Keeping alumni and friends connected to U-M

Topics: Athletics

The wolverine that wasn’t

By James David Dickson
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It's not quite true that Michigan never had a mascot. Fielding Yost himself introduced Biff and Bennie in 1927. But the creatures were so feral they lasted only a year before being shipped off to zoos. (Photo courtesy U-M Bentley Historical Library.)

It’s not quite true that Michigan never had a mascot. Fielding Yost himself introduced Biff and Bennie in 1927. But the creatures were so feral they lasted only a year before being shipped off to zoos. (Photo courtesy U-M Bentley Historical Library.)

“Why doesn’t Michigan have a mascot?” Hang out at University of Michigan football games, especially the first few of the year, and you’re bound to hear the question asked a few times—usually by children or by adults who are new to Michigan football. U-M does have a mascot—the wolverine—but what people are wondering about is an animal, real or a costumed character, that gallivants along the sidelines during games leading cheers.The typical answer is a terse grumble about “tradition” and how “Tom Harmon never needed a mascot” and that Michigan “doesn’t need one now.” The lack of a live mascot makes the University of Michigan something of an anomaly among big-time college athletic departments. No matter the region, no matter how long the school’s been around, no matter whether public or private, mascots are the rule. Michigan is one of few exceptions. For the 132 seasons Michigan football has been around, the idea of a mascot never captured the collective imagination of the Blue faithful. That might change under Athletic Director Dave Brandon. Since taking the helm in January 2010, Brandon has prided himself on moving the Michigan tradition forward. He brought Michigan hockey to the Big House, an extravaganza called “The Big Chill at the Big House.” He has two new varsity sports, men’s and women’s lacrosse. He inked the first night game in Michigan Stadium history against Notre Dame, then doubled down by unveiling, earlier this month, the one-time-only “legacy” jerseys Michigan will wear when it plays “Under the Lights.”

Introducing a live mascot to the U-M sideline would represent the boldest move of all. Indeed, for many fans, the tradition is not simply that Michigan doesn’t have a mascot—it’s that Michigan scorns mascots. But like most legends, the truth about Michigan and mascots is not so simple. It’s not true, for instance, that U-M has never had a sideline mascot.

A little too vicious

Michigan’s first attempt at a live mascot was carried off by no less a tradition-builder than Fielding Yost himself, longtime head football coach (1901-1923, 1925-1926) and athletic director (1921-1941), first at the Michigan Stadium Dedication Game against Ohio State (Oct. 22, 1927) and again when Michigan played Navy that season.Yost was a visionary but he was also a competitor. He built Michigan Stadium so that, some day, it could be expanded to fit some 300,000 football fans. (Michigan Stadium is not even halfway there more than eight decades later.) And Yost’s competitive nature drove him to pursue a live mascot for the Wolverines football team.The rival Wisconsin Badgers had wowed fans by using a live badger to rally support back in 1923. Almost immediately Yost set about one-upping the team from Madison by bringing in a live, caged wolverine. Two of them, actually, Bennie and Biff. “Today, for the first time in the annals of Michigan gridiron history, a Maize and Blue team will take the field of battle with two live Wolverines as mascots on the sidelines,” the Michigan Daily declared the morning of Oct. 22, 1927, the day of the dedication game. The wolverines were a gift of two Detroit-based alums, Fred Lawton and Clark Hyatt, both of the Class of 1911.”Up until today,” the article continued, “Michigan teams have had a mascot, and that mascot was a wolverine, a mounted one that has graced the trophy case in the administration building at Ferry Field for some time.”The plan was for the wolverines to be walked around on leashes. And when Michigan faced Navy that November, the wolverines were going to meet Navy’s mascot, a live goat, at midfield. But Biff and Bennie proved too vicious for any of that. 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.

Whiskey and Brandy

Whiskey and Brandy, cute dogs rather than vicious wolverines, were mascots of a sort during the late '60s and early '70s. (Photo courtesy Bentley Historical Society.)

Whiskey and Brandy, cute dogs rather than vicious wolverines, were mascots of a sort during the late ’60s and early ’70s. (Photo courtesy Bentley Historical Society.)

Decades would pass before another mascot would capture fans’ attention. “It all started during halftime of the 1968 Michigan-Michigan State game,” former Ann Arbor News reporter Robin Wright wrote. “Attendants saw a little terrier in a maize and blue jacket push a green and white ball across the field. Fans cheered as the tiny pooch knocked the ball across the goal line, then pushed it the entire length of the field in the opposite direction to dodge officials, who were not as pleased with her performance. But in time the athletic administration, led by athletic director Don Canham, would get on board.Whiskey was the dog’s name, but fans didn’t know that at first—didn’t know whether the fox terrier would ever be seen again at Michigan Stadium. The dog had been trained not to bark, and fans could bring bags to games back then, so no one knew what Whiskey’s owners, Dave and Trudy Rogers, were up to. Fan demand grew to the point that administrators issued an announcement in the Michigan Daily asking that the dog’s owners make the halftime show a regular arrangement.”WANTED,” the announcement read, “Overwhelming demand for continued halftime performances for ‘Little Dog Blue’ and his magic ball has necessitated a full scale search for the small but strong star. The hound’s fans would appreciate it if the owner would call Tom Weir of the Athletic Department to arrange regular halftime performances by the dog.”For a time Whiskey and her daughter, Brandy, continued the shows, and when Whiskey got old, Brandy took over the performances solo. The dogs’ halftime shows were discontinued in the mid 1970s.

Willy the Wolverine

cartoon drawing of Willy the Wolverine in M sweater

‘Willy the Wolverine,’ designed and market-tested by undergraduates in the 1980s, was liked by many students but dismissed by U-M officials.

Then in the late 1980s a group of University of Michigan students, Adam Blumenkranz, Eric Lefkofsky and David Kaufman, attempted to create a mascot on the university’s behalf, a lovable creature known as Willy the Wolverine. Willy was the result of six rounds of market research, Blumenkranz told the Michigan Daily at the time. What resulted was a friendly-looking mix of a bear and a wolf who wore a Block M sweater.Administrators had little interest in a mascot, Fielding Yost’s live-wolverine experiment be damned. Then-athletic director Jack Weidenbach refused to take meetings with pro-Willy students and told the Michigan Daily that U-M wasn’t interested, period. Undeterred, the entrepreneurs obtained trademarks for Willy the Wolverine and started selling paraphernalia with the mascot’s likeness. Expanding the Michigan tradition wasn’t the students’ only motivation: they were in it for the money, which is why they invested in the trademark and in market research. Their plan was to sell merchandise in the short-term, building a fanbase for Willy before selling him to the University to serve as the official, on-the-field mascot.
Michigan Daily photograph of Willy the Wolverine goofing around with a Michigan student

The student creators of Willy the Wolverine even came up with a costumed version. The mascot attended football games, but at seven feet tall it blocked the view of many students and was later banned.

Willy didn’t take long to rise to an impressive stature on campus. Blumenkranz and company arranged it so that Willy served as the grand marshal of the 1989 homecoming parade in Bo Schembechler’s last as head coach. The 1990 Campus Directory was released under Willy’s name, and the mascot posed on the front cover alongside the cheerleading squad. “Don’t be silly, work with Willy” read classified ads that appeared in the Michigan Daily, seeking student account executives.Students were divided on Willy. Some embraced him and the idea of advancing the Michigan tradition. Others criticized Willy’s creators, who were out-of-state students, for not really appreciating the Michigan tradition. The debate played out in the pages of the Michigan Daily. Rich Eisen, then-sports editor for The Michigan Daily, now an analyst for the NFL Network, spoke against the mascot. “What can be more annoying than watching some overgrown ball of fuzz named Willy run around Michigan Stadium, acting like a buffoon?…in Michigan Stadium, for crying out loud. Where Bo works. Just say no to Willy,” Eisen opened a piece titled “No! Willy is a fuzzball goof.”Eisen wrote that he’d taken a persuasive speaking class the previous year. One speaker sought to turn the class on to the value of a mascot and even brought in Willy. But the columnist came away annoyed by Willy’s “doofy grin” and his antics, which included sticking a girl in the class’s head in his mouth. “Boy, I’ve never seen a mascot do that before,” he sniped.Daily sports writer Jamie Burgess spoke up in Willy’s favor. She noted that some students had embraced the mascot. “From the look of things, you and I want Willy. Many of us are jealous; after all, we should be. Wisconsin’s got its buck-toothed badger, Iowa has its version of Big Bird, Ohio State rallies around a glossy brown nut, for crissake! All very different, but everybody loves them.”But the university didn’t appreciate the students making money using Michigan’s trademarks and purporting Willy as an affiliate. The administration was content at first to ignore Willy, but he never went away. Not even after the mascot was banned from Michigan Stadium in fall 1989 because, at seven feet tall, it blocked students’ view of the game. Even when Willy made inroads there were setbacks. “Willy the Wolverine’s Campus Directory” from Fall 1990 seemed to indicate a partnership with the university. (The U-M Housing Division distributed some 15,000 copies of the directory.) Things seemed to unravel when Big M Enterprises pitched then-U-M director of public affairs for housing, Alan J. Levy, on a campus directory for Winter 1991. Big M sent its letter in an envelope bearing a U-M seal, seeming to imply a relationship with the university that didn’t exist. Archival records show that Levy forwarded the letter to U-M’s in-house counsel.At a certain point administrators felt that allowing Willy’s continued existence was a tacit acceptance of the mascot, and so the university decided to put Willy down for good by suing the students and their business, Big M Enterprises.Willy breathed his last in June 1992 when the university forced Willy’s creators to cease-and-desist marketing the mascot and using the university’s trademarks to do so.

A lot has changed for Willy’s founders. Co-creator Eric Lefkofsky and his friend Brad Keywell went on to found Groupon. Co-creator Adam Blumenkranz is a manager at a hedge fund. They’ve done well for themselves since leaving Ann Arbor.

Technically, then, it is not true to say that Michigan has never had a mascot. It owned a mascot—and not one it would have to return to the zoo—but chose to keep him stored in the bottom of a file cabinet. The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) shows that there are no current trademarks on Willy the Wolverine. Utah Valley University uses a mascot named Willy the Wolverine but its exact origins have been lost to history.

The future?

Brandon, like Yost almost nine decades before him, is driven by the spirit of competition. “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 told Michigan Today. “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.”Traditionalists like Rich Eisen are as insistent as ever that there is no place for anything but visiting mascots at Michigan Stadium. More than two decades after writing off Willy the Wolverine, Eisen stood by his original thoughts via Twitter. Said Eisen: “Michigan should always be a mascot-free zone.”Brandon is less worried about turning off traditionalists than he is interested in engaging young fans. “Our history and our tradition is great for those of 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.”But Brandon is insistent that any mascot Michigan chooses needs to be the right one. To hear him tell it, the biggest barrier at this point is not the idea of a mascot but its design. One of the big gripes about Willy is that he looked too much like Bucky Badger, the Wisconsin mascot.”We’re interested in doing a mascot but it has to be something that fans love, that children love and everyone can embrace,” Brandon explained. “So far we haven’t figured out a way to do it. Until we come up with something we love, we don’t have a mascot.”

What about you? Do you remember Whiskey and Brandy or Willy the Wolverine? What do you think of the no-mascot tradition? Do you have a good story about mascots? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

James David Dickson

James David Dickson

JAMES DAVID DICKSON is op-ed editor of The Detroit News. Follow him on Twitter: @jamesddetroit.

COMMENTS

  • Victor Bloom - 1953, 1957

    No such thing as a tame wolverine!

    Reply

  • Carol Freshour - 1977

    While Brandon probably has a point about young, future Wolverines, I don’t like the big, doofy embraceable model. How about a snarling, scary mascot?

    Reply

  • Barbara France

    The M Den used to sell (or perhaps they still do) a small stuffed wolverine. Why not pattern the “new” wolverine after that one? It is cute and cuddly and could still resemble a wolverine.

    Reply

  • SHaron Jalowiecz - 1971

    I remember the first Whiskey appearance.

    Reply

  • pat cardiff - 1990

    I disagree with Eisen, having played college ball myself. Mascots are a draw, just so long as you don’t let them take up precious viewing time (say halftime only)

    Our wolverine should be:
    1) characteristically correct, as much looking as a real one as possible,
    2) acting generally vicious, cantankerous
    3) athletic!
    4) small
    5) having extra features, whatever scares kids

    Reply

  • Doug Cooper - 1966

    The only “live wolverines” in Michigan Stadium should continue to be the fans and athletes dressed in maize and blue. If a mascot were developed, proceeds from the sale of trademarked merchandise would best be used in the protection of wolverines worldwide.

    Reply

  • Susan Lamothe - 1982

    Yes I remember Whiskey and Brandy. They were the best and I still miss them. Honestly I don’t think we need a mascot. What we need is an ever increasingly involved student section!

    Reply

  • Rob LaBelle - 1985 UM Law

    Brandon is right; UM needs a mascot. There’s no particular “tradition” in NOT doing something. It just looks pretentious. I would favor something approachable but not “cuddly”. Wolverines are not cuddly. At the same time, we don’t want to scare kids with a snarling beast. As much as it pains me to admit it, MSU’s Sparty is always near the top of the list of the best college mascots. I would be in favor of a muscular wolverine with a block M sweatshirt. Don’t try to make him look like a real wolverine. It will just appear as if we’re copying Bucky Badger. A muscular human-like wolverine would be appropriately athletic but not scary to kids. It could be a good fit.

    Reply

  • Thomas Vance - 1967

    Michigan men and women do not need to lower their standards to the same level as other schools by allowing a big, stupid-looking furball in the Big House!

    Reply

  • Sarah McNitt - 2005

    A live wolverine is dangerous and people in mascot costumes are disgusting and creepy – one step up up from clowns. I’ve always prided myself on having attended schools that didn’t sink to that level. No to mascots!

    Reply

  • Stephen Rauworth - 1970

    Brandon’s rationale of targeting young people with a marketing strategy is insulting both to them and to the university. MIchigan’s aura as an exceptional place has been diluted in recent decades by poor decisions that are unrelated to the shrinkage of funding, the failure of the football program being the most visible. Why are we continuing to do things which makes us just like everybody else?

    Reply

  • Matt Mason - 1993

    I think I’m with Rich Eisen on this one… while on the face of it, mascots are cute – I also have memories of Willy the Wolverine on the field in the 90-91 timeframe, I think.

    At that time, the cheerleading team seemed to have an arrangement with other teams – one team would capture the other team’s mascot and dramatically run them (crotch first) into the field goal post. While I generally laughed when this happened to others – one day it finally happened to Willy (and I feel like it was some other team like Wisconsin, no less).

    I remember the Daily sportswriter comment the next monday – “THAT is why we don’t want a mascot”.

    Reply

  • Chet Arthur - 1995

    Do we really want to see opposing cheerleaders acting like fools with a Wolverine mascot? We’ve all been to the games and seen this silliness.

    Reply

  • Joe Wells - 2004

    My opinion is a simple yet strong one. No, no, no, no no no.

    Not having a traditional mascot IS our tradition. Its unique, and its Michigan.

    I like Dave Brandon, but he is starting to tread a fine line between tradition and commercialization. With him, I sometimes worry stadium advertising is just down the road. With him, I sometimes worry he has a me too attitude, if lots of other programs are doing it, well then me too!!

    This is Michigan, we pave our own way.

    Reply

  • Don Kingery - 1970

    With pride, I have pointed out the lack of a Michigan mascot to first time stadium visitors. The sight of Sparty or Bucky or any number of goofy mascots prancing around the field is outright embarrassing. I do, however, like the Georgia Bull Dog and would be in favor of returning to the Yost initiated tradition of bring live wolverines to the games. Imagine the fun of releasing a snarling wolverine onto the field whenever that Buckeye nut
    shows his face. That would be a GREAT tradition!

    Reply

  • J Nelson - 2000

    No Mascot! I think the mascots look like a joke. I would rather we focus on playing defense and winning games. This is Michigan! No Mascot

    Reply

  • Mary Ann Cheng - 1984/1988

    Funny thing, I never noticed Michigan’s lack of a mascot before reading this article! I grew up listening to UM football on the radio while running errands with my Dad on Saturdays. I wanted to be a Wolverine because of the tradition and the football. No cute furry mascot was needed to garner my loyalty!

    Reply

  • Joe Smith

    Why can’t Superfan be the Mascot? He already leads most of the cheers in the crowd.

    Reply

  • Des M. - 2009, 2013

    A mascot for what? If it’s not broken then don’t fix it.

    Reply

  • Rob Fasman - 2000

    I’m also with Rich Eisen here, and some of Dave Brandon’s corporate thinking scares me. Please, keep the Big House free of mascots, ads, and piped-in rawk music. We don’t need to resort to the lowest common denominator to teach a new generation to love Michigan…in fact, let’s teach them that our higher standards are in fact part of what makes us such a special program.

    Reply

  • Robert Lochow - 1975

    I say thumbs down on a mascot. I agree with Sarah McNitt, above — they’ve always creeped me out a little bit too.

    It’s true that forbearing to do something doesn’t exactly create a “tradition.” But the point is well taken how hard it would be to make a wolverine who looked at once (a) fierce, (b) friendly, and yet (c) actually, recognizably like a wolverine. (They really are pretty nasty-ass animals. I LOVE it that you can’t make ‘em cute convincingly.)

    Maybe the University’s experiences with Biff, Bennie, and Willy are a sign from God. I say let’s let sleeping wolverines lie!

    Reply

  • Meredith Dunn - 2006

    MI football transcends the need for a mascot. Plain and simple. We pride ourselves on being different. If you want great branding, turn no further than the well-recognized Block M.

    I never felt cheated or disconnected from my team because we didn’t have a silly looking animal running around and doing goofy dances.

    And if you’ve been on campus or to any sports game in the last decade, you’ll see this absence hasn’t made the slightest difference in team alliance or student involvement. MI students rally like no others.

    Reply

  • Stephen Selbst - 1976 LSA, 1980 Law

    I remember Whiskey from the late 60s. It was a typical Canham gimmick, an attempt to do anything for fan attention. But it was completely unconnected to any part of Michigan athletics tradition. Mascots have proven enduringly popular in college sports. The fact that Michigan has not had one is not a reason never to adopt one. When I was an undergrad, Michigan had only men as cheerleaders. Somehow the program (gasp) survived introducing women. I think a mascot would quickly be an instant hit, even if Rich Eisen doesn’t think so.

    Reply

  • Gary Heitman - 1977

    I like the idea of a vicious wolverine mascot or as mentioned earlier a muscular looking wolverine. Go to Disney and see the villain mascots have as long a line as Mickey and Goofy.

    Reply

  • Mike Pekala - 1979, 1983

    If Mr. Brandon condones and creates a mascot, it will go down in history as his version of the dreaded “Halo” on the stadium.

    A mascot is not dignified. Please leave that for the schools in East Lansing and Columbus, who need every angle they can to be recognized.

    Reply

  • Priscilla Mead - 1974

    Yes I remember Brandy and Whiskey. I also remember women being barred as cheerleaders. Funny, I never even thought about having a lack of a mascot, but I am totally open to change and having one. Stick to the ferocious but huggable wolverine. And please don’t name him Willy-could conger up too many jokes.

    Reply

  • Lorrin Rose - 1985

    One of the things that compelled me to be a wolverine fan, and still does even today, is the competitive aura that encompasses everything that is Michigan. Anyone that has even been to Michigan stadium knows that the fans there don’t need anything, especially a goofy looking mascot, to get worked into an awe-inspiring frenzy that few (if any) schools could even fathom trying to achieve. That is, for me, the true essence of Michigan tradition. For those that still think a mascot is a good idea, I will simply state this: I can never see a fuzzy, feel good mascot being an accurate depiction of the school and it’s storied history. I also think a scary mascot would certainly miss the mark for those looking for a photo opportunity for the little ones (“the next generation”). Michigan and all of it’s sports need no mascot, ever. It can only distract from the true competitive spirit trapped within every fan, and the pure release of sending all that rush in the heat of battle straight to the opposing team. That is the only tradition needed to incite a whole new generation of loyal Michigan fans to continue with what has effectively worked for many decades already.

    Reply

  • Joseph Appelt - 1965 & 71

    What I abhor is this idea that Michigan must be like all the other schools. It makes the Michigan Tradition meaningless! We have seen it erode the Michigan difference that I love and grew up with including evolutions of change that made sense. Please NO mascot like everyone else.

    Reply

  • Alfonso Ramirez - 1974

    I remember the dog which performed during the 1972 and 1973 seasons. He was cute and funny but did not have anything to do with Michigan tradition. I agree with those commenting that the U of M does not need a mascot.

    Reply

  • Greg Jablonski - 1973

    I agree completely with Mike ’79: Mascot = Halo. Stuffed toys from the M Den are more than enough to keep toddlers happy. By the time they’re of school age, what happens on the field is what will make them lifelong Wolverine fans. All we need is the Block M and Go Blue!

    Reply

  • nancy beebe - 1973

    I really think some folks need to get over their idea of \\\”tradition\\\”. I work at a Pac 10 (now 12) that has a mascot – Butch the Cougar- who spreads a great deal of good will in the larger community. A little levity is never a sin either.

    Reply

  • Brian Igoe - 2010

    Interesting that Bennie and Biff were a gift of Fred Lawton–he was one of the composers of “Varsity” which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year!

    Reply

  • Grant Hildebrand - 1957, 1964

    I\\\’ve always thought mascots, typically, looked embarrassingly ridiculous, with the possible exceptions of USC and maybe Illinois. Facial expressions are impossible, and lacking those, all the thing can do is bob head, dance around, look utterly stupid — viz Notre Dame, the OSU Buckeye, Iowa\\\’s Jayhawk. I\\\’ve always been so relieved that we don\\\’t have one. I dearly hope we keep it that way.

    Reply

  • Dylan Glenn - 2013

    Stephen, couldn’t agee more. Brandon loves to talk about brand management and yet he just follows the crowd. I always though the beauty of the Michigan brand was that we didn’t do that. That we stuck to what we wanted to do rather than chasing the dollar at every turn.

    Reply

  • Dougo Blue

    I think if are to have a mascot, I say bring back the Michigan Moose. It’s irony – like that of the Stanford Tree – would be perfect and Michigan has more Moose than Wolverines.

    Reply

  • Jeremy Van Hoy - 1993

    What I would like to see is Hugh Jackman, as Wolverine, doing a promo for Hoke and the new football team. He could stick his claws in a bucket of buckeyes and eat one…

    Reply

  • David Cameron - 1978,1980

    I do remember Whisky and Brandy. Whisky(mom)was by far faster and more coordinated in the down the field run……I also recall how the roar would grow until crossing the goal line when the whole stadium cheered like it was a real 6 points.

    Human costumed mascots seem to always act very goofy and silly. If someone MUST have a mascot…………let them cheer for someone else. Putting an animal in a cage on a football field, especially in the hot September games, for fan enjoyment would not seem to be the progressive thing to do.

    Let it go. Just say No

    Reply

  • Braden Murphy - 1994

    I’ve always thought that if Michigan ever has a mascot, live or otherwise, its name should be Victor.

    Reply

  • Jeanie Forrest - 1975/6

    Right on, Rich Eisen! I’ve thought on
    many occasions, while watching the idiotic
    antics of the visiting team’s mascot, that
    I am so glad that we don’t have one. The
    stadium should continue to be a “mascot-free
    zone!

    Reply

  • Troy Nienberg - 2004

    I got our new mascot! Lloyd Brady!!!

    Reply

  • Sharon White nee Parkins - 1991

    I was never aware of any mascot while attending UM or after. Never heard of Whiskey or Brandy. I was, however, aware that UM had a (an) live mascot “sometime” in the past. To Mascot, or not to Mascot, that is the question. Really? Focus, people. As long as someone or some entity (UM included) isn’t making money from having a mascot and putting it into their own pockets, why not have a mascot to represent what UM already stands for; quality education surpassing all others, integrity of its principles & ethics and being the vanguard of innovation in philosophy of advancing humankind, ie Peace Corps. I think UM can live with the idea of a Mascot, as long as it can stand for something beyond generating the “mine is better than yours” attitude most of them seem to project. They all seem to have lost the image of goodwill they were probably originally created to engender. You Go, Willy.

    Reply

  • Dave Burhenn - 1975

    Have to disagree with my old Daily colleague Steve Selbst. I love explaining that at Michigan, we don’t have a need for a large stuffed animal inhabited by a crazed undergraduate to show our school spirit. Mascots are fine for Spartans, Buckeyes and Boilermakers. Not for the University of Michigan.

    Reply

  • Richard Firestone - 1967

    Traditions change. When I graduated women were not allowed to step onto the football field. The cheerleaders were all mail. Needless to say that tradition had to go. I suggest that at such time as Michigan admits the first wolverine as a member of the freshman class it should be allowed to become the mascot. Not so far fetched as I remember that a dog graduated from Minnesota in my time.

    Reply

  • Sally Shumway - 1947

    Does no one remember the wolverine who lived in the little park at the foot of the hill from Stockwell Hall? He/she had a terrible temper and snarled at everyone who walked by. We would have been embarrassed to call such an inhospitable creature our official mascot. But we did have one at that time.

    Reply

  • Al Meyer - 1957

    What makes Michigan great is that it is different. Our fans love our traditions. NO MASCOT!!!!

    Reply

  • Chris Bignell - 1999

    Please, please no mascot. The next generation of consumers will “connect with” and “get excited” about UM football by the time they’re old enough to spend a dollar anyway, and they’ll come by that excitement honestly, the same way all of the preceding generations did: by watching UM excellence on the field.

    Reply

  • Susan Boiko - 1978

    What’s wrong with a block M? HAve a student only competition to build a huManoid M and parade them down State Street! Have an M -e award ceremony!

    Reply

  • Eric Wines - 1993

    Why do we continually act like snobs and think we are better than everyone else and our tradition is better than anyones else’s? Our tradition is great, but it is stagnant. This connotation that we are better than everyone else is one of the biggest negatives about U-M out there, and I am tired of it. I am all for a mascot, and it is not just for the football team, it would be for ALL varsity sports. I agree with the AD, it would be good for the younger generations. Nebraska, ND, Penn State all have mascots and have comparable winning traditions. I think The Nittany Lion is the balance of scary and nice we are looking for here. Go Mr Brandon!

    Reply

  • Tim Williams - 1989

    One thing is clear; there is no clear consensus. Didn’t we just learn a valuable lesson about “a house divided” during the RR era? For the record, I was there for the Willy experiment; wasn’t impressed.

    Reply

  • Doug DAgostino - 1975

    I remember Whiskey and Brandy. They were fun to watch and cheer before the start of each game. There is nothing wrong with a mascot as long as it clearly looks like a wolverine. Traditions are made to evolve and as long as they maintain the spirit and style of the university. Should we eliminate the video scoreboards because they were not around in the 30′s and 40′s?

    Reply

  • stephen hunter - 1962, 63

    Good grief! I suppose Brandon thinks Brutus the Buckeye is inspiring. No mascot for Michigan, please!

    Reply

  • Ramona Marshall - 1962

    A mascot? Michigan doesn’t need no stinkin’ mascot!

    Reply

  • James M - 2003

    Do we pride ourselves on being “just like everyone else”? No! We’re the leaders and best. Leaders don’t need idiots in furry costumes pumping their fists.

    Reply

  • J Fine - 1993

    I was a student when Willy was being pushed, and my hallmates & friends ridiculed it. We called him Willy the Weasel, because that’s what he looked like — not a wolverine.

    I think a mascot would be great but, as others have pointed out, it should look like a wolverine and be ferocious, not cuddly.

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  • Barbara Knutson - '63 & '86

    Yes we need a mascot. One that is cool, arrogant, strong, forceful, struts with pride and loves UM students, alumnae, ball players, etc. I am so sick of Sparty! Our mascot should not play that role of being at weddings and parties and just in people’s faces all the time. Our mascot would be too cool for that kind of stuff. He’d just be there demonstrating the attitude of Michigan students and alums. Knowing he’s the best and getting better all the time. I had a terrible experience at the last UM vs MSU football game. The State fans took over our stadium. After the game they were so loud and Sparty egged them on strutting around our field as if he owned it. I left because I couldn’t stand my stadium being taken over by MSU led by Sparty. Our Wolverine needed to be standing with pride in the middle of our field and showing Michigan pride and forbearance. I would have stayed and cheered him on and stood our ground! We need a mascot. And to be different we could have a strong female Wolverine. (That would make some male alums stand up and shout wouldn’t it!)

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  • Mary Richards - 1980

    UM does not need a mascot. Furry costumes do not make a mascot. UM tradiiton of NO mascot is already acceptable. UM has stood all these years without one. There is something cool about keeping that tradition!

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  • Joan Rasmussen - 1970

    Whiskey\’s owners were RA\’s in Baits Housing on North Campus in the late 60s. I lived there and remember seeing them practice with Whiskey pushing a soccer ball around. They snuck the dog into the stadium for the MSU game. She wore an M sweater. At halftime, when the band was done performing, they released Whiskey on the field and she pushed the green and white ball with MSU\’s colors from one end of the stadium to the other. The crowd roared. It was great fun to see her at games, pushing the ball, always covered with the opponent\’s colors.

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  • Mark Schenden - 1978

    Michigan does not need a mascot. I recall seeing both Whiskey and Brandy. I never considered them mascots. They were just fun pre-game/halftime entertainment.

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  • Greg Buhyoff - \'70, \'72 \'75

    Absolutely no costumed mascot. I could live with a live wolverine (if it didn’t attack me). I fondly recall Whiskey and Brandy and they were great. But, NO, to silly, costumed mascots. That is the Michigan tradition.

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  • Randy P - 1972

    As a young kid I attended MSU games and saw Sparty. Did it influence my decision to attend or cheer for Michigan? Not a chance. Two of the silliest mascots are the OSU nut and the Nittany Lion (whose costume looks like someone’s mother made it for a kindergarten play). Let there be an officially sanctioned stuffed animal for the kids (and the athletic department coffers) and then call it a day. Please, Dave Brandon, don’t embarrass us with a mascot akin to the “nut” or the lion.

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  • Jim Burns - 1977, 1980

    No mascot! This is a heart-sinking, depressing proposal. Why in the name of all that is honored about Michigan sports would be want to have anything so dorky as Brutus, Sparty, or Bucky? Let’s take pride in who we are at Michigan, not act like some copycat wannabe.

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  • nancy sandlin - 1968

    I don’t think we have enough stuck up grads to fill the stadium. A cute wolverine would be ideal. The seats are filled with people who love M football. Give them a show.

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  • John Crouch - 1979

    A mascot is unacceptable. Period.

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  • Judy Hansen Peters - 1983

    No mascot — please! As previously stated, we truly are the leaders and best. Why would we even consider stooping to the level of Brutus and Sparty? Go Blue!

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  • Timothy Lamb - 1993

    No. Michigan is Michigan. We don’t need some guy in “Wolverine” costume running around like an idiot. We love our alma mater and love our tradition. And not having a mascot (unlike all of our rivals) IS PART OF OUR TRADITION.

    GO BLUE!

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  • Barbara Knutson - ''63 & '86

    Another thought. We do have a mascot whether some like it or not. We have a mental vision of what that mascot is like. No one thinks of it as a fluffy, cuddly animal. Our mascot just has not been personified. So let’s not make her warm and cuddly, let’s make her strong and proud. Think about the musical “CATS”. They have been able to make their characters into anything they want with makeup and limited costume. Their actions speak for them. They can be beautiful and strong, fluffy and distinctive, slim and agile. The costume and character’s actions will make what we want to personify. Think of a shot-putter build, wrestler, gymnist, in their real bodies with makeup and limited costumes. Male and female wolverines who can put on a limited acrobatics act or, or, or, Let’s think out of the box. So we can have our mascot there to protect our backs when we need them! :-)

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  • Steve Zecker - 1974

    Just say no to mascots. Our passion for Michigan football doesn’t need to be improved, and certainly not by some wimpy, cartoonish doofus running around on the field.

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  • GERALD HOSENKAMP - 1966

    Skip the goofy mascot and stick to football as it should be, the Michigan way.

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  • Jill Lohr - 1978

    The suited character mascots are all similar and kind of weird.

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  • Jeff Huntington - 1966

    When I first visited the Natural History Museum with my parents in 1948, there was a little hut outside the museum building which housed a live wolverine. He (she?) stank and had a very limited repertoire–an occasional growl Mostly curled up and slept. By the time I enrolled as a freshman in 1960, he was gone. Would not have been much use at a football game except, perhaps, to kill and eat the mascot of the opposing team.

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  • Edward Vielmetti - 1988

    There’s one more mascot – “Intrepidus” was a live wolverine circa 1937-1939 featured in this “eBay Watch” column on the MVictors blog.

    http://mvictors.com/?p=7078

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  • Mike Pekala - 1979, 1983

    Lorrin Rose has crystalized this argument. How proud we can all be that grads of EVERY generation realize that we’ve never needed “help” to support the U. Tradition transcends the latest fad.

    ..and Earth to Eric ’93: We ARE the Leaders and Best!! Just go to Mott and see it in action EVERY SINGLE DAY. That’s how you hook the little ones.. you save their lives.

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  • linda perry - 1972

    NO to a mascot. However, the two wire fox terriers were fun and a part of the late 60′s- 70′s experience. I loved them so much I went out and got a wire fox puppy in 1974. Molly was every bit as fierce as a wolverine.

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  • Joel Pilcher - 1974

    Let’s have a mascot. But a mascot like no other. Make him look so real people blog about if he is for real or not. The person in the wolverine suit should act just like a real wolverine, the biggest and toughest one alive. Have the cheerleaders keep him leash, or several. Be different, way different.

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  • Ray Alexander - 1975

    Stick with tradition. Concentrate on winning and forget about distractions.

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  • Jim Tonn - 1970

    I’m a Wolverine (and a Badger- undergrad at Wisconsin). Bucky Badger really rallies the masses. I have always been puzzled why Michigan had no visible mascot. Sure, the block M is solid and a worthy symbol of a world class institution. You can’t tell me that Michigan students and fans are above relating to a mascot other than a stylized letter of the alphabet! Whatever we do, please don’t make the mascot look like an M & M candy.

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  • D P - 1973

    If you win some games, they will come…

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  • Erica Shirts - 2010

    I am one of the “younger generation” and I really like that Michigan doesn’t have a mascot. I think it’s classy. The student section/band/cheerleaders/players do enough to entertain the audience. Brandon should take the question to UM students/alumni- not himself.

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  • Bob Elsberry

    Great history lesson for those old and new to the B1G. For Michigan to have or not to have a mascot is not a big deal to me, a Husker fan. I would only suggest that you take you time deciding. You don’t want to end up with something as annoying as the baloon boy known as lil Red that Nebraska refuses to put out of our misery.

    Procede with caution, if at all.

    Go Blue, and Go Big Red!

    See you in November.

    Bob

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  • Jim Lein - 1970

    I remember one little dog in blue pushing a ball the length of the field and seeming to enjoy the roar when he rolled the ball over the goal line. I only saw two games my one fall at the U, and I believe this was the 1969 Ohio State game, when we upset them, the reigning national champions. The band halftime show was a Vietnam war protest, and coeds (the term was still used then) and communal joints were passed around the stadium.

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  • Leslie Schefman - 1971

    I’m so angry at the very thought of a Michigan mascot that I’ve been ranting about it angrily for several days. Please make it stop!

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  • Sarah Stegath Sterkel - 1971

    As a freshman at Michigan in 1968 we sat in the end zone and were thrilled when Whiskey was smuggled in by her owners. It was quite humorous, when at first, the hapless security people tried to snare Whiskey as she ran down the field with a single focus, to chase the ball. Later, she was made official, but it was a lot of fun when it wasn\\\’t planned!. Growing up in AA I also remember the mini zoo with bears and, yes, the wolverine. No doubt you did not want this cranky rodent as your field mascot, and a costumed character just does not seem to fit. Traditions happen, they are not test marketed and \\\”rolled out\\\”. There\\\’s nothing wrong with having your picture taken with a block M…..everyone, even here in Colorado recognizes exactly what it is. Go Blue.

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  • Catherine Wright - 1996

    There are so many woodchucks running around the City of Ann Arbor, why not substitute one of them as a mascot!!!

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  • Wm Steuk - 1989 - 1993

    I say no macots. If DB does want someone dressed up roaming the field, I say we have someone dressed up in response to our opponent for that game. For example, if we play Ohio State, lets have someone dressed up like a nutcracker. MSU – we could have Kermit the Frog since Sparty looks like a Muppet, and so forth. I am sure the students could come up with one for every team we play. Just a thought.

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  • Mandy Roach - 2008

    No mascot! I’ve been going to Michigan football games since I was 4, and I never had a problem with the lack of a mascot running around on the sidelines. And frankly, they might scare off just as many kids as they “engage.”

    Although, I could stand to see a Whiskey type show return :)

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  • Randy Chapman - 1985

    Michigan Football is full of tradition- a big powerhouse winning FOOTBALL team, an award winning marching band that is undeniably one of the top ten in the world, and the Big House itself. The idea of an amusement park representative for the University of Michigan does not live up to the standards the pretigious school has built upon since 1817.
    Quality entertainment is provided for all ages every football Saturday without a costumed character doing WWE moves on the opposing team or getting poled by their cheerleaders. Of course, our cheerleaders poling the Buckeye is different, making Ohio State appear that much more inferior.
    The article missed one attempt: Some students independently tried to insert Bullwinkle as the athletic department mascot in the early 80′s. That was in response to the Marching Band begining the tradition of playing the Rocky & Bullwinkle theme each week. The story played out in The Daily and behind closed doors until the silly character quickly disappeared from the field.
    Recent changes have already shown up in the stadium to coddle “the younger generations.” The jumbo replay screen complete with commercials keeps the video gamer happy and the piped in pop/rock music gives it the air of a minor league hockey game. Soon, I’m afraid there will be advertising billboards bolted to the upper and field levels of the stadium further degrading the purpose of Football Saturday.
    Michigan cannot fall further away from the pureness using the excuse that, “Everyone else is doing it.”
    And PLEASE, as I write this from Iowa sitting on the Nebraska border, please beat Nebraska this year! Go Blue!

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  • Tom Owen - 1961,1965

    My wife created the Battle Creek Central Bearcat mascot(Frisky)in 1953 after seeing other college mascots such as the NU Wildcat and the U-Minn Gopher at football games. This mascot is still very much used for many athletic contests. I believe that if the character considered for a U-M mascot was done very well it could be a nice addition to a football game, providing it did NOT act goofy,silly,obnoxious,etc. like the OSU nut,the ND lepricon or Sparty.GO BLUE!

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  • caroline dieterle - 1959

    I find the idea of having a “mascot” running around the field representing “The Leaders and Best!” appalling. Next thing you know we’d be asked to consider ourselves “Wolves” (“Wolverine” having too many syllables to fit into slogans) and be asked to cheer “Go Wolves!!” That’s repulsively grotesque.
    GO BLUE! is just fine. Let’s keep it that way!

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  • Frank Watts - 1986 - BS-I&OE

    For everyone who says Michigan should NOT have a mascot (and believe me, I understand where your thinking is rooted), please consider the following about Michigan being too unique, too special to have ANY mascot at all:

    1) Think of two Michigan foes (out of conference) whom we either play regularly (season in & out) ~or~ we habitually LOSE to in the Granddaddy of them all. Now, if both ND and USC spring to mind, they like Michigan, do NOT….wait, pardon me….they DO have mascots! USC’s Traveler N (where N = 8 or 9 by now) white horse & accompanying Trojan is classy….ND’s Leprechaun represents one of perhaps the inwardly arrogant cultures in college football….WE ARE ND. Do we want Michigan to perpetuate the same kind of arrogance vis-a-vis NO mascot?

    2) I have owned a couple of “retro” Wolverine T-shirts and swearshirts since around 2003/2004 that feature that Wolverine “head” (lind of looks like Bucky the Badger, but ONLY the head) that Michigan brought out of their “college vault of trademarks”….those T-shirts are now everywhere among young and middle-age fans on game days – SO, in a way, Michigan already has its own version of “Willy The Wolverine”, and if they put out a similar mascot to match, ALL $$$ would go to the AD, where it should go – to support the program.

    JMHO on at least a consideration….

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  • David Haldeman - 1973

    The days of Whiskey and Brandy were glorious. Huge reactions from the Fans! I never gave the lack-of-mascot much thought, but I do like the notion of one. Two things should be considered; it has to be a Wolverine (after all that is the Teams’ name) and it should be colored and named BLUE (as in GO BLUE). The Blue Fur (with a Maize Block M on its chest) would make it fun and unique and takeaway from the ferocity of the creature itself. And it should look FEROCIOUS. There, my $.02 are on the table.

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  • Lisa Myers - 1992

    How about just winning football games? That should embrace the younger demographic.
    Sparty and Brutus are the doofiest looking things ever, and Willy the Wolverine was just embarrassing. NO MASCOT.

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  • Paula Badgerow-Mondro - 1992

    I remember Willy the Wolverine and I loved him! Bring him back or some kind of Wolverine Mascot for us to have fun with! GO BLUE!!

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  • Dick Hopkins

    I’ve got other priorities for the Michigan Experience right now. Let’s Right The Ship first before considering a mascot. I have never felt a mascot was a fit for Michigan, bu could change my mind at a later time and place.

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  • Tomisina Larkin - 1999

    Now although I have never been to college or attended MU I feel that breaking a tradition is a good thing and would bring a much needed new outlook for the students of a school. I remember every time i was at a pep rally or any sports event and i would see that mascot it would give me a sense of pride i would hold my head a little higher and feel better about my school in whole. i feel that any student should have that right whether they be in elementary, middle, high school or college why should a student be able to feel that sense of pride for their school i say let the student body decide it is their school after all and if you no longer attend said school then what right do you have to say who should and shouldn’t have a mascot screw tradition not everything has to be the same from year to year. so with that said i say Michigan if you want to go for a mascot ten go for it people will just have to adjust and bite the bullet!!!!

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  • Kurt Aemmer - 1980

    Shame, shame, shame for even bringing this subject up. We are MICHIGAN! We don\’t need some guy dressed up in a cheesy clown suit like those bozos up in East Lansing or down in Columbus. It\’s bad enough looking at those stupid dark socks on the Wolverine football uniforms. But if I turn on the TV in the fall and see a \”cuddly wolverine\” prancing around, I\’ll puke!

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  • Dan Chace - 1983

    I remember Whiskey and Brandy as a kid, and everyone seems to have great memories of the dogs…it was so light-hearted.

    How about designing a “wolverine” costume for a talented ball-pushing dog? Nothing inhumane, but that way, you’d have a wolverine on the field, pushing a ball up the field, in the tradition of Whiskey and Brandy.

    Corny…yes. But fun.

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  • Cindy Smith Komorowski - 1981

    I don’t think the mascot is a necessity or a good idea at our Michigan football games. It is true at many sporting events these days there seems to be so much distraction and sideshow entertainment going on, I suppose directed at many who aren’t apparently interested in watching the game? I don’t think we need to encourage the idea that children and young people need another distraction to get them enthralled with attending what should be an exciting outdoor event at Michigan stadium. Rather than follow the crowd, let’s keep some of what’s left ofc our tradition as it stands. I did enjoy years ago the skill and enthusiasm of Whiskey the pup. That was more original and not what I’d consider a mascot. Go Blue and tell Mr. Brandon let this suited mascot idea go. I suppose if a mascot shows up we could bring back the old outlawed tradition and pass the beast up the stands and over, woops!

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  • Anne Wyman - 2001

    I am surprised by the overwhelming number of people who think UM is “above” mascots. I think we all take ourselves too seriously here. No wonder our alumni section is so quiet in the stadium – apparently we have no ability to just embrace our love of Michigan and have fun with it! Not all mascots are tacky, but they do all have at least one thing in common: they project the spirit of their University. Perhaps by having no mascot, we’re showing we have no spirit!

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  • Al Carl - 1984

    Just because everyone else has one is no reason for anyone to acquire anything. No mascot, please. Brutus and whatever Wisconsin calls their badger are juvenile embarrassments.

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  • Tom Hackley - 1970BA, 1972MUP

    I would really support bring back a version of Whiskey to the games. I saw her debut, and remember looking forward to her appearances through the years. The student section, in fact the whole stadium really got into her “touchdowns”. (Brandy wasn’t as adept, so I quess that’s why the appearances ended.) If Brandon’s rationale is real, then a Whiskey at halftime would really get young people interested. And this would be a unique, “no-mascot” solution that would represent the playfulness of the game rather than the violence of it.

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  • Patricia Lyndale

    Why would the leaders and best want to follow the crowd?

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  • Debbie Kish - 1977

    Having no mascot IS our mascot! Let it stay that way. Wolverines are too powerful and ferocious to ever try to emulate. I do have an M-Den stuffed wolverine and the teeth are made of felt. So there you have it…. A version of Whiskey would be fun for half time; a preview of how we plan to walk all over our opponents in the second half! (I am hoping.) We used to all scream in the stands every time she went across the goal line. It was a great part of half-time tradition when I was at U-M. The Big house, a block M, M Go Blue!, The Victors, Michigan Band, Michigan victories, those are what tell our story, not some goofy -looking mascot. Didn’t we used to harass the other mascots during the game? (All in good fun.) I remember a ‘tradition” of passing people up the stands and at one game someone got the other team’s mascot…maybe it was the Badger? or the Dorky puffed up Purdue man? as he got closer to the top the chant rang out , “Throw him over! Throw him over!” Let’s keep that tradition!

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  • Ramona Bashshur - 1984, 2011

    I am SO getting old, and SO remember the dog scoring the goal and halftime, and the cheers! I miss the old-school cool scoreboard and stadium.

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  • francina goldberg - 1960 and 62

    I like the tradition and the mystic of the Wolverine….
    That’s why we are different!
    Go Blue

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  • Larry Paisley - 1970

    I’m an old timer but I think having a mascot is a great way to spark more excitement about Michigan sports! Small children would love a “Willy Wolverine” figure, and think of the marketing opportunities…The Mden must be salivating! I’m not bothered by the similarity to a Badger; most people don’t know the difference anyway. GO BLUE

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  • Rob Walden - 1999

    Just bring back real wolverines and have them terrorize the intruding mascots!

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  • Bill Voorhees

    How much revenue is ENOUGH revenue? Is Dave Brandon willing to sacrifice this long standing tradtion? Why can’t just having a great football team be enough to keep future generations interested and faithful as fans? Is the allure of large sums of money so blinding that he is really convinced that a mascot is neccesary to do that? I was born and raised in Michigan but didn’t attend school at the U of M. In fact, no one in my family ever did. However, that was not necesary to make my dad, and I fans from a young age. I have lived in Oregon for the last 25 years and have enjoyed the success of the Ducks, but have always remained a true Michigan fan, along with my 2 sons and daughter. Never once have I ever wished or even tought for a second “If only the Wolverines had a mascot” I agree with many of the previous comments that have said “no mascot IS Michigans mascot!” Just say NO!!

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  • Gerald Hosenkamp - 1966

    Last year a group of us came from San Diego for the San Diego State – Michigan game. As usual, Michigan did not have a mascot, but SDSU has Monty Montezuma, a guy dressed as an Aztec. SDSU season average per game, 34,000 UM – SDSU announced attendance for the game, 112,000. I guess they came to see Monty?

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  • Vicki Davinich - 1978

    I loved seeing Whiskey pushing the ball across the field. While in high school, I\’d visit my sister at UM and attend football games with her. The dog was on the field too short a time. For a young person who didn\’t yet understand football, Whiskey was the highlight of the game. Bring back the dogs!

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  • asa murphy

    im only 14 but i still thing that michigan should have a mascot its one of those things. u cant call a football game a football game without a mascot ..well you can but it takes part of the pazaz away when you wanna see sparty and and a wolverine mascot hash it out on the feild for the crowd i graduate highschol in 2015 so im a freshman and i wanna ggo to this college.and i wanna try to find a way to make michigan have a mascot.

    Reply

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