For more than 40 years, Syracuse University students have been suiting up as official mascot Otto the Orange. Those selected for the mascot team have the honor of spreading spirit and joy throughout the community—from “airplaning” in the stadium, to delighting local schoolchildren, to scootering across campus. They’re sworn to secrecy until the end of senior year, when their identities are officially revealed.
This year, five seniors were unveiled as the movers and shakers behind Otto’s ensemble: Marne Brown ’21, a communication and rhetorical studies major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts; Sarah Cossman ’21, an international relations major in the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences; Patrick Linehan ’21, a dual major in newspaper and online journalism at the Newhouse School and policy studies in the Maxwell School and Arts and Sciences; Caitlin Sanders ’21, a computer science major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science; and Ryan Spivey ’21, political science major in the Maxwell School and Arts and Sciences.
Meet the Ottos!
Marne Brown ’21
Sarah Cossman ’21
Patrick Linehan ’21
Caitlin Sanders ’21
Ryan Spivey ’21
Q&A With the Seniors
Now these seniors give us a peek behind the scenes at some of their favorite Otto traditions and adventures.
How has being Otto influenced your experience at Syracuse, and what does it mean to carry the Otto traditions forward?
Caitlin: As Otto, you are a part of something so much bigger than yourself—something that was there before you and will be there after you.
Marne: My favorite Otto traditions are those that involve our alumni network. The Otto team is a tight-knit bunch, so when past and present Ottos come together to share memories and experiences, it’s really something special.
Ryan: Being Otto is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You build a sense of pride for the people whose shoes you are walking in and set the example for future Ottos. As a transfer student, I wanted to become integrated at my new university. Being Otto shaped my experience by making me more involved. Out of the 22,000+ students who attend this school, I am one of only a few to spread school spirit across the University, the City of Syracuse and the world.
Take us behind the scenes as Otto: What goes into training? What’s a typical day like?
Sarah: On days we have team workouts, it’s an early wakeup call followed by carpooling to Manley Fieldhouse. Our training keeps us in shape for all the running around and ensures each teammate can physically represent Otto’s mannerisms to the best of their ability. We might make appearances throughout the day at events like prospective student welcome sessions or sporting events. And, of course, Otto is frequently scootering around campus. Being Otto at a game, especially in the stadium, can only be described as magical. It’s great to interact with the fans, and there’s really no better view than right on the court.
Being Otto at a game, especially in the stadium, can only be described as magical.
Marne: A typical day as Otto can range from a casual scooter ride around campus to a jam-packed gameday with pregame festivities, marketing appearances, charging of the flags and more. Otto is prepared for it all. As D1 athletes, we are trained to have the endurance to withstand all kinds of appearances and have fun while doing them. It’s not every day you get to airplane around the court in front of 30,000 fans cheering you on. Otto’s days are never consistent, but as a team we make sure Otto is always where they need to be, when they need to be there, as cheerful and silly as always.
What’s it like to represent the University as Otto in the greater community?
Marne: Representing Otto and Syracuse University has challenged me to become the best version of myself, taught me to always look for the good in others, and inspired me seek positive change in the world. Otto proudly supports every member of the University community, which means leading with diversity and inclusion. Every individual in our community brings something unique and fantastic to campus, and Otto’s job isn’t finished until everyone can see this for themselves. Otto taught me how to embrace every obstacle and opportunity that comes my way and never miss the chance to make someone’s day.
Representing Otto and Syracuse University has challenged me to become the best version of myself.
Caitlin: We had the opportunity to represent the University in Lockerbie, Scotland, for the 30th anniversary of the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster. Meeting the people of Lockerbie—as a person or an orange—made this appearance like no other. I began to tear up at the moment I airplaned more than 20 laps around Lockerbie Academy among schoolchildren. Every “why” I had ever had became so clear: why Syracuse, why Otto, why Lockerbie, why me. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Being able to represent the University at this scale was the greatest honor I could ever receive. And being on this team is a close second.
Ryan: I’ve seen Otto make a positive impact by supporting United Way at the Westcott Community Center, making a surprise appearance at the Dr. King Elementary School, or just walking around campus putting a smile on my peers’ faces. There’s always an opportunity for Otto to bring joy to someone.
What are your favorite memories or funniest moments about being Otto?
Marne: My favorite memory as Otto was when I got to be on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. On a Wednesday, I received a message from our coach, Julie Walas, saying Otto was being requested on the show that Friday. Two days later, I acted in a skit with Jimmy Fallon and his guests as Otto. I was starstruck, but somehow Otto still seemed to be the star of the show. It was one of my first moments realizing what a meaningful role I played as Otto on and off campus.
Sarah: I love the little day-to-day things we do that make us more than teammates. Sometimes we just drive around listening to music, we go out for breakfast—little activities that make this group some of my best friends. One of my favorite things is going out into the community and lighting up people’s day. I recently went to an elementary school, and it was awesome and hilarious to dance with the kids and play follow the leader. You can tell it really took away some of the stress of the day.
Patrick: Sophomore year, Otto went to Lockerbie for the 30th anniversary of Pan Am 103. We had the most amazing time there. Everyone loved Otto, and all the kids thought it was so cool that Otto was at their school. We also got to go to the castle in Edinburgh, which was surreal.
How hard was it to keep the secret that you’re Otto? Did you ever almost spill your secret?
Sarah: I actually had the most trouble getting my parents to stop telling other people! When I joined the mascot team, my roommate was on the cheer team, so she knew right away and that made life a lot easier. But my parents were constantly texting me asking if they could tell people.
Ryan: In the beginning, keeping Otto a secret was hard. I wanted to tell everybody and share this amazing experience. Ultimately, I had to keep silent about the whole thing, even with my roommates and family members. I did spill my secret with a few friends, but it was closer to reveal day, and I just had to share who I was. The reactions were full of surprise—it was crazy to see how excited they were!
What does it mean to be Orange?
Marne: Being Orange means having a deep love and appreciation for Syracuse University, the people you met here, and the memories you share. No matter where you find a home on this campus, everyone is a part of one Orange family.
Sarah: When I was going through the tryout process, I remember thinking “What would Otto do?” in a lot of my decisions about my own well-being. To me, that meant making decisions that were the healthiest and best for me, so I could be the best version of myself for Otto. Being Orange is similar: carrying yourself in a way that respects and supports your university but also respects and supports yourself. Going to school here is such a fantastic opportunity, and being Orange means making the most of that.
To me, being Orange is having a family everywhere.
Patrick: I think to be Orange is to recognize that every day—every moment—is the “actual event,” so we should treat it as such and enjoy ourselves.
Caitlin: I guess I took “be Orange” literally freshman year, but it is so much more. To me, being Orange is having a family everywhere. Syracuse alumni love this school and everything about it. They are so willing to give back to current students. I can’t wait to do the same.
This story was published on .
Also of Interest
When you join Syracuse University, you become part of a rich history dating back to 1870. Along with that history comes a number of beloved traditions that are passed down from student to student, year after year—thus linking our past and present.
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