Driving a convertible painted in honor of the LSU mascot, which was safely loaded in the trailer behind us, was a thrill 50 years ago.
After the short trip from the cage, we entered Tiger Stadium in the traditional fashion. About eight enthusiastic cheerleaders climbed on top of the cage (a Miley two-horse conversion). The trip around the field brought wild cheering, almost as loud as the Golden Band’s initial number. The highlight was usually Mike’s roar, brought on by a brief knock on his cage by one of the cheerleaders when they got off in front of numerous students near the 30-yard line.
The trip circling the field continued, after which the trailer and escorts parked for no more than 10 minutes just outside of the visiting team’s locker room. Before some particularly big games, Mike happened to roar loudly as the opposing players and their mascots (usually humans) approached. Some openly commented later on their fright during the experience.
"Mike VI" addressed this issue in November on his official Facebook page:
We then drove Mike back to his cage, where he enjoyed his Saturday meal. In those days, caretakers of Mike were instructed by his veterinarian to always feed him six days a week. It was our routine to skip feeding him Friday before home games. We seldom had trouble getting the beautiful tiger to enter his travel trailer with a little bit of food waiting.
On one day, I had to get my boss, the late athletic director Jim Corbett, to walk across North Stadium Drive from his small office in the east corner of the stadium to help with the process. He backed onlookers away and sternly told his mascot to move, after which the process continued.
As set forth in books by Mike’s current outstanding vet, Dr. David Baker, and in a publication of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, I was the 1963-65 caretaker of Mike III. The current Mike now enjoys far superior care rendered by students at the vet school.
They obviously know much more about what large animals need than undergraduates did years ago; nonetheless, Mike VI never made a trip around the stadium last year. A significant tradition seems to be coming to an end. After all, LSU football is played in TIGER Stadium. I believe that only a couple of other SEC football stadiums (perhaps Vanderbilt and Kentucky) are not named for donors or former coaches. No other SEC stadium is named for a mascot. The report by the vet school pointed out that the NCAA rated Mike the No. 1 live mascot in college sports. Let’s hope a satisfactory method can be developed to bring Mike back to Tiger Stadium so fans can enjoy his splendor.
Paul Marks Jr.