There are many reasons to love college athletics, one small reason is the mascots. We love names like the Bloodhounds, Orediggers, Banana Slugs, ThunderWolves and Battling Bishops. There is something special about a mascot that in the back of your mind you think you could take home as a pet –not that we are suggesting a rabid LSU fan take home Mike the Tiger. Learn about Auburn’s War Eagle caretakers and then check out some of our favorite living, breathing mascots.
It was safe to say Mark Richt was under pressure headed into this season because he coaches in the Southeastern Conference for a school whose fan base has unreasonable expectations every year. But do you know who is really under pressure at Georgia? A gentleman named Sonny Seiler. Mr. Seiler is owner of the long line of English bulldogs that have served as the official mascot at Georgia since 1956. “Big Bad Bruce” aka Uga XIII had a short reign, only six games before he was diagnosed with canine lymphoma, which led to his death on February 4, 2011. Uga XIII’s half-brother Russ is serving as the temporary mascot until Uga IX is named.
Georgia is the only major college that actually buries its mascots within the confines of the stadium. Uga I, II, III, IV, V and VI are buried in marble vaults near the main gate in the embankment of the South stands at Sanford Stadium.
Mike the Tiger
Staying with our friends in the SEC, LSU fans far and wide have love for Mike the Tiger — where else in the world would it be more appropriate to have a live tiger than in Baton Rouge, La.?
Mike I was purchased with $750 worth of quarters raised by LSU students in 1936. Mike VI is currently roaming the sidelines of Death Valley. After the death of Mike V in 2007, PETA contacted the university and urged them not to replace Mike V with a new tiger. The LSU chancellor politely declined PETA’s request.
On home football game days, Mike’s cage on wheels is parked by the opponent’s locker room at the southeast end of Tiger Stadium. Opposing players must pass by Mike’s cage in order to reach their locker room. Because if playing a night game in Death Valley wasn’t intimating enough — walking past a man-eating tiger should make everything alright. Local customs also says LSU will score a touchdown for every one of Mike’s roars on game day.
One thing local pranksters enjoy doing is unlocking Mike’s cage. Who doesn’t think a tiger on the loose is the definition of high comedy. On of the more famous incidents involving Mike IV occurred on November 28, 1981. Apparently some jokers had cut the lock on Mike’s door and the big cat was found wondering around North Stadium Drive. Police and members of LSU School of Veterinary were able to subdue the tiger after three tranquilizers, and he was returned to his cage and awoke the next morning with no ill effects.
Mike’s Wikipedia page has this little nugget: “After a new search for a mascot is announced, the public eagerly anticipates white smoke blowing from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, announcing that the new tiger has been located, mimicking the white smoke which billows from the Sistine Chapel when a new Pope is elected.”
We don’t know if it is true, but wow — we sure hope it is.
“Give me a home where the buffalo roam…..”
‘Home on the Range’ might be the state song of Kansas, but no one has ever seen a live Jayhawk, much less watch it lead out the football team.
That’s what Ralphie — who is often mistaken for a male — does every home football game for Colorado. Live bison have been part of Colorado games since the early ‘30s. Ralphie I made her first appearance in 1966. She was originally given the name ‘Ralph,’ because of the noise she made while running, but then it was pointed out that would be a mean name, since she was a girl buffalo.
The team of “Ralphie Runners,” who are varsity student-athletes, run Ralphie around Folsom Field in a horse shoe pattern before each half of each home game. It takes five Ralphie Runners to run her around the field.
Ralphie I was quite the Rocky Mountain celebrity. She was kidnapped by Air Force cadets in 1970 and in 1971 was named the homecoming queen. So yes, a buffalo was named homecoming queen in the early 70s. Nothing counterculture about that — no sir.
Ralphie II was originally named “Moonshine,” and Ralphie III was pressed into service after the unexpected death of Ralphie II in 1987. Ralphie III served for a decade until her retirement. After her death, the Colorado State Senate passed State Resolution 98–10 by Senator Elsie Lacy — concerning a tribute to Ralphie III the University of Colorado bison mascot, stating: “That the University of Colorado and fans alike have lost a most beloved mascot and are saddened by the occasion of Ralphie III’s death”
Both IV and V were donated by noted bison entrepreneur Ted Turner.
Army Mules and Bill the Goat
Much like the service academies they represent, the Army Mule and Navy Goat are intertwined yet completely different.
The Army Mules first made their appearance in 1899 while Bill the Goat watched his first Army-Navy football game in 1893.
The choice of the mule as a mascot reflects the long-standing usefulness of this animal in military operations — hauling guns, supplies and ammunition. Strong, hearty and persevering, the mule is an appropriate symbol for the Corps of Cadets.
Long before midshipmen began tossing the pigskin around the site of old Fort Severn, goats were an integral part of Navy life. Over 200 years ago, livestock was kept aboard some sea-going naval vessels to provide sailors with food, milk, eggs and, in some cases, pets and it turned out the goats were useful to eat the garbage.
In 1953, the Tennesee campus Pep Club sponsored a contest to have a live mascot. The hound was chosen since it is a native breed. Announcements in the local newspaper solicited candidates, and Rev. William C. Brooks entered his prizewinning bluetick hound, which won over eight other contestants. Smokey was the last hound to be introduced at the half-time contest. When his name was called out, he barked. The students cheered and Smokey threw his head back and howled again and the Volunteers had its new mascot. Rev. Brooks supplied UT with the line of canines until his death in 1986, when his wife, Mildred, took over the caretaking role. She did so until 1994, when her brother and sister-in-law, Earl and Martha Hudson of Knoxville, took over responsibility. Today’s mascot is Smokey IX. Smokey is famous for leading the Vols through the “T” prior to each home football game.
There is no fan base more attached to their mascot than those who follow the Longhorns. Texas is probably the only place in America where the name “Bevo” is commonplace.
The idea to use a longhorn first came to form around 1916. Counting the currently serving mascot, there have been fourteen Bevos to date. Much like the state is represents, the Bevos have a colorful history. Bevo I was originally named “Bo” but came to be called Bevo during his service. Bevo II once charged a SMU cheerleader, who had to defend himself with his megaphone. We think a 1,800-pound steer wins against a megaphone. Bevo III escaped from his enclosure and ran amok across campus for two days, he was eventually lassoed and returned uninjured. Bevo V famously broke loose and scattered the Baylor band. Bevo XIII made the trip to Washington, D.C for George W. Bush inauguration in 2001, while Bevo XIV made the trip four years later.
Traveler, the noble white horse that appears at all USC home football games first made an appearance at USC football games in 1961 (in the home opener against Georgia Tech). Bob Jani, then USC’s director of special events, and Eddie Tannenbaum, then a junior at USC, had spotted Richard Saukko riding his white horse, Traveler I, in the 1961 Rose Parade. They persuaded Saukko to ride his white horse around the Coliseum during USC games, serving as a mascot. Ever since, whenever USC scores, the band plays “Conquest” and Traveler gallops around the Coliseum. During Traveler’s inaugural season, the Trojan warrior’s outfit was used by Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur.
Sooner Schooner was introduced in 1964, but did not become the official mascot until 1980. The horses that pull the Sooner Schooner are “Boomer” and “Sooner”. The Sooner Schooner is a Conestoga, or covered wagon, reminiscent of the mode of travel used by pioneers who settled in Oklahoma. The Schooner ventures onto Owen Field in a triumphant victory ride after OU scores. The schooner is well recognized by the college football fans across the country and makes regular appearances at university functions.
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All information and photos compiled from respective athletic department and school websites.