The mascot is the abiding symbol of college sports, a source of pride around which an entire school is united. A person or animal (or…something) with characteristics that embody the spirit of the university is chosen. Pictures are drawn. Merchandise is made. Colors are selected. Costumers are created. Sometimes even a real, live version of the mascot is put on parade before the sporting event commences.
There are institutions which obviously put a lot of thought and consideration into the selection of their mascot and chose something to represent the history and culture of the region which the university serves: The Oklahoma Sooners, the North Carolina Tar Heels, or the Purdue Boilermakers. Others chose something unique or interesting to represent their school and the spirit they wished to exemplify:
- Solid, standard-issue animal mascots like Bulldogs, Wildcats, Rams, Bears, Tigers, Panthers, Cougars, Falcons, or Eagles.
- Quasi-ferocious humans, which include Trojans, Spartans, Crusaders, Red Raiders, Vikings, Knights, Pioneers or Pirates.
- Mystical or mythical creatures are featured prominently on the mascot roster: Blue Demons, Sun Devils, Dragons, Titans, or the Phoenix.
- So do violent forces of nature like Hurricanes, Cyclones, or Tornadoes.
- Some mascots are obviously the first animal that wandered past the naming committee: a Mule, a Buffalo, a Longhorn, a Blue-Tick Hound, a “Fighting” Squirrel.
- Then there are those schools that apparently care most about truckloads of merchandise sales to juveniles and go with sexual innuendo (e.g. Beavers, Cocks, or Horned Frogs).
10. The Oregon Ducks. Is this a university or a Disney film? It’s better than the Ibis, which isn’t a duck but is played by a duck at the University of Miami, who are actually the ‘Canes. (I guess that means the Ducks are number 11; oh well, bonus!)
9. The Nebraska Cornshucker. Is it just me or is ‘Lil Red reminiscent of a time when inflatable children were forced to shuck corn for 85 hours a day? Or is this the bastard half-brother of Big Boy?
8. The Wichita State WuShock. This mascot is (I kid you not) a stalk of wilted celery on steroids.
7. The Maryland Terrapins. Fear the Turtle? I don’t think so.
6. The Stanford Cardinal, which is a bird, represented by a big tree, but is actually a color (a deep, crimson red). Yes, their mascot is a color.
5. As is the Syracuse Orange. Or maybe it’s a fruit. Either way it doesn’t inspire fear or terror (although it may prevent scurvy).
4. The Alabama Crimson Tide. This confounds understanding. I understand that it’s hard to find a ferocious representation of a Tide, but you could have served your school better if you didn’t just go with the first animal that came to mind when the mascot committee assembled in TUSK-aloosa.
Regrettably, the Big Ten has more than its fair share of contestants for the Ghastly Mascot award. Indeed, the Top 3 are from our own conference:
3. The Nittany Lion. Ok, +1 because the name is great. But -1000 because the mascot is actually a naked weasel with a bad scarf.
2. The Golden Gopher. Maybe this is personal, but every time I contemplate the thought of a loss to the Golden Gopher, I curl up into the fetal position with the distressing awareness that maybe we are Bill Murray in Caddyshack.
Grand Champion Worst Mascot Every Conceived in the Mind of Mortal Men:
1. The Buckeye. What school would ever think that using a turd ball for a mascot, complete with the piece of corn lodged in the center, was a mighty swell idea? Yep…Skid Marks R Us, Buckeye Central, Ohio.
Penn State mascot arrested on DUI charge
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)—The Penn State senior who plays the Nittany Lion mascot was arrested on a DUI charge and his status for the Rose Bowl is in doubt, police and school officials said.
James Sheep was pulled over on campus around 3:15 a.m. on Nov. 22, hours before Penn State’s 49-18 win over Michigan State, University Police Capt. Bill Moerschbacher said Monday. The officer who made the stop saw that the vehicle was overloaded, with passengers piled onto each other and blocking the driver’s view.
After determining that Sheep had been drinking, the officer administered sobriety tests and took him to the hospital for blood tests, Moerschbacher said. He was later charged with DUI and summary traffic violations.
A telephone message left for Sheep by The Associated Press was not immediately returned Monday.
At the Michigan State game, the final home game of the year, Sheep was honored for serving as the mascot since January 2007.
School spokesman Geoff Rushton said he expects some action from the Office of Judicial Affairs, but said that it would likely be up to the coaching staff to determine if Sheep can attend the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1.
The student in the mascot suit receives a scholarship, but Rushton said he did not know how much it was worth. In addition to football games, the mascot attends several hundred events a year and must maintain a 3.0 grade point average.
University sanctions can range from requiring students to take mandatory education classes to expulsion, Rushton said.