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Get to Know Our Campus Mascots

campus life
Louisiana State University
University of Illinois at Chicago
By Matt Killorin
Last updated on September 10, 2021

Mascots are the official leaders of cheer at universities in the United States, especially at sporting events and campus celebrations. Learn more about university mascots and campus traditions across the country.

Mike the Tiger, the mascot of LSU, runs out on the football field with the LSU Marching Band

Few events are as exciting as a college sporting match in the United States, and the biggest leader of energy and enthusiasm is the team mascot. Leading the cheer through heartbreaking losses and life-changing wins, mascots on campuses across the US signify school spirit and goodwill to fans at games, charity events, and just about everywhere else they go. Read on to get to know a few university mascots and learn more about school spirit, campus traditions, and the college community before you come to study in the USA. Go, team! 

Aubie the Tiger: Auburn University

Aubie is the energetic mascot for the Tigers of Auburn University, known for his animated behavior, daring acrobatics, and infectious enthusiasm since 1959. He first appeared as a cartoon character on the cover of a football program — Auburn versus Hardin Simmons — and was so popular he continued to be featured on the magazine cover for the next 18 years. 

Aubie made his first live appearance as a mascot in costume in 1979, during a Southeast Conference basketball tournament game against Vanderbilt. His original costume was purchased for $1,350 and was designed and produced by the same company that made costumes for Walt Disney. Fans love Aubie for his spirit, but also because he is known to bring Auburn sports teams good luck. In the first six years that Aubie was on the Auburn football program’s cover, the team had a home winning record of 23-2-1. 

Aubie is one of the most famous mascots in the United States, and has more than 83,000 followers on Facebook. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006 and has won the mascot national championships eight times — more than any other mascot in the United States. 

Big Jay: University of Kansas

Big Jay, the mascot for the University of Kansas, is known for leading the popular KU chant, “Rock Chalk, Jaywalk!” as the university team inches closer to victory. Sporting the number 1 on his jersey, Big Jay first embodied school spirit at KU in 1953. Since then, he has helped lead the athletic teams to several season-clinching victories and NCAA championships, including five national titles in men’s basketball. 

A little bit blue jay and a little bit sparrow hawk, Big Jay the Jayhawk is not named after a real bird, but rather the name given to anti-slavery activists in Kansas during the 1850s, according to the university. 

Big Jay also has a buddy named Little Jay to help him lead team spirit. Possibly the most adorable mascot in the US, Little Jay “hatched” at midfield in 1971 during halftime of a homecoming football game and can be found, along with Big Jay, at KU athletic and community events year-round. 

Clawed Z. Eagle: American University

Clawed is the high-soaring mascot of the American University Eagles. Unlike the other mascots listed, Clawed isn’t a “he” but rather a “they” — that’s because as many as five different people wear Clawed’s 20-pound costume made of foam and padding. 

The Eagle became the official mascot of AU in 1925 — the year the university’s football and basketball teams were founded — however, it wasn’t until 1976 that “Clawed” came into existence, based on a drawing by the director of athletics. Although AU no longer has a football team, Clawed has kept the cheer going for its other Eagles sports teams ever since. 

In 2006, American University decided to update Clawed’s name from “Clawed the Eagle” to “Clawed Z. Eagle.” Donned in red, white, and blue — fitting for a university in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC — Clawed loves to keep fans cheering for the Eagles, especially the youngest AU Blue Crew fans. 

Mike the Tiger: Louisiana State University

If you think Aubie is one cool cat with 83,000 Facebook fans, wait until you see Mike the Tiger, the official mascot of Louisiana State University — he’s got more than 207,000 followers. Unlike the other mascots mentioned, there is a living, breathing tiger on the LSU campus, symbolizing school spirit and college community. 

The tradition of having a real tiger on campus dates back to 1934 when the university bought the first “Mike” from a zoo in Little Rock, Arkansas. Legend has it that the tiger was purchased for $750 by collecting 25 cents from every student on campus. He was named “Mike” after athletic department trainer Chellis “Mike” Chambers, who was instrumental in bringing the live animal to campus almost 90 years ago. 

Since then, there have been seven Mike the Tigers. The most current one shares both Siberian and Bengal tiger characteristics, and was born in 2016. LSU Tiger Athletic Foundation does a great job taking care of Mike the Tiger, who lives in a 15,000-square-foot habitat that includes plants, trees, a waterfall, and a stream. Mike’s $3.7 million habitat is furnished by donations to the Tiger Athletic Foundation

Sparky D. Dragon: University of Illinois Chicago

For more than 20 years, Sparky D. Dragon has energized fans at University of Illinois Chicago athletic and community events. Sparky is the mascot for the Flames, UIC’s official sports team, named in tribute to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. 

In addition to leading fans in the official UIC fight song, “Fire Up Flames,” Sparky also regularly makes appearances at events throughout Chicago. Whether he is raising money for the Special Olympics or delivering the official Sparky D. Dragon Customer Service Award at the UIC College of Dentistry, Sparky brings Flames spirit and a whole lot of fun wherever he goes. 

Mascots Make College Life More Fun

From Alaska to Florida, universities in the United States have a long tradition of using mascots to embody school spirit. Mascots bring an extra dose of fun to sports matches, charity drives, and other university-sponsored events that celebrate the campus community and spread goodwill in the towns and cities where the schools are located. Make sure to check out the mascot at your US university — and maybe learn a few fight songs — so you’ll arrive on campus with plenty of school spirit. 

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