U. mascot trails behind in competition
The Scarlet Knight, the University’s mascot, has been cheering for the red team for a half-century. Now he finds himself playing against 15 mascots from across the country in the Capital One Mascot Challenge.
By receiving the most votes in each matchup in the Mascot Challenge, the Scarlet Knight could win a $20,000 scholarship for the University’s mascot program, according to a statement from Capital One.
The Scarlet Knight is ranked 15th of 16 mascots, as of press time. He lost last week’s match to Missouri State University’s Truman the Tiger, garnering around 30 percent of the vote, said Anthony Yeigand, assistant mascot coach.
“I thought Truman the Tiger had major support, but it turns out we have trouble getting the word out,” he said, observing the Scarlet Knight’s standing against this week’s challenger, Louisiana State University’s Mike the Tiger. “We’re getting our butts kicked with voting.”
To win his weekly matches, the Scarlet Knight needs votes on the Mascot Challenge website and tweets with the hash tag “#CapitalOneScarletKnight,” Yeigand said.
The top eight mascots will compete in a bracket-style single elimination competition on Nov. 26 to determine the winner, who will be announced at the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2013, according to the statement.
A Knight became the University’s mascot in the early 1950s after winning a University-wide selection process, according to the University Athletics website. Scarlet had been adopted as the official color in 1900, which made way for the Scarlet Knight’s creation in 1955.
The Scarlet Knight cheers on the football team and the men and women’s basketball teams when they play at home, but also appears at campus and private events, including weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.
“We do any and all appearances that we’re invited to,” Yeigand said.
Wayne Stainrook, a former mascot who graduated from the University in 2012, said he witnessed someone who borrowed the costume propose to his wife as the Scarlet Knight.
“He got down on one knee before his fiancée and took the helmet off, and she was in tears and all happy,” Stainrook said.
Stainrook said he did not have to try out for the position when he became interested in fall 2010. His tenure as the Scarlet Knight lasted until spring 2012, when he graduated.
The Scarlet Knight averages 10 to 15 appearances monthly throughout the year, Yeigand said.
To meet the demand for the University mascot’s presence, a few students are selected through an audition process that includes appearing as the Scarlet Knight on Rutgers Day to gain field experience, he said. Depending on the performance, the individual is then added as the University mascot.
There are four students playing the role of the Scarlet Knight this year: two first-year students, one sophomore and one senior. They agreed to speak about their roles as the Scarlet Knight on the condition of anonymity.
Yeigand said the people behind the helmet mask are concealed because it is easier for them to be the mascot if no one knows who they are. Other schools keep the identity of those who wear mascot costumes secret as well.
He said some schools have a formal coming-out ceremony for their mascots, but University students can reveal their participation anytime after graduation.
No training is required to be the Scarlet Knight, according to the senior on the squad. “It’s more ‘I’m always a goofball and full of energy,’” he said, “It’s me being who I am.”
The Scarlet Knight is a huge symbol, the senior said, describing the responsibilities of the Knight during football games as a job. The Scarlet Knight is there to entertain as much as the football team is there to win, he said.
“We get the crowd pumped up. … We take pictures with little kids all the time and make kids’ days,” the senior said.
Being the Scarlet Knight offers a different point of view than most receive.
“The feeling you get when you run out during a basketball game or a football game and everyone is cheering — you just channel their energy,” the sophomore of the group said. The Scarlet Knight is the University’s biggest fan, the sophomore said.
Yeigand said the mascot is always there whether the University’s teams are winning or losing, always with a smile on his face.
“He gets students to feel the scarlet spirit,” he said.
Sometimes the Scarlet Knight appears at events held within the University community in a surprise appearance for students to enjoy.
While most of the time people have fun with the Scarlet Knight, the student in the suit does have to be wary of people’s comfort zones, Stainrook said.
“There was a basketball game where [the Scarlet Knight] did the motion of polishing a bald guy’s head, and word got around and he emailed someone,” Stainrook said.
The man in question was really offended, he said.
“No more bald head polishing after that,” Stainrook said.
Voting is open to the public at http://www.capitalonebowl.com/vote.