As summer turns to fall each year, the Philadelphia region welcomes thousands of new students to the area, which boasts Ivy League universities, community colleges, state schools and private institutions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics and the Census Bureau, the Greater Philadelphia area is home to 100 colleges and universities with half a million students.

With the recent start of the new semester, the Inquirer tapped students at local universities to hear what’s on their minds.

Are you a student at a local campus with opinions to share with the Inquirer? Email commentary pieces on newsworthy issues to for consideration.

Armon Owlia is a junior at Drexel University majoring in communications with a journalism concentration.
Armon Owlia is a junior at Drexel University majoring in communications with a journalism concentration.

He is an icon that has defined Philadelphia for decades, one who, through crazy antics, has won the hearts of not only Philadelphians but sports fans all over the country, including myself. I am talking, of course, about the Phillie Phanatic.

Debuting for the Phillies during the 1978 season, he has been with the organization and the city through many significant moments and players, including five World Series appearances and six no-hitters, one a perfect game.

He’s even been celebrated as a top mascot by organizations including Forbes, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and Good Morning America.

However, the Phanatic’s time in Philly is not guaranteed. In a federal lawsuit filed in August, the Phillies claimed that the New York-based Harrison/Erickson Inc., which designed the mascot, has threatened to revoke the Phillies’ Phanatic rights and make him a “free agent.”

Legal analysts predict a settlement, meaning victory for the Phillies.

But the legal scuffle brings up an interesting question: Is it time for Philadelphia to give up the Phanatic?

I say yes.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a massive Phanatic fan. Though a Pittsburgh native who supports the Pirates, I have always loved the Phanatic for his charm and sense of humor.

However, a new circumstance makes me realize that now, more than ever, Philadelphia can survive without the beloved green bird from the Galápagos Islands.

That circumstance is the Phanatic's hockey counterpart, the mascot that has arguably taken over as the face of Philadelphia sports: Gritty.

Since his debut, he has taken Philadelphia by storm, whether tweeting a threat to a certain penguin, slipping on the ice, or receiving his own resolution from City Council anointing him Philly’s “hideous monster.” On this year’s Best of Philly issue of Philadelphia Magazine, Gritty graced the cover as "Best Philadelphian.”

Since Gritty’s debut, the Phanatic has become something of an afterthought, which points toward the future. The Phanatic represents an older age of sports, one in which Philadelphia was defined as an underdog.

But especially since the Eagles’ Super Bowl win, that reputation has changed. Philadelphia has contenders in multiple sports.

The Phillies picked up Bryce Harper, the biggest get in free agency, and have seen their stock rise as a result. The 76ers have created a roster and a culture that have made them playoff contenders for three seasons. The Eagles, I won’t get into fully, but they made the playoffs last year coming off a Super Bowl win.

Over at the Flyers, Gritty has become a sign of revitalization and energy, his eyes staring with a level of intensity that can only be matched by a Philadelphia sports team. Plus, he shows a level of, well, grit that has always been a classic Philadelphia quality.

He’s even been adopted in meme culture and become a nationally recognized symbol for the city of Philadelphia, something the Phanatic has not achieved in a long time.

The Phillies should put the next steps to the fans: Create a citywide poll asking whether the Phanatic’s departure would cast too large a shadow for a replacement to overcome, meaning the Phillies should join the other MLB teams that are currently mascot-free.

That said, the Phanatic should not see a quick or a silent farewell, for he deserves far more respect.

We give a farewell parade, throw a final season bash, erect a statue outside Citizens Bank Park. Gritty can even sport a Phanatic patch on his Flyers jersey.

Saying goodbye to the Phanatic will not be easy, but it will be necessary. The Phanatic came in with fanfare, and he should leave in fanfare, knowing he made the city greater.

Here’s to one of the greatest mascots of all time. Cheers to you, Phanatic.

Armon Owlia is a rising junior at Drexel University majoring in communications with a journalism concentration. He is completing a student co-op at Philadelphia Magazine and is the host of the “Owlia’s Opinions” podcast, due to return Oct. 6.