Golly! Ralphie IV to invade Sanford Stadium

Updated: September 19, 2006, 6:56 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. -- "Massive beast to invade Athens."

The headline in The Red and Black student newspaper gave playful notice of the impending visit from Colorado's 1,100-pound buffalo mascot, Ralphie IV, for Saturday's game against No. 9 Georgia at Sanford Stadium.

Georgia has welcomed many varieties of visiting animal mascots, but Tennessee's Smokey the Dog or Auburn's War Eagle VI cause minor disruptions when compared with making arrangements for a half-ton buffalo.

The buffalo was scheduled to leave its Boulder home Wednesday for the 1,500-mile drive and arrive in Athens Friday. ESPN is tagging along to document the trip for its Saturday morning college football show.

Ralphie IV made the trip to Orlando for Colorado's appearance in the Champs Sports Bowl last season, but it's unusual for the buffalo to be invited to an out-of-state regular-season game.

The "massive beast" had Georgia coach Mark Richt a bit alarmed Tuesday as he learned the details.

"Our coaches are a little concerned about that," Richt said before revealing he shared the concern.

"I don't know the deal," Richt said. "Is he going to get to run all over the field and stuff? That doesn't seem right."

When told Ralphie IV will lead the Colorado team onto the field, Richt demanded "But are they going to let him run? I wonder why we're letting him do that."

No one told Richt that Ralphie is a female.

Earlier in his weekly news conference, Richt talked about his role in scheduling decisions as Georgia attempts to add games from outside the South.

Richt said he takes part in discussions about possible opponents, but he said he was left out of the talk about the agreement to let the buffalo run onto the Sanford Stadium turf.

"I will say that nobody asked me about that one," Richt said.

Then Richt became more animated when told this is Ralphie's first regular-season road game outside the state of Colorado in 25 years.

"Is that right?" Richt asked before adding "Golly! Why did we do that? I really was kind of stunned when we found that out, but I was thinking surely they aren't going to let him stomp all over the field. I imagine he'd do a little damage."

Added Richt: "Golly!"

Ralphie IV may overshadow Georgia's Uga VI for the pregame. Uga VI will have the full mascot stage during the game, according to Georgia assistant athletic director Matt Brachowski.

"It is my understanding she will lead the team onto the field before the game and after halftime, but she won't be on the field during the game," Brachowski said, referring to Ralphie IV.

When asked about the potential damage to the field from the buffalo, Brachowski said "I don't anticipate much."

Brachowski said Georgia athletic director Damon Evans gave approval to Colorado for Ralphie IV's visit.

The buffalo will make a quick exit after the halftime charge back onto the field. She is to be loaded back in her 20-foot customized trailer for the trip back to Colorado.

The buffalo, born in 1997 on Ted Turner's Montana ranch, was only 1 month old when she wandered away from her mother and was rescued by ranchers from attacking coyotes.

According to the Colorado media guide, after she was nursed back to health, she couldn't fit back in with the herd. Turner donated the young buffalo to the University of Colorado to serve as the successor to Ralphie III.

Ralphie IV attends the annual Colorado-Colorado State game, home and away, as well as all bowl games.

Georgia players said they are not concerned about the possibility of facing the buffalo at eye level before the game.

Linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler said he's not scared of a buffalo.

"Back in Thomson, they had this buffalo farm and we used to go feed them," Verdun Wheeler said before demonstrating how he would hold corn in his hand to be eaten.

Brachowski said Colorado officials have made their own arrangements for where the buffalo will be kept Friday. Those secret plans are the subject of much speculation.

"I've heard it's going to be at the veterinary school," said Verdun Wheeler, who added that he and teammates Marquis Elmore and Michael Turner already have talked about visiting Ralphie IV.

"We all want to see the buffalo," he said.

Meanwhile, cornerback Paul Oliver said Richt doesn't need to worry.

"We ain't playing against a buffalo," Oliver said. "We're playing against a team."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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