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George Mason Says Good Night, Gunston

Gunston: Excited by new opportunities, chance for career growth. (File photo)

As the college basketball season tips off this week, there will be one fewer local celebrity on the sidelines: Gunston is done.

After years of debate and research, George Mason University has decided to replace its fuzzy green amorphous mascot -- think a softer, more agile Oscar the Grouch -- with a sleeker, sharper new model, our sports blogging colleague Dan Steinberg reports.

The new mascot -- 7 feet tall, 240 pounds, hat size of 29, "closer to a person than to a Muppet," said a school rep -- will be unveiled at next Monday's home opener against Brown. A contest will be held to select a name.

"It was clear the fan base wasn't enamored with Gunston," university VP Christine LaPaille told us. "The bottom line is Gunston was popular with children. He was not a favorite of our students or alumni."

Doubts about Gunston arose long before Mason went to the Final Four in 2006 -- though the moment in the spotlight bought him some time. Finally, a university-wide panel last year took the matter under scrutiny. Longtime fan and alumnus Michael McNutt told Steinberg, "It was kind of cute and all when we were just in the CAA tournament and the NIT, but when you play with the big boys ... it's like coming to the car show in a Hyundai."

Gunston hasn't been fired. In fact, he's getting a new portfolio: Mason will deploy him to kid-friendly "Go Green" events. Just no more sidelines.

By The Reliable Source  |  November 10, 2008; 1:03 AM ET
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