The 12 furry beasts recently named to the collegiate All-America Mascot Team can stand tall—they've all won the approval of the world's pre-eminent mascot expert. Dr. Roy Yarbrough (he has a Ph.D. in sports management studies) has been fascinated by mascotry ever since he pulled on a homemade Panther costume and performed at Illinois's Greenville College in the late 1960s. "A person in costume sees things differently than other people," he says. "I know what that person is thinking."
The ability to get inside a mascot's head helped Yarbrough, the 55-year-old director of the sports management program at California University of Pennsylvania, to write the undisputed bible of the mascot industry, the 330-page Mascots: The History of Senior College & University Mascots. From it one can learn that the eagle is by far the nation's most popular mascot (74 schools); that the first college sports mascot was the University of Illinois's Chief Illiniwek in 1926; and that the Valdosta State Dragon wears size-30 shoes. Yarbrough's obsession also made him a natural to serve as one of the five panelists (the original Phillie Phanatic was another) who selected the All-America team from a list of 240 candidates based on sportsmanship, community service and interaction with fans. The finalists were Cocky ( South Carolina), Chip ( Colorado), Hairy Dawg ( Georgia), Harry the Husky ( Washington), Aubie (Auburn), Monte ( Montana), Scratch ( Kentucky), Brutus Buckeye ( Ohio State), Smokey ( Tennessee), Albert ( Florida), Big Red (Western Kentucky) and YoUDee ( Delaware). Next, a Mascot of the Year will be chosen from this group through online voting (www.capitalbowlone.com) and announced on Jan. 1. For what it's worth, Matthew Perkins, a Georgia sophomore who inhabits his school's mascot, sees himself as the favorite. "Hairy Dawg (above, back row, second from left) is the best-looking mascot," says Perkins. "He has an intense look."
As for Yarbrough, he's now working on a follow-up volume detailing the mascots at some 750 community colleges, such as the Kalamazoo ( Mich.) College Hornet. He's also planning to open a mascot academy. "More people want to be trained," he says. "With fans, do they understand a good touch versus a bad touch? Do they understand dehydration? Do they understand how to stand on their heads?" Yarbrough envisions a three-day course that will teach nutrition and fitness as well as the business side of being a mascot "I believe," he says, "that this is an element of our sports tradition that has been greatly overlooked."