Dating back to the 1800’s the use of mascots in colleges and universities has helped to foster pride and raise the spirit of fans. At the earliest incarnation, mascots used on college and university campuses for sports were largely live animals. This has become a tradition and some campuses still practice this even today. Mascots for hundreds perhaps thousands of years have been viewed as symbols of luck.
This is why some college and universities will still bring out a live animal onto the field as a mascot to get the crowd involved. Animals such as: lions, tigers, buffaloes, and bulldogs have been used as live mascots to name a few. The Colorado Buffaloes will often bring a buffalo out onto their home field during half-time. Boosters at most campuses supply the necessary funds for the feeding and upkeep of live mascots.
Use of Live Mascots a Controversy for Colleges and Universities
However, the use of live animals as mascots on college and university campuses has been fraught with controversy. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has had much to say about the use of animals as mascots over the years. Many people in the group feel that it is unethical and perhaps unhealthy to keep animals in captivity for the sole purpose of being a mascot. Their concern arises amid some animal mascots dying such as a tiger from renal failure.
PETA argues that the cages that the animals are kept in are barely large enough to allow for free movement. Also, sometimes temperatures can be extreme and having thousands of fans in one place near the animal can cause it distress. Rival schools will at times steal the mascot of other schools. This is an ongoing controversy that hasn’t come to a clean end. Some colleges and universities view using live animal mascots as a long standing tradition that is harmless. Animal rights activists feel it is inhumane and unethical and needs to end.
Many Mascots Resemble Those in Professional Sports
Several colleges and universities don’t use live mascots. Their mascots are very much like the ones seen at professional football, soccer, and basketball games. Someone wears a suit and becomes the personality for the team. A lot of intense training can go into becoming a mascot for a college or university. The person has to have a high level of energy, be enthusiastic and engaging, be able to give the mascot “personality,” and adopt gestures befitting a mascot.
Many will learn dances, mime, perform skits, waves flags with the crowds, or hold up signs to get the crowd involved. It is quite the acting job and demands that the person performing as the mascot maintain consistent, upbeat, and positive behavior. It’s not only important for the mascot to interact with other college students. A mascot needs to be accessible to all college and university fans such as alumni, community, faculty, and children of fans.
College and University Mascots aren’t Always Stereotypical
The use of mascots in colleges and universities do not always fall along stereotypical lines. Mascots are often patterned for characteristics of the school or the students attending the schools. The boll weevil has been used in college sports as the mascot for The University of Arkansas at Monticello. Some would argue that it doesn’t look like a formidable foe. Yet, it is one of the biggest detriments to cotton crops in the U.S.
The Fighting Okra is the mascot representing Delta State. Fans of the school’s team were opposed to using the vegetable because they didn’t feel it portrayed the right image. Some argued that it was mean, green, and indigenous to the Southern region of America. Given this reasoning the mascot name has stuck.
The University of Hawaii-Hilo has taken a different approach with their mascot. They have emulated the Vulcans of Star Trek fan and made them their mascot. Their reasoning is due to the large amount of volcanic activity through the islands, the name fits perfectly.