Every year, hundreds of college students around the country climb into ridiculous costumes to help motivate fans, cheer on players, and help bring luck to their teams.
Just like student athletes, mascots have to be in tip-top physical shape and make it through demanding tryouts. They must be able to handle intense workouts in cumbersome, sauna-like costumes, not to mention handle being groped in weird places by weird people.
Tennessee Volunteer head coach Bruce Pearl knows firsthand what it takes to be a mascot.
During his time as an administrative assistant at Boston College, Pearl helped the Eagles make it to the NCAA tournament in 1981. On the team's trip, the mascot got sick.
Pearl was the low man on the totem pole, so naturally he was ordered to put on the costume and take over the responsibilities. He took the role to heart, doing everything he could to distract the opposing team's players. At one point, he even used a ladder to climb up and obnoxiously flail himself about during a player's free throws.
"They had a meeting after the game and they were going to throw me out," Pearl joked. "I broke like five NCAA rules."
Mascots were originally used by schools to help bring good luck to a team. Now, they are multipurpose marketing tools used to promote a school's agenda.
While rooting for your favorite teams during the 2010 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, make sure to pay attention to the mascots. Some of this year's crop of mascots have been known to get crazy from time to time.
St. Mary's mascot looks more like the Dollar Store version of Optimus Prime than a figure of inspiration.
I know the economy is in a bit of a downturn, but can the school really not afford a better mascot to represent their school?
Gael Force One stands nearly 10 feet tall but weighs less than 30 pounds (excluding the human inside) and has quickly become a St. Mary's crowd favorite. It was first introduced at the men's basketball game in 2002 and has been entertaining fans with gyrations of cheer ever since.
Willie the Wildcat is the mascot for the Kansas State University Wildcats, not to be confused with the mascot for Northwestern University, also named Willie the Wildcat.
#kstate #mascot #fail
So the West Virginia Mountainer is none other than Dwight Schrute's cousin Mose Schrute?
The Kentucky Wildcat is the mascot version of a hobo.
It looks like something sewn together with scraps of clothes from Goodwill. That could be because Wildcat is 101 years old.
Even in his old age, Wildcat represents the University on the sidelines of basketball games, cheering on the team through elaborate skits and outfits.
Cornell University has no official mascot, but a costumed Big Red Bear makes appearances at many athletic events.
Over the years, the Cornell mascot has changed from a live bear to a bear costume worn by Cornell students. I wonder if there was a liability issue having a live bear at basketball games.
The Blue Devil mascot first made its appearance at the Duke-Pittsburgh game in 1929 as a way to help dedicate the new football stadium. Over the years it has evolved to become a prominent symbol of Duke basketball.
If you ask me, I wouldn't trust this guy around kids, but what do I know?
Smokey is the coonhound mascot of the University of Tennessee sports teams who made it to the quarterfinals of the 2006 Capital One Mascot Challenge.
Recently, he has taken style tips from Bruce Pearl and has been sporting an orange sport coat.
Purdue Pete first got his start back in 1956. Students were chosen to portray Pete with a papier mache head. Today, Pete's head is crafted in an aviation technology lab.
Pete has changed with the times over the years, receiving more than five makeovers in his 45 years rooting on the Boilermakers.
Is that why he looks like the mascot version of Heidi Montag?
Butler University's Hink the Bulldog is a cartoonish costume worn by students at athletic events.
Is it just me, or does Hink have a bit of a beer belly?
Brutus Buckeye is the mascot for student athletics at The Ohio State University.
Dressed in Buckeye colors with a headpiece resembling an Ohio Buckeye nut, Brutus has been spreading cheer since 1965. If there was ever an award for the roundest head, Brutus would win it.
Bruiser is the symbol of school spirit at Baylor University and is usually always wearing some version of a team uniform.
Bruiser has been named to the fourth annual Capital One All-America Mascot Team and was nominated for Capital One Mascot of the Year in 2006.
Harry the Husky is the mascot for the University of Washington. He has been scratching, clawing, and chomping at sports events since 1995.
Harry has been up for National Mascot of the Year a few times and as you can see is quite the ladies man.
Although he looks like a bright orange golf club cover, Otto the Orange is the mascot for the athletic teams of Syracuse University. Otto is a "gender-neutral" orange that cheers wildly for his team.
All the vitamin C has the Syracuse Orange doing well in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Xavier's mascot is a big blue blob of fur with feet. I can't make up my mind on whether or not the Blue Blob is pure genius or pure ridiculousness. It's probably the result of an acid trip gone wrong, but the blob is lovable nevertheless.
Ridiculous or not, the Blue Blob has his own Facebook page and has appeared in two ESPN SportsCenter commercials.
T.C. (The Cat) performs and appears at Northern Iowa basketball and football events. T.C. also travels to some intrastate rivalry games, as well as the men's Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament in St. Louis, which means he will feel at home for the Panthers' Sweet 16 appearance.
T.C. has won a number of awards over the years and is also very good with the ladies.
When I prepared the Power Rankings for Big Ten helmet designs, Michigan State fans sent me flaming bags of poo in the mail for only ranking the Spartan helmet No. 5.
Well, Spartan fans...you can save yourself some postage this time around because Sparty the Spartan is hands down the best mascot remaining in the tournament.
Sparty is depicted as a ripped Spartan warrior dressed in a green and white Greek costume. He has won Best Mascot of the Year three times and appears on the cover of the Wii edition of NCAA Football 09, the first time a non-athlete has earned the honor.