April 25, 2006

Playboy Picks C.U. Bear as "Mascot of the Month"

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Cornell’s unofficial mascot, the Big Red Bear, is getting a lot of loving from bunnies these days. A photo of the bear is currently next to a picture of a thong-clad young woman holding a football and gazing lustily at the camera, a perk of its title as Playboy.com’s “Mascot of the Month.”

The bear was chosen by Playboy.com associate editor Patrick Sisson in March and Brian Hughes ’09, who often wears the costume, was interviewed for the website story “Mascots Talk Back.”

Sisson, who said he chose the bear because of its “interesting” costume and rich history, asked Hughes about the bear’s unofficial status, Big Red communism and his interest in picking a fight with the University of Pennsylvania’s mascot, the Quaker.

Cornell’s unofficial mascot originated in the early 1900s as a live animal, a bear cub named Touchdown. Fans loved the bear so much that they often brought it to away games on the train. The Animal Protection League ended Touchdown’s tenure after nearly 25 years as the football team’s mascot and Big Red, a student in a bear suit, took over.

Hughes, who said he thinks the status of the bear will improve with the Playboy publicity, told Sisson he wants “a little bit of respect” as the school’s mascot and is “pushing hard” to become official.

Hughes said that not many people know he is the bear and he is actually very shy. After seeing the animal entertain the crowd at a basketball game during his freshman year, Hughes decided to pursue the costume.

“It seemed like a really great way to be somebody besides myself,” he said.

It doesn’t hurt that the bear suit attracts ladies. In the Playboy interview, Hughes tells Sisson that he has been attacked “multiple times” by girls under the influence of alcohol. He also cozies up to women athletes, cheering on the women’s volleyball team whenever possible.

Because mascots are such die-hard team fans, Sisson asked Hughes whether the bear had ever been in a fight. Hughes responded that he had not but that he wanted to beat up the Quaker. He noted, however, that “it’s tough because Quakers don’t fight.”

Hughes explained that most mascots from other schools do not come to games at Cornell, but Penn’s Quaker had shown up at a number of basketball games and other sporting events. The marching band guards its mascot very closely, however; Hughes was never able to get a punch in.

The bear said that Penn is a sort of basketball rival, so “it would be nice to have a little conflict.” He added that the Quaker’s clothing called for it to be beaten up.

“Their suit is so awful. It’s the ugliest thing ever,” he said.

Previous Playboy mascots have included the University of Massachusetts’s Sam the Minuteman, Rice University’s Sammy the Owl, Xavier University’s Blue Blob, Dartmouth College’s Keggy and The Stanford Tree. Sisson does not discriminate against unofficial mascots. He said students have responded well to the column, finding it “entertaining and amusing.”

The accompanying photographs probably don’t hurt.

Archived article by Melissa Korn
Sun Senior Writer