KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Mascots are typically known for their presence at sporting events, but the people inside the suits engage in a competition entirely of their own. These mascots have fans and an audience dedicated to them and what they do.
The University of Tennessee has a trio of mascots that strive to enhance the fan experience, a Bluetick Coonhound, Davy Crockett, and the most decorated of the trio, Smokey. These mascots enhance the fan experience, while incorporating school history into the gameday atmosphere.
Much like a sports team, students must participate in a tryout process to be considered to portray one of the mascot characters. Tryouts require students to do a field walk, perform a prepared skit, and undergo an impromptu evaluation. The student who can best embody the character will be chosen to be a part of the mascot team.
“Anyone is allowed to come to these tryouts, we know that being a mascot isn’t something that people get into when they are younger,” said senior mascot team member, Matthew Boshears. “We look to see how well someone can do when they are just starting, to see if they have potential to fully embody the character as they grow into it.”
Once a student has been chosen for the team, they are held to the same standards as their fellow student-athletes. Boshears explains that the mascot team is required to be at practices, workouts, complete study hours, and attend appearances. Appearances can be anything from taking pictures at a basketball game, to going to a senior citizens’ home. It is much more than just showing up at the football games.
“It’s a huge time commitment, you’re looking at 40 hours or more a week. It’s really like a full-time job,” said Boshears.
While the mascot team’s main priority is to enhance the gameday environment, their time must also be spent preparing for the UCA College Nationals Mascot Championship.
Preparing for this competition starts from the beginning of the season. Anything the mascots do in suit gets recorded and will be submitted as a highlight reel before the competition. The scoring for these videos is primarily based on who can be the most innovative and entertaining mascot for their university.
Since Boshear’s time at the University of Tennessee, he has placed both 5th and 2nd. While huge improvements have been made to move up in the rankings, the program is still looking for a way to reach the top spot.
“We have begun to be more intentional with our season, planning appearances that we know can help our video,” said Boshears. “We really want to continue this intentionality into future seasons.”
It all comes down to storytelling, who can be as big and as animated as possible while remaining in character.
Boshears added for those wondering, “Yes, it is hot inside the suit.”
Tryouts for the mascot team will be held in April, and the next mascot national championship will take place in January 2023 in Orlando, Florida.