First things first; as a dutiful member of SportsBlogs Nation, I should note that yet another Pac-10 team is now represented among S.B. Nation's growing stable of intercollegiate athletics webloggers. Although I am somewhat wary of the site's use of the phrase "Go Dawgs!" and its employment of "A League of Their Own" imagery (which I seem to recall seeing somewhere before), I welcome U Dub Dish to the fold. It's good to have you aboard, Dish.
How 'bout this 'Dawg?
Now, to the matter at hand. As attested to by the foregoing magazine cover, it is a given that Uga is the best college mascot ever. While this speaks well of the University of Georgia's most beloved ambassador within and beyond the borders of Bulldog Nation, there is another factor to consider . . . namely, the fact that most other Division I-A schools have live mascot histories that are positively lame.
Back during the days of "The Dawg Show," Travis Rice and I routinely recounted the inability of other Southern schools to keep their live mascots from being thrown from moving vehicles, hit by automobiles, mauled by bears, or shot by irate farmers.
Since receiving E.S.P.N.'s College Football Encyclopedia as a birthday gift last fall, though, I have become aware that, aside from such noteworthy exceptions as Colorado and Texas, almost no one outside of Athens is able to take proper care of a live mascot. If you don't believe me, believe the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
You can look it up.
See for yourself:
- Arizona used to keep a caged wildcat as a mascot, but, some years ago, he was replaced by a pair of costumed sideline performers, Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat. The students who assume these roles sign agreements not to reveal their true identities until their final game, when they emerge from a box sans their headgear.
- Arkansas offers the following explanation for the good of the order:
Big Red III, for instance, escaped from an animal exhibit near Eureka Springs in the summer of 1977 and ravaged the countryside before an irate farmer gunned him down. And Ragnar, a wild hog captured in south Arkansas by Leola farmer Bill Robinson, killed a coyote, a 450-pound domestic pig and seven rattlesnakes. Ragnar died in 1978 of unknown causes.
"Unknown causes"? Might it have had something to do with the fact that Ragnar's dietary habits would have made Henry VIII wince?
- Evidently, Arkansas isn't the only rural S.E.C. West school to have had these problems, as Auburn reports that, while in the care of a bunch of frat boys, "War Eagle III broke free and landed in a nearby backyard. The owner of the property shot and killed the eagle claiming it was attacking his children."
- Baylor makes its tradition of live bear mascots sound benign, but try telling that to Smokey II, who had "a confrontation with the Baylor Bear at the 1957 Sugar Bowl." (There'll be more on Smokey's travails in a later posting.)
As fearsome Baylor icons go, he's no Ann Richards.
- In 1920, Reverend Edward McLaughlin proposed the adoption of the eagle as Boston College's mascot and, shortly thereafter, two live birds were donated to the Jesuit institution. Reportedly, one escaped and the other broke its beak while attempting to break free. For the following four decades, a stuffed and mounted eagle served as the team's mascot, until a baby bird named Margo was introduced in 1961. Five years later, she fell victim to a viral infection prior to the game with Navy.
- Brigham Young kept live cougars on the sidelines after choosing its nickname in 1923. Six years later, the big cats got loose, killed a couple of dogs, and threatened livestock in the area. Later, B.Y.U. jettisoned the live mascot idea and opted instead for putting a student inside a Cosmo the Cougar costume.
- In the 1960s, Florida had a live alligator named Albert, but, after the animal's death in 1970, the school also switched to a guy in a poofy outfit, who became such a campus institution that, in 2003, a bronze statue of the mascot suit was unveiled across the street from the stadium.
Here's another reason for keeping the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville: I'd get beaten up every other year if I went to Gainesville and mocked this preposterous monstrosity. As if the helmets weren't lame enough. . . .
- Georgia Tech once was home to Sideways the Dog, a stray animal who walked sideways due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident that reportedly involved her being thrown from a moving vehicle. Students at the Institute fed and housed her until she perished "after accidentally ingesting some rat poison in one of the dorm rooms."
- Like Arizona, Kansas State tried its hand at having a live wildcat represent the school, but the university in Manhattan failed miserably at the endeavor. In 1922, a pair of veterinarians and K.S.U. alumni "donated 'Touchdown I' to the school shortly after the animal was nursed back to health under their care." The K-State website explains Touchdown's ailment thusly:
Although the bobcats have served as K-State's wildcat mascot since 1922, the animals no longer attend K-State games.
To be continued. . . .