Lehigh’s current mascot, Clutch, the Mountain Hawk at one of the football games. The university’s mascot switched from ​​the Engineers to the Mountain Hawks in 1995. (Gary Fan/B&W Staff)

From Engineers to Mountain Hawks: How Clutch came to be

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Lehigh’s mascot Clutch the Mountain Hawk has become a symbol of the university, appearing at campus-wide events and cheering on Lehigh’s sports teams. 

Assistant Athletic Director for Sales and Marketing Rich Haas said although Lehigh’s mascot was officially changed from the Engineers to the Mountain Hawks in 1995, the name Clutch was created by students in 2008.

Haas said students picked the name Clutch through a university-wide naming contest because it has the letters “LU” in it for Lehigh University. He said it also represents the students and athletes “coming up big in the clutch” in games and in the classroom.

Clutch truly is a rallying point around the Lehigh athletics experience,” Haas said. 

The identity of Clutch purposefully remains anonymous, but Haas said it is known that there are a handful of people who fill the role. This helps to cover as much ground as possible across games and events. 

Haas said students can serve as Clutch on a volunteer basis or through work study.

“We’re always recruiting students who want to jump in as Clutch and carry on the tradition,” Haas said. “It has been more than 25 years now where the Mountain Hawk nickname and mascot have been part of the Lehigh tradition.” 

Clutch can be seen on the sidelines of sports games at Stabler Arena, Goodman Stadium and the Ulrich Sports Complex. 

TyGee Leach, ‘23, defensive back for Lehigh’s football team, said Clutch serves as a big energizer for the team and crowd during games. 

“Clutch is a huge favorite of the kids who get to experience the games at the stadium,” Leach said. 

According to an article published by the university, the Mountain Hawk is a fictitious animal. It combines the geography of Lehigh University’s South Mountain with the hawk, a bird native to the Lehigh Valley. 

Prior to the establishment of the Mountain Hawks in 1995, Lehigh’s mascot was the Engineers. 

According to the article, the Engineer mascot was not in reference to Lehigh’s strong engineering program, but a nod to Lehigh’s founder Asa Packer. Packer built the Lehigh Valley Railroad company, which established early ties between the engineers in the railroad industry and the university. 

Robert Freidenrich, ‘60, said he and a group of other alumni felt the Lehigh Engineers was a more appropriate mascot for the school. He said this mascot was a better representation of Lehigh’s history and tradition. 

“The Engineer (mascot) spoke to Lehigh’s long-standing traditions and values since the 1800s,” Freidenrich said. “The Mountain Hawk does not.”

According to the university article, Lehigh continues to refer to sports teams before 1995 as the Engineers or Brown and Whites to preserve this piece of university history. 

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1 Comment

  1. Huge mistake in 1995 to change the traditional nickname. Lehigh gave away its brand & it was a very strong brand indeed. Losing its identity cost the University it’s reputation in USNews annual rankings that gradually eroded its rating from #31 at that time to barely hanging on in the Top 50 today.

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