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Imagine live mascots in some random sport

And grasp the unique weirdness of this particular part of college football.

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Let us imagine Novak Djokovic petitioning the ATP for permission to have a collie adjacent to the tennis court during all of his matches. The collie won’t go on the playing surface, of course, and can even be stationed right by the chair umpire, with a special handler attending to the dog. When the ATP asks Djokovic why he wants a collie on the court, he will insist that there’s no special advantage. This dog will not fetch balls or bring him new racquets or growl at his opponent. It’s just a fun thing for the fans.

After Alexander Zverev catches wind of that request, though, he calls the ATP. He’d like a hawk, and wouldn’t it be fun if the hawk flew around a bit? It’d only be before matches, but just imagine that majestic bird (his name is Z-Force) soaring over the Roland-Garros crowd. Rafael Nadal would like to enter the court riding a beautiful horse. Also Rafa will have a sword, but, again, both horse and sword will stay off to the side during the match.

You can run this thought exercise with any sport (luge is my favorite) and reach the same conclusion: no sensible oversight body would allow a player or team to bring a live animal to an event that is no way for live animals.

College football is not run by any sensible oversight bodies, so we get steers meeting bulldogs (and surprise when that doesn’t go well), eagles just flying the hell away, out-of-control buffaloes, and horse-drawn wagon crashes. Try to explain this to someone who doesn’t watch the sport.

Do the animals have a job to do? Sometimes, but usually not.

Do teams with live mascots perform better?

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Are the animals having fun?

NCAA Football: Georgia at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

You’re thinking, well, the Nationals have racing presidents, the Spurs have a coyote who catches live bats, and Gritty accounts for 70% of all hockey content. Let’s first acknowledge the difference in taxonomy: those are mascots, not live animals. But more importantly, nobody demands those mascots be treated seriously, and that’s where college football really stands alone.

The absurdity of keeping a longhorn/ram/dog/bird on the sideline of a college football game is multiplied by the sanctified perches those animals occupy. This is not Chomps, a fun dog who likes to steal hot dogs and barks when one team scores. This is MASCOTIUS, ELEVENTH OF HIS NAME, KEPT IN COMFORTABLE QUARTERS THANKS TO A GENEROUS DONATION BY THE MASCOTIUS BROTHERHOOD. (Mascotius XI farts) MERELY A TRUMPET HERALDING OUR DESTINED VICTORY!

College football is a universe where we collectively impose a metric ton of gravity and importance on nonsense. The live animals of the sport are the simplest manifestation of that fact.

Remember that picture of the open-casket ceremony for the Browns’ dog? In the NFL, the normal reaction to that photo is “why are they doing this?” In college football, the normal reaction becomes “where the hell is the governor?”

Elsewhere in Banner Society’s Mascot Week