Scarlet Knight mascot discusses life under mask
The face of the Scarlet Knight —— the face of Rutgers, itself — is always adorned with a huge smile.
Mascots attend games for every sport, not just football and basketball, said Mike Stickle, coach of the Rutgers spirit program. Knights have also been asked to show up at birthday parties and weddings.
“It’s men’s soccer, women’s soccer, hockey, lacrosse and aside from that they do a lot of campus community events. So we’ll get a request from the Rutgers Group of Literacy, and the Knight appeared at that. They will do things for admissions and just anything that’s a campus event," Stickle said.
Mascots also attend non-University events, including those held by the Big Ten Conference, he said. This year those knights made an appearance at the Country Music Awards.
One Scarlet Knight, whose name is being withheld due to a vow of anonymity taken by all University mascots, said one of his most memorable experiences of being a mascot was performing at the Country Music Awards in Tennessee.
“This past November I was down in Nashville Tennessee for the Country Music Awards and me, the other Scarlet Knights and about 45 other mascots from (schools) around the country got to actually perform a song with Brad Paisley," said the Rutgers mascot. "I’ve also done SportsCenter commercials, so that was also fun.”
For small events, mascots receive stipends to cover expenses, like travel and food costs. The money made from appearances at larger events gets put into a fundraising pot for the cheerleading program, he said.
Mascot tryouts take place Sunday, April 10. Applicants' must be between 5-foot-10 and 6-foot-2. Falling outside of this height requirement would result in the costume not fitting or hanging badly, he said.
"The first day we go over all the information that’s needed so everyone knows what’s required of them," he said. "Then we let people try on the costume so they can get a feel for it, and we talk about the character of the Knight."
To be considered, applicants must be available to attend events over the summer, and during the semester, they must be constantly available, he said. The aspiring mascots must then prove their mettle.
"They are put in game situations, and there is a short improv section where there is a prop that someone gets and you throw out a situation, and they have to use the prop in the appropriate situation,” Stickle said.
Being a mascot involves a lot of improvisation and acting, especially miming because mascots are not allowed to talk, he said.
“They don’t even talk to me when they’re in costume," Stickle said. "They don’t want people to realize that there’s someone inside the costume. They want everyone to look at the Knight as a person, as a real character. And if you know who is inside, you automatically think of that person."
By staying anonymous, the mascots hope to to make the Scarlet Knight an actual living person, he said.
The mascot said that though every game is memorable, when Rutgers won its first Big Ten game against University of Michigan two seasons ago, that was a standout.
“At the end of the game we got on to the field with the fans — not even by choice we got pushed out. It was a blackout game, and we won in the last play so that was really exciting," he said.
School pride and the mass of students pushed the Knight onto the field.
"We’re all Scarlet Knights, for the rest of your life you’re going to be a Scarlet Knight. To give a face to the idea of being a Scarlet Knight is way bigger than school, it brings everyone together,” he said.
Sanjana Chandrasekharan is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in political science. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.