Commentary: The Long Beach State name crisis needs to end

Connor King, who is the man under the Prospector Pete mascot costume, pumps up the crowd at a Long Beach State men’s basketball game at Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, CA. on Thursday, January 9, 2014. (Photo by Sean Hiller/ Daily Breeze).
Connor King, who is the man under the Prospector Pete mascot costume, pumps up the crowd at a Long Beach State men’s basketball game at Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, CA. on Thursday, January 9, 2014. (Photo by Sean Hiller/ Daily Breeze).

Long Beach State University. Cal State University Long Beach. LBSU. CSULB. Los Angeles-Orange County State College. Long Beach State College. The 49ers. The Dirtbags. Black & Gold. The Beach.

Those are some of the many ways the third-largest Cal State University has referred to itself over the years, and President Jane Close Conoley is doing what she can to solve the branding issue at LBSU by listening.

A university-wide survey was distributed in February with different versions for different departments on campus. The athletic survey concentrated on the many names used on campus. Close Conoley has begun to implement the changes that facility, students, alumni and fans showed interest in making. However, nothing is permanent yet.

“It gives us a chance to find out what the audience out there wants to know about us,” Close Conoley said in an interview last month. “This is a test case. We’ll start rolling things out and see what the feedback is.”

New signage on campus and a reinvigoration of alumni engagement are the biggest parts of the “No Barriers” campaign launched last month. The survey was part of the campaign planning, and people might notice new “No Barriers” signs all around campus.

The first major changes after the survey are the names. According to an email sent out by the university executive team last month, the entire university is to be called Long Beach State for the foreseeable future, not Cal State Long Beach. Also, instead of the 49ers being the mascot, the LBSU teams will be referred to as The Beach.

“I was reading feedback from one of the journalism professors, who is actually an alum, and she said that when she was a student they were using us as a negative case study on branding in one of her marketing classes,” Close Conoley said. “That kind of hurt my feelings. This issue has been going on for a long time.”

She is right, and it needs to stop. This needs to be the last time we’re having this discussion because it doesn’t help anyone. It only weakens a brand when it’s changed every few years. LBSU fans could see the athletic department throw everything against the wall this season, including possible logo and color changes. So if you see something, say something. Close Conoley wants feedback now so she doesn’t have to hear it in the future.

Even before I was a student on campus, I’ve always known the school as Long Beach State because of athletics. The official name of the athletics program filed with the NCAA is Long Beach State. The official mascot is the 49ers.

“With the name issue, there’s certainly passionate people on both sides but most people don’t care,” Close Conoley said. “I want to be cautious about moving ahead. We have this whole academic year to field test.”

Long Beach State is the obvious choice when it comes to the name of the university. It has already worked with CSU schools in San Diego and Fresno. That’s a no brainer, in my opinion, but you can’t just say the name is now campus wide. This change needs to be followed with things like updated “LBSU” clothes at the Student Store. The “CSULB” problem won’t be solved until the university stops selling “CSULB Mom” sweatshirts.


As we all know, the mascot issue is much more convoluted. Dedicated readers will see that we don’t write The Beach in any article because 49ers is the official mascot, according to the NCAA. When and if it officially changes, we will too. But I don’t think it should.

The Beach is a great way for people familiar with the university to refer to it. Beyond that, it’s redundant. I understand LBSU is the only college in the country with the word “Beach” in it. But Long Beach State The Beach makes no sense. It also doesn’t make sense that the LBSU Sports Information Department hasn’t written “49ers” in their news releases for about two years. Every team is The Beach, and you can see how clunky those sentences can be because The Beach isn’t plural.

The 49ers mascot is an obvious mascot for a massive California university established in 1949. That makes sense. Officially changing it is unnecessary. Sure, there is a small group of people on campus who have a problem with Prospector Pete, but that isn’t even a real person.

The Alabama Crimson Tide “Roll Tide” chant is one of the most famous slogans in college sports, but that doesn’t have Alabama considering a name or mascot change. No one asks if you saw the Crimson Tide game. Go Beach is LBSU’s Roll Tide. It’s fine the way it is.

Obviously no one is immediately going to stop saying 49ers if the school officially changes the mascot. Changing it will only anger the donors who basically fund the athletics programs on campus. They know the school as 49ers, and to change that for a fresh start is cutting off a nose and two ears to save a face. What someone calls LBSU right now is probably going to be what they’ll be calling LBSU for the foreseeable future.

“We have a huge alumni base, and our goal is to get alumni engaged,” Close Conoley said. “About 3 percent of alumni are engaged with the university. That means donations, but it also means hiring and mentoring our students. We need to find out what they are looking for to increase their engagement.”

It should be the Long Beach State University 49ers. And that should be the end of it.

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About the Author

JJ Fiddler

JJ Fiddler is a sportswriter and videographer who has been covering the Long Beach-area sports world for multiple newspapers since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he adopted Long Beach as his home town and is a member of the Long Beach Century Club, where he is a two-time winner of the Keith Cordes Award for best promotion of the city through sports. Reach the author at or follow JJ on Twitter: @PTGazetteSports.