Whether they are real-life animals or fake inanimate objects, mascots have become engrained in college football culture. In honor of the 150th anniversary of college football, herewith an all-time ranking of the best mascots in the sport.
10. University of Tennessee: Smokey
Prior to home games the entire Volunteers football team is led onto the field by Smokey, a bluetick coonhound. Smokey X—the current pooch and the first not to descend directly from the original Smokey, who took on mascot duties in 1953—resides with the Hudson family during the week, then hangs out at the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity house on gamedays.
9. Syracuse University: Otto the Orange
Otto is as sweet as the fruit he embodies. He’s gone through a couple name changes—earlier versions were reportedly called both Clyde and Woody—but Otto’s lovable essence has always prevailed.
8. Western Kentucky University: Big Red
Created in 1979, Big Red doesn’t fit neatly in any mascot boxes. The creator, Ralph Carey, told the Bowling Green Daily News that Big Red couldn’t be an animal, and he explicitly wanted to avoid any Kentucky “hillbilly” stereotypes. The end result: a plush, charming, and utterly lovable red blob, with two “signature moves”: the belly slide and the belly shake.
7. University of South Carolina: Cocky the Gamecock
A mainstay in the old Capital One Mascot Challenges, Cocky has his own workout videos, and is well-regarded among many fanbases for his “Magic Box” entrance on football gamedays.
6. University of Colorado: Ralphie the Buffalo
Ralphie, the 1,200-pound live buffalo, and her team of five varsity student-athlete “handlers” make Colorado football games a worthy addition to any college football fan’s bucket list. Guiding Ralphie around the field pregame and after halftime is a prestigious honor at Colorado, and the program of handlers has its own coaching staff to ensure student safety.
5. Stanford University: The Tree
This one comes with a caveat, as the Tree isn’t the official mascot of the university; it’s a member of the Stanford Band. But an unofficial mascot that everyone associates with the school—and looks like that—couldn’t be left off of our list.
4. University of Texas: Bevo
The live longhorn bull Bevo first made an appearance for Texas at a homecoming celebration on Thanksgiving Day 1916. And now, over a century later, Bevo (XV) is still one of the most beloved mascots in the game. Though he has, on occasion, broken free of his on-field pen during games, Bevo usually stands calmly in the endzone, taking part in some players’ touchdown celebrations.
3. Louisiana State University: Mike the Tiger
In 2005, LSU installed a $3.7 million, 15,000-square foot habitat to house its famed live royal Bengal tiger mascot Mike V. That was 70 years after the school purchased Mike I from the Little Rock Zoo after collecting 25 cents from every student. Until 2016, shortly before Mike VII took over, cheerleaders would stand atop the tiger’s cage as it rolled to its parking spot outside the opposing team’s locker room on football game days. Now, Mike VII spends his game days roaming his habitat and eating ground meat versions of opposing team logos.
2. University of Oregon: The Duck
From the 1920s to ‘40s, a live duck named “Puddles” (and subsequently his offspring) found its way to Oregon football and basketball games, becoming a de facto mascot for the school. Repeated complaints from the Humane Society brought the live mascot era to an end, though, and through a handshake agreement with Walt Disney in 1947, the school was able to fashion a mascot costume in Donald Duck’s likeness. Now, the Duck shoots donuts into gameday crowds, rides a motorcycle, and heckles opposing fans, deviating just slightly from his Disney namesake.
1. University of Georgia: Uga
Georgia’s line of pure white English bulldogs, now on No. 10, has been a staple of the mascot landscape since 1956. Though every new dog is added to the “Uga” line—Uga X is the latest—each also has its own unique name, is given a custom-made jersey and a varsity letter, and resides in an air-conditioned on-field doghouse. When his day comes, each Uga is buried in a marble vault alongside his fallen predecessors outside the football stadium.