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Michigan ‘interested’ in Wolverine mascot, if Wolverine fans will tolerate it

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Dave Brandon's most important act since taking over as his alma mater's athletic director last year was to hire a home-grown, throwback head coach who embraced Michigan tradition down to the last whisker on Horace Prettyman's mustache. Elsewhere, though, Brandon has been less mindful of the olde-tyme status quo: He's introduced piped-in music at Michigan Stadium at the expense of the marching band, overseen the installation of lights for the stadium's first ever night game this fall, introduced "retro" alternative uniforms that don't resemble anything Michigan has ever worn and approved a Godzilla scoreboard.

Still, even a forward-looking man of action like Brandon knows how carefully he has to tread around another bright idea that intrigues him, the revival of the long lost Michigan mascot:

"I'm struck by the fact that when opposing teams come to our stadium, and they bring a mascot, all of our young fans are lined up to see if they can get a picture taken with it, whether it's the Penn State Nittany Lion or Sparty," Brandon told Michigan Today. "That's a little annoying to me.

"You can't get your picture taken with a Block M. Mascots are really embraced by the youth demographic and we want to take advantage of that, for all the reasons that are obvious."
"We're interested in doing a mascot but it has to be something that fans love, that children love and everyone can embrace," Brandon explained. "So far we haven't figured out a way to do it. Until we come up with something we love, we don't have a mascot."

While these kids argue that in fact you can have your picture taken with a Block M, the rest of the nation's most conservative fan base is busy shuddering at the thought. A mascot? At Michigan? Why, it simply reeks of frivolity. A mere diversion. The whole business just sounds so … vulgar.{YSP:MORE}

The inevitable anti-mascot sentiment among the older crowd (by which I mean anyone old enough to have actually graduated from Michigan) is due in large part to the traditional absence of a mascot, which is due in large part itself to the fact that the few exceptions have fared so poorly. Michigan did have a live wolverine mascot prior to the Great Depression, at the behest of coach and all-round pater programus Fielding Yost, who first admired Wisconsin's live badgers in 1923. (The badgers were a shortlived handful in their own right; they were quickly ditched and briefly replaced by raccoons.) After a couple years of unsuccessful queries to trappers, Michigan eventually got ahold of 10 Alaskan wolverines, two of which were on hand for the dedication of Michigan Stadium in 1927.

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But the experiment didn't last long, for obvious reasons:

... the animals grew larger and more ferocious, and as Yost states, "It was obvious that the Michigan mascots had designs on the Michigan men toting them, and those designs were by no means friendly." Therefore, the practice of bringing wolverines into the stadium had to be discontinued after only one year.

As I noted a few years back: Buffaloes and tigers on a sideline are one thing, but mustelids are not to be trifled with.

Chevrolet subsequently donated a live wolverine named "Intrepidus," which was kept in a cage on campus beginning in 1937. Its death marked the end of the live wolverine in Michigan — seriously, in the entire state of Michigan: This fella, spotted in 2004, was reportedly the first wild wolverine recorded in the Wolverine State's borders — dead, alive or otherwise — in 200 years.
According to Michigan Today, there was also an attempt from a few students in the late eighties — including the future founders of Groupon, Eric Lefkosky and Brad Keywell — to ingratiate an "unofficial" mascot, Willy the Wolverine (pictured at the top of the post), with an eye toward selling merchandise and eventually selling the trademark to the university. But probably the less said about Willy, the better.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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