Auburn's war eagle wouldn't take defeat flying down. When Florida wide receiver Wes Chandler scored a touchdown against the Auburn tigers in 1976, the bird took things into its own talons. It took off from its Perch and Blindsided chandler in the end zone, thus becoming the only mascot to draw a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary pecking.
Live animal mascots have long been a part of college football, and they have come in amazing variety—from Arkansas razorbacks to Michigan wolverines, from Washington huskies to SMU mustangs. Predators are preferred—even nasty, disagreeable insects: yellow jackets (Georgia Tech), spiders (Richmond), hornets (Delaware Slate) and wasps (Emory and Henry College in Emory, Va.). Bug haters have a mascot of their own: the anteater (UC Irvine), which provokes the lusty cheer, "Give 'em the tongue! Zot! Zot!" Other foods are represented as well. To protest greater spending for athletics than for academics in 1971, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College students rallied behind an artichoke.
The artichoke's poise and physical toughness make it an ideal mascot. But the artichoke can't do half the tricks the U.S. Air Force Academy's falcons can. "We've got the only performing mascot act," says Tom Hermel, one of 11 cadets charged with caring for the birds. At half-time, two falcons wheel over the stadium, wings spread wide. When they stretch out, they're as sleek and elegant and streamlined as F-14s approaching the deck of an aircraft carrier. They swoop down and try to strike a lure being twirled by a handler on the field. The lure is pulled away at the last second, and the falcons zoom back into the sky.
"When we play Army, our cadets chant, 'Let's see the mule fly! Let's see the mule fly!' " says Hermel. And what do Army's cadets chant back? "Nothing special," says Hermel. "Usually just, 'Air Force sucks!' "
If a team doesn't play well, mascots are sometimes held accountable. The Livestock Club at Colorado State once proposed to butcher Cam the Ram V and raffle oft' his head. Cam V, it seems, had presided over six straight losing seasons. He died in 1973 at age seven of natural causes. One student offered a fitting epitaph:
Here lies Cam the Ram,
His soul should go to heaven,
He's lived through seven years of hell.
In this era of sensitivity to animal rights, fewer and fewer beasties sniff and soar and slither around the sidelines. Those that remain inspire fierce loyalty. Hundreds of humans gathered last year in Athens, Ga., as UGA (pronounced ugga) IV, the Georgia bulldog, was laid to rest in Sanford Stadium. "It was just something respectful to perpetuate UGA IV's memory," says the dog's former master, Frank (Sonny) Seiler, who had watched as the red-and-black plywood coffin was carried by. "We didn't feel any religious ceremony was necessary."
UGA IV's passing was a shame, but how do you explain the 20,000 mourners who turned out in 1989 to see Texas A&M's collie, Reveille IV, buried with full military honors? The world has surely gone to the dogs...and the goats...and the artichokes....
Aside from King Tut, whom we'll deal with later, and perhaps Jimmy Hoffa, UGAs I, II, III and IV are the most famous mammals to be buried within a football stadium. The white English purebreds are sealed in wall vaults just behind Sanford Stadium's west end zone, their epitaphs inscribed on their red Georgia marble crypts. UGA I's reads: