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Dog mascots, reviewed

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Many college football games include free dog shows. It’s time we pay more attention to those.

Uga Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Banner Society illustration.

College football is the greatest American sport because even mediocre games involve the purchase of three or four events at once. There is a party outside the stadium, a nice porch hang inside, and occasionally a competitive football game on the field. At Alabama games there are now raves; at bowl games, amateur wrestling.

Sometimes, with select teams, there is a dog show as well.

The selection of animals to be judged is not complete nor authoritative. College football’s dog show is hilariously overindexed on Bulldogs and Huskies and very short on Terriers. It could use at least one Pitbull, because no sport with Alabama and Clemson as dominant powers can honestly claim the Pitbull isn’t a perfect fit. There are no Toy dogs — even though Toys are clearly the kickers and future head coaches of the dog world.

It’s an august group nevertheless, a collection of handsome, perfect dogs whose preseason ranking somehow works out to number ones all the way down. Let’s survey just a sampling of college football’s dozens of dog mascots.

Working Group (aka Dogs That Do Things Or Actually Did Things Once)

UConn: Jonathan the Husky

Jonathan is an outstanding representative for the breed. He has the piercing, mischievous eyes. The compact, powerful build. The innate friendliness and balanced demeanor. All combine to make the Husky such a favorite as a family companion.

Jonathan represents UConn football well, too, most notably in the scenes on his Instagram where he:

Jonathan is obviously a perfect dog, and as it turns out, also the perfect UConn football fan. Like many long-suffering UConn fans, Jonathan the Husky endures all of the program’s defeats cheerfully. Unlike UConn football fans, Jonathan has an advantage: He does not understand how painful losses are because he is a dog and does not understand football.

NIU: Mission the Husky

Mission is, like Jonathan, an exemplary Husky. There are notable variations. Mission’s white coat with black tips is darker than Jonathan’s, he appears to be slighter in build than UConn’s mascot, and the dark sunglasses are neither breed standard nor permitted in exhibition.

Still, Mission falls well within the Husky standard. Just like MAC football, he works on Mondays and other odd, non-football nights during the week.

Washington: Dubs II

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 USC at Washington Photo by Michael Workman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One might think there are too many Huskies in the mascot bin. One might be forgetting that, before settling on the noble breed as school totem, the University of Washington had a gold-painted, 70-pound wooden lad nicknamed “Sunny Boy” as their mascot.

Sunny Boy could not bark, run, or roll adorably on his back for belly rubs. Sunny Boy couldn’t do anything at all. He looked like a bleach-blond Ted Cruz with a cartoon bowtie and high socks. Most mascots look like they want to kick someone’s ass. Sunny Boy looked like he was begging to be beaten and was preemptively grateful for the whoopin’.

No, like, literally begging for it. His face is saying Please, sir. Beat my ass. But his body is also saying this, and ‘Twould be an honor, sirrah!

Washington ended up with a dynasty of adorable puppy mascots, including current perfect dog Dubs II. Sunny Boy got shipped to the Midwest by frat boy pranksters, worked in obscurity as a scarecrow for 23 years in a garden in South Bend, Indiana, and is now “chained to a railing in the Alumni House” for all eternity. It’s jail — and he loves it — and it’s better than Sunny Boy deserves.

NC State: Tuffy the “Wolf”

Is not actually a Wolf or a Tuffy — he is a Tamaskan, a Husky/Malamute/German Shepherd hybrid, and his name is Wave. The decision came after early attempts to use real Wolves resulted in at least one Wolf suffering a nervous breakdown and running into the woods. At that point, using a convincing-looking wolfy hybrid was the best option.

Or: That is the collection of lies NC State believes, as explained eloquently by this obvious undercover con-Wolf:

FBC-CHAMPSSPORTS Photo by Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

This is so obviously a lazy Wolf, deep undercover as an obscure dog breed in order to enjoy the sweet mascot life. This Wolf did their research prior to pulling the con of a lifetime, though, because this is an old scam at NC State, and one that works.

The only mascot to thrive in the role as “Tuffy the Wolf” prior to Wave was Lobo III, a Timberwolf the student body purchased for $125 in 1966 to serve as the Wolfpack’s mascot. On his arrival to campus, Lobo was unusually comfortable with people and good with crowds, even howling along with the fans at games. He seemed more relaxed than any Wolf should be around humans, and for good reason. The school had ordered a Timberwolf and received a very sociable Coyote instead.

Hound Group

Tennessee: Smokey

Charlotte v Tennessee Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

The dog that looks like “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” sounds. The Bluetick Coonhound’s breed description has a bunch of stuff about its deep chest, robust nature, melodious baying, and an affectionate, laid-back temperament.

These basics are all true. The Bluetick is astonishingly sweet and sleeps like it owes the floor money. It is loving and leisurely, but despite all training and will never take an order on the first attempt. It might work with you on this cool project called “shake” or “sit,” but that’s a partnership. The other projects like “stop eating shoes” and “please don’t leap howling straight through closed glass windows like Dog Tony Jaa” are of less interest to them and should wait until the owner refines their elevator pitch for the project.

The Bluetick is also an expert hunter with a tremendous prey drive. I can’t emphasize this enough: It’s sweet and chill, until something grabs its attention and turns it into a laser-focused sniper drinking its own pee on a 20-day stakeout of a target. The Bluetick doesn’t just hunt. It makes elaborate mental maps of its backyard. It names squirrels individually and gives them unique, sinister backstories just so hunting them becomes that much more personal. It dreams of taking down the entire squirrel mafia like a furry Daredevil working its way up to burly squirrel Kingpin.

If Smokey were a person, they would wear shorts in 30-degree weather, never lock the doors on their car, and only write “LIVE” on their to-do lists every day. They would eat Thanksgiving dinner right off the serving line with their hands without a plate, go sockless at formal events, and bro-hug the Queen when they received their knighthood. They live at a constant blend of 60% sleepy, 30% goofy comic relief, and 10% absolute obsessive killer.

They’re going to poop in a shoe. Might be yours, might be your arch enemy’s. You’ll never know until it’s happened, and always without warning.

So yes: Perfect dog, and perfect mascot for Tennessee football.

Southern Illinois University: Various Salukis

Southern Illinois University

An ancient Egyptian breed with a catlike demeanor and the sleek build of a sight hound, the Saluki followed the path of civilization established by the Pharoahs of old to the modern-day center of civilization: Carbondale, Illinois.

The FCS Saluki is included here because it has really great hair, and because one of the Salukis used at games is named “Jafar” and already has more swag than you or anyone you know has or ever will have.


Wofford College: Boston Terrier

The group is underrepresented as a whole, but Wofford holds it down by claiming several walleyed and snorting Boston Terriers as their mascot. The Boston Terrier is somewhere between a miniaturized Boxer and a micro-Pitbull, which sums up Wofford football pretty well: A triple-option FCS nuisance that might not be capable of eating you, but will certainly take a piece of your pants with them before you leap the fence.

Wofford University

The mascot began as a Pitbull, actually, but as Wofford moved back up the ranks from NAIA to FCS, it grew smaller and smaller. Why? THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE. Boston Terriers do not know how to act at all and are the most commonly banned dog from dog parks.*

*Source: The dude who runs the dog park near my house.

Non-Sporting Group

Fresno State: Victor E. Bulldog

The lovable and jowly Bulldog once worked the farms of America, corralling bulls and keeping the pastures safe from harm. Then breeding turned them into the modern Bulldog, stripping them of any utility and turning them into snorting, bowlegged fart machines. If one wants to, there are a lot of places to read about the Bulldog’s controversial breeding history.

This isn’t one of them. I would like to instead say that of all the current mascot Bulldogs, only Fresno State seems to understand the one remaining non-companionship purpose of the breed: To wear humorous outfits like a Bulldog is a person.

Victor E. Bulldog has:

Thank you for understanding the Bulldog’s one true purpose, Fresno State. Put it in an Easter Bunny outfit for spring. I want this. You want this. We all want this.

Louisiana Tech: Tech the Bulldog

NCAA Football: Independence Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Miami Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

A robust, well-built English Bulldog, Tech embodies the combination of good humor and stocky, fearless tenacity all Bulldog owners have come to know and love. According to Louisiana Tech lore, the inspiration for Tech died in the course of rescuing five sleeping students from a house fire before being overcome by the fumes. This makes Tech one of at least two college mascots to die from smoke inhalation.

The second: Traveler IV from USC, a fiendish, three-pack-a-day smoker whose habit ultimately killed him. Man oh man did that horse love him some Marlboro Reds.

Mississippi State: Bully

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Mississippi State Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

A fine-looking English Bulldog, Bully is a fawn male who serves in a long line of mascots who have died in car accidents, endured multiple kidnappings, survived lead poisoning after being painted red and blue by Ole Miss fans, tried to fight tigers, bears, and elephants, and passed away from “lack of exercise.” Bully might sound a lot like everyone’s Uncle Ray-Ray, and that’s kind of a tragedy of misplaced talents. In this life, he made a spotty, sometimes dangerous relative who showed up for Christmas in clothes with unexplained singe marks on them. In another, he would have been a handsome, perfect SEC mascot.

Georgia: Uga

Finally, something on the football field at Georgia finishes at number one.

Sporting Group

Boise State: Kohl, The Boise State Tee-Fetching Dog

Cons: As a Labrador Retriever and not a bronco, is not technically the mascot. Might also eat rocks out of the driveway and leap into only the filthiest of puddles at the worst possible times, because they are a black lab.

Pros: Look at this John Cena of a dog. EFFORT. RESPECT. DROOL.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Utah State at Boise State Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Herding Group

Texas A&M: Reveille

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 30 Northwestern State at Texas A&M Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Collies are a bold, intelligent, and athletic breed, superb family pets with a proud bearing and an excellent legacy as champion herders. Of course, herding dogs don’t know what to do after they gather everything up into one place. They just get it together. They’re not really capable of putting the cows in the barn by themselves, or driving them to market. It’s like a collie to get 75 million things together, put it in one place, and expect magic to happen, right? For things to be different, and not just the usual 7-5, right?

But let’s not get carried away with metaphors and comparisons with the mascot and the school. That would be delusional.

Anyway, Collies can weigh up to —

—oh no —

— noooooooooooo —

noooooooooo whoop! Reveille just barked, gotta go now, that’s Aggie law.