Big Red up for ‘Mascot of the Year’

Shawntaye Hopkins

He’s one of the most prominent figures at Western.

In the words of Tiffany Tohill, a freshman from Nashville, Tenn., “He rocks my socks.”

Now he, or maybe it, needs Western’s support.

Big Red, the Hill’s furry blob of a mascot, is representing Kentucky and Western in the first Capital One National Mascot of the Year contest. The character joins 12 finalists on the All-American mascot team.

The winner is selected on the merit of online voting and a nomination packet. It will be announced at the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla..

The finalists were chosen from nominations from NCAA Division I-A and I-AA schools with football teams. According to the Capital One Web site, the five judges from Capital One, ESPN and the mascot community looked at interaction with fans, originality, sportsmanship and involvement in community service to make their decisions.

As one of the finalists, Western was given $5,000 for scholarship and funding of the mascot program. The winner will receive an additional $5,000 for the program, which pays for costume cleaning and other expenses.

“(Mascots) signify the true spirit behind college football,” said Pam Girardo, a Capital One spokesperson. She said mascots are “unsung heroes” and the competition “gives them a chance to shine and get the recognition they deserve.”

Beaver Dam senior Wade Raymer has been “the guy in the suit” for three and a half years.

“I’ve always enjoyed entertaining people and having fun,” Raymer said.

He said Big Red needs the support of students to help the mascot win this competition.

“If we can get second place in the voting we still have a chance of winning,” Raymer said.

Students can vote at www.capitalonebowl.com. All votes must be received before 5 p.m. Dec. 20.

Big Red is currently in a fourth-place tie with Buzz the Yellow Jacket of Georgia Tech. The Nittany Lion of Penn State is in first place.

“The Nittany Lion better not come to Bowling Green,” Raymer said.

Several students, such as Richard Gervais, a senior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., are waging their Big Red support.

“(Big Red) livens up the game and is part of the whole sports atmosphere,” said Gervais, an offensive lineman on the football team.

He added that Big Red gets a crowd that would otherwise be silent into the game. Erin Valentino, a junior from Oviedo, Fla. agrees.

“A competition that amplifies school spirit is a good idea,” she said.

Jim Clark, associate director of athletics, expressed the importance of a mascot.

“It is something that is recognizable of your school and something for fans to rally around,” he said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]