<
>

A mascot for Michigan?

Wanted to get to this on Friday afternoon but ran out of time. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told Michigan Today that the school is interested in possibly having a mascot.

"I'm struck by the fact that when opposing teams come to our stadium, and they bring a mascot, all of our young fans are lined up to see if they can get a picture taken with it, whether it's the Penn State Nittany Lion or Sparty," Brandon said. "That's a little annoying to me. You can't get your picture taken with a Block M. Mascots are really embraced by the youth demographic, and we want to take advantage of that, for all the reasons that are obvious. ...

"We're interested in doing a mascot but it has to be something that fans love, that children love and everyone can embrace."

Brandon's comments came as part of a really interesting story explaining why the Wolverines are one of the very few programs that don't have a mascot roaming the sidelines. Many Michigan fans believe the school has never had a mascot and never wanted one, but that's not true.

According to the story, Fielding Yost led a charge to bring two live wolverines, named Bennie and Biff, to Michigan Stadium in 1927.

"The live wolverines were a disaster. When Biff was first placed into his cage a week before the game, he snapped a bar in two with his teeth. Said Yost of the wolverine experiment, which ended after that first season: "It was obvious that the Michigan mascots had designs on the Michigan men toting them, and those designs were by no means friendly." After the season, Bennie was sent to the Detroit Zoo while Biff was placed in the now-defunct University of Michigan Zoo."

In the 1960s and early 1970s, a pair of dogs named Whiskey and Brandy entertained the crowd with halftime shows, becoming unofficial mascots. In the 1980s, some Michigan students started a campaign for a new mascot named Willy the Wolverine. The costumed version would even show up at games, but at nearly seven feet tall it blocked many fans' views and was eventually banned from the stadium. School administrators never fully embraced the idea of Willy anyway.

Many Michigan fans cherish their tradition of non-tradition with mascots. For them, a big fuzzy costumed animal belongs at a theme park, not at the Big House.

But Brandon has already showed he's not afraid to mix things up, including this season's night game at Michigan Stadium that includes throwback jerseys and a hockey game at the Big House. Why not a mascot, especially if it's something that can make money through licensing deals and T-shirts? Or simply to draw more kids into the Maize and Blue?

"Our history and our tradition is great for those of us who were there to experience it, or remember it," Brandon said. "But there's a generation coming up, and you've got to connect with them and keep them excited."

To be clear, Brandon said he is not actively pursuing this idea, and many fans would probably revolt if he did so. That doesn't mean we can't have a little fun thinking about what a Michigan mascot might look like.

The Wolverines could always bring this guy in from the, uh, bullpen to stand on the sidelines. Good luck finding some handlers for him.

This guy looks pretty intimidating, though he might be a little busy. Maybe some version of this, but the licensing fees are probably cost-prohibitive. This guy doesn't look too tough or original. There's always this guy, for nostalgia, or this dude for the kids, if you want to stretch the meaning of the word wolverine.

It's definitely not going to be this guy.