The Mountain Hawk became Lehigh's new mascot in November of 1995 and was given the name Clutch on Nov. 19, 2008. Before the Mountain Hawks, Lehigh's mascot was the engineers. (Andrew Garrison/B&W Photo)

The Clutch experience: history and impact of Lehigh’s mascot


Clutch the Mountain Hawk has been a symbol of the Lehigh campus, the athletic teams and the overall Lehigh community for more than 25 years.  

Not only was Lehigh’s mascot not named Clutch originally, he was also not even a Mountain Hawk. Up until 1995, the Lehigh athletic teams were referred to as the Engineers.

The Lehigh Engineers were named after Lehigh’s founder, Asa Packer.

Since Packer built the Lehigh Valley Railroad company, he was the initiator for the early ties that were established between the engineers in the railroad industry and the university. 

In 1995, the Engineer mascot was changed to the Mountain Hawk that is seen today, but the name of the bird was not changed until more than a decade later. In 2008, Lehigh held a university-wide naming contest for students to come up with names for the somewhat new mascot.

With names like “Mo,” “Steel,” “Louie” and “Southclaw” discussed, the students decided on Clutch. This name was chosen due to the “clutchness” of the school on the court or field, and because of the letters “LU” appearing in the name.

Jorge Hernandez, graduate assistant for sales and marketing at Lehigh Athletics, said the change gave a better identity to Lehigh and its teams.

“It’s a way of representing athletics and a way to bring energy to it,” Hernandez said. “It’s also a way to connect with the fans and to have them more involved and more related to the programs.”

The change also gave a more accurate identity to the area in which the sports are taking place. Although the Mountain Hawk is a fictional animal, the mascot combines both the hawk, a bird native to the Lehigh Valley, and the geography of Lehigh University’s South Mountain, creating the “Mountain Hawk.”

Though the identity of Clutch is always anonymous, there have been many students to don the costume in the past. The student who currently performs as Clutch at Lehigh sporting events said it is exciting to be the mascot on campus.

“It’s kind of surreal,” this year’s Clutch said. “It seems to make people happy and it is just a very good and rewarding feeling.”

Throughout the academic year, Clutch attends sporting events at Stabler Arena, Goodman Stadium and the Ulrich Sports Complex.

James Fryer, ‘25, regularly attends Lehigh athletic events and said he loves the energy that Clutch brings to each one.

“I love Clutch,” Fryer said. “Whenever I see him at the games I get hyped. Especially since we are a Division I school, rallying around our athletics department is a good thing to do, and having a mascot like Clutch creates an atmosphere more welcoming to fans and players on the field.”

Lehigh visits Lafayette on Saturday at Fisher Stadium for the 158th Rivalry Game.

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