College football starts tonight. I know, right? It's been a while. I have absolutely nothing to talk about that would really matter at this point, so I figured I would write about one of my favorite subjects: college football's live mascots.
These are in no particular order. While LSU's Mike the Tiger could easily maul any of us, it doesn't mean he's any more or less awesome than Uga over in Athens.
Teams that shouldn't get their hopes up because your mascot won't be in this slideshow:
- Nebraska. Sorry but somebody dressed as Herbie just doesn't count. Also, nobody really knows WHAT 'Lil Red is. And no, Sexy Rexy cannot be your mascot. Stop it, ladies.
- Oregon. I know Donald Duck is a live duck and in all the cartoons, but the Harley-riding mascot for the Ducks simply doesn't count. It's cool, but he needs a different name than "Puddles."
- Florida. Please don't believe that I don't think alligators are fearsome. They are. People dressed up like alligators? Reminds me of the early 90s TV show "Dinosaurs."
- Kansas. Big Jay is a cool mascot, but come on. He isn't even a real animal.
- Alabama. Okay the elephant is cool. Why not a live one? Forget the whole, "Oh no, he's going to trample somebody circus elephant style!" Isn't that what tranquilizer darts are for?
- Michigan. You don't even have a mascot, and the Wolverine isn't native to Michigan.
- Kentucky. Why would I even mention Kentucky? Well, they actually HAVE a live mascot. His name is Blue. The problem? The live mascot for the Kentucky Wildcats is...a bobcat.
- San Diego State. I know Monty Montezuma is a big thing for you guys, but I'm not certain the real Montezuma would be all about a guy holding a conch. Just saying.
- Syracuse. Um, what exactly is Otto? I understand it can be a little difficult to find a good mascot when your nickname is a color, though.
- Georgia Tech. That 1930 Ford Model A Sports Coup is a thing of beauty. If only she were alive.
- Butler. I understand Buster Blue II is awesome and is even on Twitter, but you don't have a college football team. Congrats on being the only team that has ever been allowed to have a live mascot in the arena during the NCAA Tournament, though.
- Virginia Tech. Hokiebird is cool. Don't let anybody tell you differently. If he was real and still pulled people around in carts on the sidelines, that would be even cooler.
If I missed your school, please feel free to let me know!
Texas Tech's Masked Rider has been around since the 1954 Gator Bowl when Joe Kirk Fulton rode the sheriff's horse, Blackie, onto the field in Jacksonville.
Texas Tech had their first female rider in 1974 and have had 12 since.
It isn't easy to become the Masked Rider. Of the nearly 50 applications taken by Texas Tech each year, only five make it to the interview process.
Few schools in the nation have the tradition Notre Dame does. The Irish have national championships, Heisman Trophy winners, All-Americans, Jesus overlooking their football stadium, the film "Rudy" as an all-time recruiting tool, the gold helmets, and even academics. The Irish actually graduated 99% of their football players. Wow.
Add to that tradition their mascot: The Leprechaun.
From the school's inception until 1965, Irish Terrier dogs had been the school's official mascots. The school named the Leprechaun the mascot four years after the first man donned the uniform.
He can be seen riling up Irish fans throughout football games, doing flips on the field and the sidelines, and waving Notre Dame's flag after an Irish score.
Of course, even as the school's mascot, you want to always, "Be aware of your surroundings."
He's a happy guy with a beard, a loaded musket, a coon skin hat and a team that has never lost a BCS game they've played in. What's not to like?
They're the only team in the Big 12—and one of 36 in the nation—that allows fans to drink alcohol during their sporting events.
Oh, and who wouldn't be happy singing with the cheerleaders from each Big 12 school?
There might not be a team with more in-game traditions than Texas A&M, and there may not be a more revered mascot than Reveille down in College Station. Some quick facts about the purebred Rough Collie.
- The first Reveille was not a Collie. The first mascot was actually a mixed breed that was hit by Texas A&M cadets in 1931. The dog survived and led the football team onto the field at the start of the 1931 season.
- The second Reveille (Reveille II), was a Shetland Sheepdog that was donated to the university. This was the first dog that was kept with her handler at all times.
- If Reveille barks while class is in session, the class is immediately dismissed.
- Reveille has the rank of cadet general and is the highest ranking member of the Corps of Cadets.
- Each Reveille is buried to the south of Kyle Field in College Station. They are buried with their paws and nose facing north so they can constantly keep up with the score of the game. When the stadium was expanded and the south end zone was enclosed in 1999, a small scoreboard was placed on the outside of the stadium to enable each deceased mascot to keep up with her beloved Aggies.
- Every Reveille has been, and will continue to be, a female.
Reveille VIII is the current mascot of Texas A&M and has been the official mascot of the Aggies since 2008.
I wish my Pembroke Welsh Corgi was as awesome as this dog.
Sir Big Spur is a rooster. What's not to like? His original name was Cocky Doodle Lou, so I would agree that his new title fits a little better. That name, though, was in reference to the head coach at the time, one Lou Holtz.
The history behind the rooster began at baseball games. Then, when looking for original ways to liven up the crowd, it was suggested to bring Sir Big Spur onto the field. A tradition was born.
Sir Big Spur attends every Gamecock football game, whether it be home or away. All of the cost is paid for by his owner, Ron Albertelli.
South Carolina will be the first top 25 team in action when they play Vanderbilt in Nashville tonight. You can bet Sir Big Spur is ready for that one.
People tend to think of the Arkansas mascot as a regular boar or pig. Don't tell that to a Razorback fan. Tusk, the mascot for Arkansas, is a 475 pound Russian boar that can jump over a four-foot fence.
Mostly, though, the boar hangs out in his cardinal red cage and enjoys the same amount of joy as the cheerleaders get while he is taken around the stadium with them.
He might not be the prettiest mascot, but Arkansas fans seem to like him enough.
Although War Eagle is not the official mascot of the Auburn Tigers, you can't meet a fan who doesn't say, "War Damn Eagle!" Where does it come from, though?
Well, the best myth involved a young Alabama soldier, who was a former Auburn student, in the Civil War. While at battle, he was the only soldier to survive. While stumbling across the battlefield, he came across a wounded eagle. He nursed the eagle back to health and kept it as his own.
The student returned to Auburn as a faculty member and brought the eagle with him. While at Auburn's first football game of the 1892 season—against Georgia—the eagle broke loose and circled around the stadium, delighting the fans. At the end of the game, with the Tigers victorious, the eagle fell to the ground and died.
During the 2000 football season, Auburn started the tradition of the eagle flying around from atop the stadium and landing on its handler's arm before the start of each game.
Auburn has a bald eagle as well, but the golden eagle is the only one to carry the War Eagle moniker. The bald eagle's name is "Spirit."
There are more than a few universities that have a bulldog as their mascot, but none are more visible or well-known as Uga.
Since 1956, when the dog first appeared on the sidelines of Georgia game, each mascot has been part of a lineage of English Bulldogs owned by Sonny Seiler. Each mascot is the son of a previous Uga.
Each deceased mascot is interred in a mausoleum just outside Sanford Stadium, and a bronze, life-size statue of Uga I was placed at the entrance to the tomb.
Each deceased mascot has en epitaph on his tombstone. They are as follows:
- Uga I (1956-1966): Damn Good Dog
- Uga II (1966-1972): Not Bad for a Dog
- Uga III (1972-1981): How 'Bout This Dawg
- Uga IV (1981-1990): The Dog of the Decade
- Uga V (1990-1999): Nation's Best College Mascot - Sports Illustrated
- Uga VI (1999-2008): A Big Job For A Big Dog, And He Handled It Well
- Uga VII (2008-2009): Gone Too Soon
- Uga VIII (2010-2011): He Never Had A Chance
There is not actually an Uga as the University of Georgia mascot at this time, though. After the untimely death of Uga VII in 2009, his half-brother, Russ was selected as the interim mascot. He held that title until the seventh game of the 2010 season when he was replaced with Uga VIII.
Less than two months after going into what we can surely believe is a luxurious retirement, Russ was called to duty again. Uga VIII had become ill with an undisclosed illness, and Russ took his place on the sidelines of the 2010 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Uga VIII died less than five weeks later, and it was revealed that Russ would be the interim mascot indefinitely.
Of course, Uga is probably best remembered for attempting to take a piece out of Auburn player Robert Baker after a Tiger score in 1996.
*Update: Russ has been promoted and will become Uga IX Saturday night when Georgia hosts Florida Atlantic in Athens.
As famous as Uga is, he isn't the only English Bulldog in his own conference. Mississippi State's live mascot has been the official mascot of the Bulldogs since 1935.
Bully's luck as mascot didn't start off so well when the original mascot was hit by a campus bus in 1939. Not to be deterred, Mississippi State students and faculty stuck with the dog and moniker. If you ask them, Georgia stole the idea.
The current mascot is Bully XX. He has had the role since 2009.
It's only been since 2010 that the Wolfpack have had a live mascot, but he's probably the biggest dog to ever roam the sidelines.
Tuffy is a Tamaskan Dog, which is from the line of Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes.
Tuffy is the first of what we can imagine will be many in the long line of NC State live mascots, but he isn't lacking in popularity. He has his own Facebook page, and you can also wish him a happy birthday on his own website.
Wyoming might be the Cowboys, but their mascot is a Shetland pony by the name of Cowboy Joe. Currently, Cowboy Joe IV is the mascot of the Cowboys.
Cowboy Joe was first adopted by the school in 1950 when he was donated by the Farthing family of Cheyenne. Wyoming didn't lose a game that season, and the mascot stayed.
Today, there are a number of handlers, selected through an application process, who take care of the pony under the direction of the Animal Sciences Department in the College of Agriculture.
The University of Washington hasn't had a lot to cheer about lately, but Dubs—their Alaskan Malamute mascot—still enjoys his job.
Dubs has been leading the football team onto the field since 2009 when he took over for Spirit, who had been with the university since 1999.
Teams feel that certain mascots bring good luck. With Washington, that might be the case. The Huskies won five games in 2009, seven games in 2010, and seven games again last year. It isn't stellar, but nothing is worse than finishing 0-12. Yea, that's what the Huskies did in 2008, a year before Dubs arrived on the scene.
Traveler has been the official mascot for the Trojans since 1961 and appears at all home games ridden by a Southern Cal alumnus who rides to the middle of the stadium, jumps off his horse and plants his sword into the grass.
Pretty sweet to be riding a horse, right?
Yea Southern Cal, Florida State will see your Traveler and raise you Chief Osceola and Renegade.
I mean, the dude's decked out in war paint, riding a white appaloosa and is carrying a flaming spear that he hurls into the ground before every home game. Ridiculous.
Well since we're all riding horses here.
This one has to be the heaviest one, though, right? Well I guess. Unless it's all plastic. Which would then be a ripoff or something.
Yea you knew this one was coming, didn't ya? Is there a more recognizable cat in the world? I'd be surprised to find out there is.
Here's a cat that enters the stadium to the tune Eye of the Tiger and has everybody cheering for him. He's usually pretty laid back for a tiger. I guess I would be as well if I lived where he does.
On a side note, how cool would it be to ride around on top of his cage?
Mike VI is a 500-pound Siberian Tiger who was born in 2005. He has been the mascot since 2007.
Does anybody else find it strange that most people didn't even realize that Memphis also has a real tiger? So yea, suck on that, LSU.
TOM, which stands for Tiger of Memphis, has been the official mascot of the Tigers since 1972. Unlike LSU, the university does not spend any money on the care of the tiger. It is all done through the Highland Hundred, who make it their job to inform others of the plight of these endangered big cats.
Bevo, thought to be the heaviest of all mascots at 1,900 pounds, has been the mascot at the University of Texas since 1916. Each steer has been dark orange and usually white in color with enormous horns that resemble the "Hook 'Em Horns" phrase used by Texas fans.
Bevo's defining moment probably came in 1999 when Texas played Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship Game. As the Huskers were putting the finishing touches on a 22-6 demolition of Texas, Bevo let the nation know what he thought of the Nebraska end zone.
The black Shetland pony that is SMU's mascot didn't start off well. Much like Bully at Mississippi State, Peruna I was struck and killed by a motorist after he escaped from his pen.
The tradition that started in 1932 lives on, though, and Peruna IX currently attends each SMU football game.
Tennessee's lovable Bluetick Coonhound became the school's official mascot in 1953. He was selected during halftime of Tennessee's game against Mississippi State that season after he howled loudly when introduced.
Smokey hasn't always been the most docile mascot. At the 1957 Sugar Bowl, Smokey II attacked and was mauled by Baylor's live bear mascot Judge. He survived that incident and served as the school's mascot until retirement in 1964.
Tennessee's band is called "The Pride of the Southland," and I doubt Smokey would disagree.
Yes, that's a real bear. There has been one on campus since 1917, and there are currently two females. Each bear is named Judge after the school's founder, Judge Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor.
Each bear weighs between 350-400 pounds and lives, as you can imagine, a life quite a bit better than you or I.
Go Middies! But, um, why a goat?
Well, for more than 200 years, goats had been kept aboard naval vessels as a means for milk, food and sometimes, pets.
In 1893, the USS New York dropped anchor off Annapolis, and a goat roamed the sidelines watching Navy beat Army 11-7. After three consecutive victories over the Cadets, the goat was named as the official mascot of the Naval Academy.
Army also has three mules as their mascots and go by the collective name of Army Mules, but none are nearly as well-known as Bill.
Not to be outdone by the service academies, Colorado State introduced CAM, which refers to the university's former name—Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College—in 1947. The current mascot is a Rambouillet Ram and the 22nd CAM to serve Colorado State.
CAM wasn't actually the first live mascot, though. They had a bulldog named Peanuts and a bear cub with no name that served for a short while.
The two most revered white ponies in the state of Oklahoma pull the Sooner Schooner of the Oklahoma Sooners. Talk about a lot of the same words over and over again, huh?
The horses and Conestoga wagon were first introduced in 1964 and became the official mascot in 1984. They lead the team onto the field and perform a victory lap after every Sooner score and victory. I'd imagine they were quite tired in 2008.
The ponies and wagon are taken care of by the Ruf/Neks, Oklahoma's all-male cheer squad.
Of course, as with all live mascots, there is an opportunity for a mishap. The good news is everybody was just fine.
This is one of the funniest introductions in college football. Although the University of Virginia hasn't had a lot to cheer about on the football field historically, their mascot has kept everybody entertained.
Prior to each game, Virginia shows The Adventures of CavMan in which a CGI version of the actual mascot fights against the opposing school's mascot. Predictably, he always wins. My favorite so far was last year's video before Virginia upset Georgia Tech.
CavMan isn't immune to falls, either, it appears. I'm guessing his horse, Saber, didn't care for his rider at that point. Luckily, again, everybody was okay.
Funny video, right? Yea, that's a lot of buffalo right there. The tradition of running the buffalo onto the field actually began in 1934, but Ralphie wasn't named school's official mascot until 1966. It's one of the more entertaining traditions because you never know when she's going to get away.
Ralphie I was actually named Ralph because of the noises she made when she ran, but, when an astute student pointed out that she was a female, her name was changed to Ralphie. Each mascot since has also been a female; female buffalo also have horns.
It takes five "Ralphie Handlers" to control the enormous mammal that can run at around 25 miles per hour, and sometimes that isn't enough to keep her from almost hitting people.
Of course, it isn't always Ralphie that gets the best of people. I think Jim Knox remembers that well.
There have been only two times that current mascot Ralphie IV has refused to run:
- November 26, 1999. She refused to leave the gates. Colorado lost to rival Nebraska 33-30 in overtime.
- November 21, 2003. She charged to the 20-yard line but would not budge any further. Colorado lost that game, also to the Cornhuskers, 31-22.
I bet Nebraska wishes she hadn't run in 2001 and 2007. The average score of those games: 63-43 in favor of the Buffs.
Hera, while not the school's official mascot, is their live Eurasian Eagle owl. She was first adopted by the school in 2011 and is cared for by handlers like Patrick Mayer (pictured).
She doesn't have a ton of tradition for the school yet, but she's definitely making a lot of, well, noise.
Handsome Dan was the first live mascot in the country. There have been 16 dogs on Yale's sidelines since Dan I was purchased for sixty-five dollars in 1889. What a great tradition.
I don't care that they don't play Division I football (no I will never call it FBS). This is just cool. Nellie is 59 years old, which is 20 years beyond the average lifespan of the bottlenose dolphin. She has outlived her two calves.
Please take the time to read more about her here. Pretty awesome stuff.