The Youngstown State Penguins (or YSU Penguins, as they’re sometimes called) are a NCAA Division One school based out of Youngstown, Ohio. The athletic program announced the name Penguins in December 1933, following a student remarking the school’s then-nameless basketball team looked like penguins as they swung their arms down the court.
They’re the only Division One school to use the name “Penguins” for their athletic teams, though there are a few other examples of sports teams using the Penguins name, such as hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins from the NHL and their like-named farm club, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL.
As you’d imagine, the Youngstown State Penguins have typically used a penguin in their primary logos and branding, as you’ll see when we take a look back at their logo history since the 1950s below, assembled with great assistance from @college_logos on Twitter/X.
Please note that in the past, as is the case with most NCAA schools, many logos weren’t quite so official or accepted as “official” as they are today. Some of the logos you see below may not have been designated as the school’s official logo at the time or may have been used past the dates listed. However, everything you see here below would be what we today would consider a “primary”-like logo under today’s standards.
With that previous paragraph in mind, let’s start with the first “primary” YSU Penguins logo on our list, used circa 1953 to 1959:
This logo shows a black penguin, known as “Pete,” wearing a white college sweater with the school’s “Y” initial on the front in red; over this sweater is a black suit jacket with a white interior paired with matching black pants and white shoes. Pete is shown in a celebratory pose, with its yellow beak pointed high to the skies, while holding its black and white cap well above its head.
Sometime around 1960, the Penguins’ primary logo got a little more serious…
First of all, this penguin wasn’t celebrating; it was ready and focused. No colour in this version of the YSU Penguins logo; the school’s acronym is worn on the chest in a simple white-on-black colour scheme with a “Y” placed above a much smaller “U.” The Penguins used this logo until sometime around the end of the decade when the school decided to re-introduce some colour to their primary logo.
With a look that screams, “I’m the bad guy in an eighties college campus comedy,” the 1970s Youngstown State logo features a black-and-white penguin wearing a red turtleneck (penguin neck?) sweater with the school’s “Y” on its chest in red with white and black trim. Yellow beak and flippers for this angry penguin, looking ready to stuff anything wearing thick-rimmed glasses into the nearest locker.
Next up, perhaps the most well-known of Youngstown State’s logos:
Introduced for the 1980s, here’s Petey the Penguin wearing a red toque and a white scarf with a menacing look on its face. Petey is placed inside a red roundel with the school name arched around in white lettering. Bill Oakley, a varsity soccer player for the university, designed this logo. Well done, Bill.
While Petey was replaced as the primary logo in 2007, this logo still lives on in several different incarnations as a series of secondary logos. So yes, Petey continues to be seen around YSU to this day… just not as the official “primary” brand.
Finally, in 2007, a lot of the fun was stripped from the primary branding for what is still the current Youngstown State Penguins logo — a simple block, asymmetrical “Y” in red with white and black outlines. As with many rebrands of the 21st Century, the focus shifted to what would look best on digital applications, and a detailed cartoon penguin didn’t quite pass the test.
Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, the previous Petey the Penguin design was still a part of this set as a “secondary logo.” So there is that.
Before we wrap up, here is another look at the overall Youngstown State Penguins logo history:
You can check out our complete Youngstown State Penguins logo history here, which includes all of those aforementioned secondary logos that weren’t shown in this post, or if you love the logos, you can get your very own Youngstown State Penguins merchandise here.
Did we make a mistake? It happens! Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to give some examples to show where we messed up. Thanks!