The mascot is among the most cherished traditions in college sports. From giant inflatable elephants to papier-mâché tree nuts, from anthropomorphic vegetables to whatever the heck George Mason University’s Gunston is supposed to be, mascots capture the fun, imagination, and culture of campus life in ways that no lecture hall, football jersey, or logo-branded tote bag ever could.
Our mascots are ourselves, the most extreme, spirited, and anarchic version of we as spectators. They are the recklessly abandoned version of ourselves we wish we could be and sometimes are. It is thus that we celebrate the best, the most huggable, and the most unquestionably strange mascots to ever stalk the field, stride the diamond, or bound the hardwood.This is by no means a comprehensive, exhaustive, or scientific list. The most important qualification for inclusion is essentially that the mascot must make you smile, either because of its immediate familiarity, its irresistible cuteness, or its unabashed embrace of weirdness. As to the latter quality, perhaps it is a mark of the subject matter in general, but weirdness is a satisfyingly recurrent theme both within this account and in the larger world of mascots omitted from this list.
To wit, I’m not even gonna tell you his name here because it would violate decorum, but if you get a free moment, go ahead and look up the mascot for the Rhode Island School of Design…ohh, you wacky design majors.
Moving on, there are just a few basic stipulations by which certain mascot archetypes have been excluded. Everything else is fair game:
No Live Animals
It’s not really fair to expect a guy dressed up as a dog to compete with an actual dog. Putting aside the various animal rights movements throughout history that have sought to free live mascots from the clutches of university employment, a human being in a costume simply cannot match the cuteness factor of the real thing.
No Outdated Ethnic Stereotypes
This year, the Washington Redskins of the National Football League saw their copyright to the team nickname revoked. This decision highlights the ongoing push away from sports mascots derived from offensive Native American stereotypes. A great many colleges, as this list will demonstrate, have voluntarily moved away from such stereotypes over the last 40 years as well. We will honor this progress by excluding any such depictions, past or present, from this list.
Everybody is a Wildcat. And seriously, Kentucky, Villanova, Arizona, Davidson…you’re all great and everybody respects you. But you don’t get to make this list. As you will see, we award extra points for originality (Note: no actual points awarded).
With that, we invite you to consider the valuable contributions to college sport of the cumbersome, furry, and full-figured misfits that comprise our list.