Others have their Blue Hen, Blue Devil, Brutus and Boilermaker -- everything from the Fighting Artichoke to Zippy the kangaroo. But the University of Cincinnati has the Bearcat, our Bearcat, who celebrates his 100th birthday this academic year. And no other mascot can compare. No other.
That’s what the best mascots do -- without even uttering a syllable, the Bearcat makes us proud. And even more, the Bearcat shows us it’s OK to be that way and a bit bigheaded (in more ways than one).
The Bearcat gives us courage we didn’t know we had -- I know from personal experience. At a football game last year, our crowd-surfing mascot provided the example that I soon followed -- up the rows of Nippert Stadium I rose, lifted over the heads of cheering students to the top row. The Bearcat beat me to the top, but it gave me an exhilarating glimpse of mascot life and what it feels like to make our steadfast students roar.
Inside that 7-foot mass of black fur swaggers someone real who charms us into feeling genuine spirit and true emotion. It’s hard to cross paths with the Bearcat without reaching out or smiling. Though nowhere near 100 years old, the Bearcat’s new cohorts -- the living bearcat-binturong at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and the statue in Varsity Village -- have proven to be very worthy helpmates, too.
As our UC community celebrates the centennial of the name Bearcats throughout this academic year, I can think of few other entities that evoke or embody the level of pride and identity that a mascot does. Flags, family names, as well as ethnic, racial and religious groups have parallels, but the Bearcat transcends the diversity in our UC family and unites us. The Bearcat brings us together whether we are 7, 17 or 70; student, faculty, staff, alumni, donor or fan. The mascot is always here for you, ready to give you a hug or a high-five, and one day, your children and their children.
To ensure that the Bearcat’s second century unfolds in even greater ways than the first, we have established a Bearcat Mascot Fund to benefit the mascot program through scholarships and support for the students who bring the Bearcat to life every day, rain or shine. I encourage you to join in our tribute to the Bearcats centennial by posting your favorite Bearcat photos at www.uc.edu/bearcats.
Admittedly, other mascots can be good, too. But UC’s Bearcat is the best. And the Bearcat brings out the best in Bearcats, one and all.
Santa J. Ono
President, University of Cincinnati