I have offered the thesis that, with rare exceptions, no other Division I-A school besides Georgia can take proper care of a live mascot. I have supported this theory with ample evidence, demonstrating that virtually all other schools' live mascot traditions are inhumane, negligent, or just plain lame, and I now continue to read from the roll of shame:
- Ohio University celebrated its nickname with a live bobcat, Sir Winsalot, who served as the school's mascot from 1983 until the animal's death in 1999. During the 17 seasons in which Sir Winsalot symbolized the Bobcat football team, Ohio (Ohio) had one winning season, finished with four or fewer wins 13 times, posted five one-win campaigns, and went 0-11 in 1994, so the creature's moniker was a bit of a misnomer.
- Is a live mascot still a live mascot if it's a person? If so, the Oklahoma State Cowboys would like to introduce you to Frank Eaton, the gunslinger who allowed his likeness to be used on O.S.U. merchandise and represented the school at public events. Eaton, known as "Pistol Pete," saw his father killed when he was eight years old and, at age 15, he set out to avenge his father's murder, catching up to all six outlaws over the course of the next six years and killing five of them. (The sixth had been killed the day before Eaton arrived.) Where I come from, we have a little thing called the rule of law and I think civilian vigilantism would be frowned upon, but, apparently, that sort of thing got you deputized in the Oklahoma Territory in the 1880s.
"My name is Frank Eaton. You killed my father. Prepare to die. But, first, would you like me to autograph that Oklahoma State Cowboys replica helmet?"
- Before sticking some poor sap in a six-foot "Benny the Beaver" costume, Oregon State used to have a live coyote. You can think about that for as long as you like, but it's never going to make a lick of sense to you. Even Auburn fans furrow their unibrows at the thought of the Beavers being represented by a coyote and ask, "What's up with that?" (Yes, I know "What's up with that?" is so 1993, but they're a little behind the times at Auburn. I hate Auburn.)
- Evidently, Pittsburgh never had the guts to trot out a big cat for its live mascot, but one of the costumed Pitt Panther characters' outfits was made from authentic materials. Explained Rebecca Abromitis, a University of Pittsburgh archivist: "From the mid-'30s to the mid-'60s, I think it's a female lion. It would be totally not politically correct at all right now. I am sure it's real fur."
Also believed to be real panther fur: Dave Wannstedt's moustache.
- Although the occasional live owl has served as the mascot for Rice's sports teams, the private school's most famous mascot is Sammy the Owl, a replica owl made of canvas that has remained perched in Rice Stadium for nearly 90 years. Their mascot is made of burlap. No wonder they're bad.
- S.M.U.'s first live mascot, a miniature horse, was introduced during the Prohibition era and named in honor of an alcohol-laced tonic. The equine, Peruna I, was killed when the animal was hit by a car during a Halloween celebration in 1934.
- Of all the schools that lack the ability to take proper care of a live mascot, Tennessee may be among the worst offenders. Smokey II had to tangle with Baylor's live bear mascot during the 1957 Sugar Bowl and Smokey VI collapsed from heat exhaustion in 1991 before passing away later that same season.
- I have all the respect in the world for Texas for keeping a longhorn steer as the school's mascot. In all honesty, though, I must confess that I find it a bit unsettling that the Longhorns' mascot was named by (or, at the very least, because of) Texas A&M. When the Aggies branded Bevo I with the final score of the prior year's A&M win, some creative thinking was required to change "13-0" so it read "BEVO." When Bevo I refused to become domesticated, the animal was slaughtered and served as barbecue to Longhorn and Aggie fans alike, thus ending U.T.'s live mascot tradition until 1936.
To Bevo, "Defending National Champions" sounds a whole lot better than "Beef . . . It's What's For Dinner!"
- As ignominious as Bevo's origins may be, though, the original Texas mascot is nowhere near as lame---either figuratively or literally---as Texas A&M's. The first Reveille became the Aggies' mascot in 1931, when a collie began barking when the bugler awoke the cadets the morning after the dog had spent the night in some students' dorm room. What was the collie doing in their dormitory? The Texas A&M students had brought the dog back there after they hit her while driving a Model T Ford.
- Texas Tech's most famous mascot is the Masked Rider, who appears at Red Raider games "dressed in black clothing with a long flowing cape and mounted on a solid black gelding horse." It is open to debate which of the two---the horse or the rider---has more completely surrendered his masculinity for the privilege of serving as such and I leave it to my readers to do what they will with the fact that the Masked Rider's horses have been named, in succession: Happy Five (1973-1978), Happy VI (1978-1980), and Happy VI-II (1980-1987). Happy VI-II? Before the Masked Rider made his debut, though, Texas Tech was represented by a black calf beginning in 1925. Perhaps mindful of the fate that met Bevo I, the Red Raider faithful branded their mascot with the final score, slaughtered the calf, and fed it to the members of the team.
The inspiration for Texas Tech's "Masked Rider." Not that there's anything wrong with that. . . .
- Inexplicably, the Utah State Aggies kept a live bull during the 1960s. The practice was abandoned due neither to danger nor to cognitive dissonance, but because (as the E.S.P.N. College Football Encyclopedia puts it) "postgame cleanup wasn't worth the hassle." That explanation sounds like a bunch of B.S. to me.
- That just leaves us with the University of Virginia. Mr. Jefferson's academical village uses an Abbott and Costello "Hoos on first" routine's worth of nicknames, but the Cavaliers had live canine mascots beginning in the 1920s. The first was the two-tone mongrel Beta, who was left behind in the Classic City after Virginia played a football game against Georgia in Athens. Two weeks later, the dog showed up at the Beta Theta Pi house in Charlottesville, having been left to find his own way home. Given the poor quality of care given to Beta along fraternity row, he unsurprisingly met his end in 1939, when he was hit by an automobile.
Look upon his visage while ye can, o lame mascots of other schools; soon enough, you will be gazing at his hindquarters as he leaves you in his dust.
It's great to be a Georgia Bulldog.