms and the Feb. 2 unveiling date, Concord High winter sports teams generally decided to finish their seasons in Minuteman uniforms. Athletic Director Matt Harrod says spring sports teams such as baseball, softball and track and field will be in brand new Bears gear.

He says the football/soccer stadium scoreboard does not have Minutemen on it and “Minutemen” in the artificial turf end zone will be changed “when it reaches the end of its life cycle.” The gym floor will be rebranded this summer.

Harrod also said, “Scoreboard quotes are in, and we are in the process of choosing a vendor and getting it approved by the district. We hope to have the scoreboards [baseball, softball and gymnasium] done by the end of March.” The school marquee on Concord Blvd. is on the same timeline.

Changing times

Former Concord High principal Rianne Pfaltzgraff during the 2019-20 school year stated she had a discussion with some of her teachers when the idea was brought up that “Minutemen” refers to only one gender and the symbol holding a rifle is not reflective of the school in the third decade of the 21st Century.

The students voted to change to Crocodiles at the end of the 2021-22 school year, just before Pfaltzgraff left for an administrative position in another district. New principal Julene MacKinnon revisited the subject with district officials during her first year in 2022-23 and last spring the students held elections to select a new nickname.

After a process of elimination, mascot name suggestions were whittled down to 10 in the first vote and then five during the second. From that second vote the three finalists were Bears, Crocodiles and Chargers (Lightning Bolts like the San Diego Charger NFL team). Bears won the final tally with 38.2% of the 500 votes with Crocs and Chargers essentially tied for second.

The school board ratified the change last August.

Ygnacio Valley principal lauds change

Ygnacio Valley switched from Warriors to the Wolves a year earlier. Warriors had been tied to Ygnacio Valley since the Concord school opened in 1962.

Principal Jonathan Pike, who underwent similar mascot changes at two previous high schools, says that the transition to Wolves “has completely turned around and transformed school culture and climate. Students are connecting to school with a new sense of pride.”

In speaking of his school’s rebranding beginning with the 2022-23 school year, Pike said, “We were given an approximate budget of $180,000. We did not use the full amount. The primary expense was athletic uniforms. It took about 12-14 months for most things; the football end zones just got done and the track painting is the only thing left.”

Jay Bedecarré
Jay Bedecarré
Sports and Schools Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer | | Website

Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.