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The view from inside the suit

UC grads share their experiences bringing the Bearcat to life

Over the past several decades, only a select number of UC students can claim the rare experience of having brought to life UC’s man-size Bearcat mascot uniform. Here we explore the view from inside the giant head by chasing down a few tales in the very words of those who trolled the sidelines of the University of Cincinnati as the Bearcat.


It was very hot one early September day for a UC football game. It was over 100 degrees on the field.  One of my colleagues was working the suit that day, while I was in the stands sitting with friends. It’s important to realize how different the suit was in those days than now. It had a heavy fiberglass head of a different design, and the body was made of a very heavy fur-like substance. It reeked. My mother may have been the only one who ever laundered it. So the Bearcat went on with his usual antics, working up quite a lather in the suit.

“Halfway through the second quarter, he passes out. So of course, they are frantically looking into the stands for a replacement. I’m trying to hide. No way I want to get in that suit now. My friends, of course, had the opposite response. They were gleefully pointing me out as the other mascot available. I couldn’t very well say ‘no’ once I was found, so I climbed into the suit, swimming in another’s sweat. My gag reflexes were working overtime. But after about 10 minutes I got used to it and went out and finished the game. But as a penalty to my friends, I went into the stands to hug and kiss and share with them. A fond memory.

— Donald Poynter, DAAP ‘78


A photo of the University of Cincinnati mascot, the Bearcat.

Talking is definitely off limits. That’s the main rule. As far as everything else is concerned, it is more like, ‘Do now and ask later.’ The chair slide (in Fifth Third Arena) can be kind of dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. When you first do it, it is pretty terrifying actually. There is a little bit of technique to keeping your weight forward, but you basically just sit down and go and let the railing at the bottom stop you.

— Matt Silverstein, Bus ‘10


I was the first female Bearcat, during the 1975-76 school year. I performed with a big red bow on my costume and was at every home football game, Homecoming and most of the basketball games. That year, the basketball team went to Lawrence, Kan., for the NCAA quarterfinals! I loved being the girl Bearcat, and I talk about that experience to this day!

— Debbie Nadler Friedman, Bus ‘76


We had two Bearcats in the late ‘70s. I was the girl Bearcat mascot in 1976-77 that got married to the guy mascot for Homecoming at the student union bridge at noon. The cheerleaders were the bridesmaids, and the captain gave me away. A law professor performed the ceremony, and a reception was held that evening for all the university to attend at a big dance. I have pictures from the event, and it was huge news. The union clock chimes rang at 12:00 to start the procession over the bridge and many students were witnesses. It was history making!

— Denise Gardonio, Ed ‘77



A couple dressed as the mascots of the University of Cincinnati, the Bearcats.


While at a Navy game, a group of Midshipmen asked, ‘Do you mind if we pass you up?’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ They said, ‘Well, you just lie out, and we’ll pass you up.’ So I went over there and lied down, and they passed me up and down the crowd.  You could do numerous things on the field that you would never do if you weren’t dressed as though people couldn’t see you. I’d get in with the band and the majorette, then create a little havoc during the halftime shows. It was an absolute blast.

— Alfred Behrens, Bus ‘57



A male and female versions of the University of Cincinnati mascot, the Bearcat.

When I was the mascot, the Bearcat was more cute and cuddly. The new one is more aggressive, but my opinion of the Bearcat was that he was more of a lover than a fighter. And I played that role up pretty well. The funniest thing was when you would find a really cute girl. You could steal her away, then watch the boyfriend get all fuming mad. That would always crack me up. There was just an electrifying feel to being down on the field.

— Steve Trepkowski, CCM ‘05

More from this issue

The namesake of the University of Cincinnati mascot, Teddy Baehr, in his leather football helmet.

The Original Bearcat

A century after the original Bearcat inspired his team’s name, Teddy Baehr’s legacy extends far beyond the football field.

Three versions of the University of Cincinnati mascot, the Bearcat -- a statue, a costumed mascot and a binturoung.

Evolution of the Bearcat

How a simple cartoon drawing became UC's symbol of pride. Plus, a timeline of UC's mascot.

University of Cincinnati alum Tom Humes holds up the head of the mascot costume he wore.

Tales of a mascot

A UC trustee shares the best job of his life — including the day the
fur flew versus the U of L Cardinal.