Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon is apparently interested in someday adding a wolverine mascot, but I'm here to tell him that he needs to look beyond the dollar signs for once and get a clue.
Since taking over as athletic director in 2010, Dave Brandon has shaken up some traditions quite a bit, and most of what he's done has been great. He made the Big Chill a spectacular event, installed lights in Michigan Stadium, scheduled the first night game in Michigan Stadium history, commissioned new HD scoreboards for three venues and is undertaking massive renovations of Yost Arena and Crisler Arena. All of these things are very positive.
Brandon has made it no secret that he is willing to change things up to create new opportunities for the athletic department, but you can only do so much before crossing a line and completely throwing tradition out the window. Just last week, for example, Michigan unveiled a "legacy" jersey that will be worn for the Notre Dame night game. Many fans aren't too pleased with the whole concept of wearing a different home jersey, but it's only supposed to be a one-time thing, so it's stomachable.
Another tradition that Brandon may look at changing in the future is the lack of a wolverine mascot. Michigan's tradition is to not have one, and a number of fans (myself included) dislike the thought of a goofy-looking mascot roaming the sidelines of Michigan Stadium. However, Brandon is not only open to the idea, but he is interested in making it a reality in the future.
"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."
Let me translate this for you: A Block M can't appear at events and become a new revenue stream. A mascot, on the other hand, could make appearances and give the athletic department another opportunity to make money. Like with the legacy jersey, tradition isn't important, money is, as evidenced by comments like this:
"Our history and our tradition is great for those of who were there to experience it, or remember it," Brandon said, "but there's a generation coming up and you've got to connect with them and keep them excited."
Tradition is defined as "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice." The whole point of tradition is for it to be something that continues over time, such as singing "The Victors" or watching the football team run out of the tunnel and hit the "M Club" banner. When my dad was a Michigan student these things went on, and when I started attending games at age seven they were still going on. Now I'm a student and these long-time traditions still haven't changed, hence why they are considered traditions in the first place.
I definitely understand that some traditions do need to change. Not playing night games, for example, is a tradition that I am glad is changing come this September. I'm not thrilled with the way that Brandon has gone all out to market Michigan's first ever home night game, but watching a game in primetime at the Big House will be a cool experience.
Adding a mascot, on the other hand, would be anything but cool. Most mascots look cheesy, goofy, stupid, etc. (Feel free to insert your own adjective.) The point is that I have yet to see a mascot like Brandon is talking about that is truly cool or worth having. Live mascots like Uga at Georgia or Mike the Tiger at LSU are pretty cool, but a grown man dressed up in a costume is just plain dumb. Unless a live wolverine is brought to Michigan Stadium like in the 1920s, there is no possible way a mascot will look anything other than childish. Then again, that seems to be Brandon's M.O.
"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."
If this issue truly comes down to not doing anything until fans embrace it, there will never be a Michigan mascot. I strongly doubt Brandon makes decisions based on what is or isn't popular, though. If that were the case, Michigan would never be wearing a "legacy" uniform.
If it makes monetary sense, I would expect Brandon to someday attempt to introduce a mascot. That doesn't mean it will actually happen, though. While fans can deal with a one-time change to the football team's home jersey, I doubt they would accept the addition of a mascot. The backlash would potentially be so strong that the idea has to be scrapped. Just look at how quickly the idea of moving the Michigan-Ohio State game to a date earlier in the season was trounced by fans. The possibility was leaked out, and the outrage was so strong that the idea was put to rest not too long after. Now, obviously the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and a mascot are two much different things, but Michigan fans can be quite vocal, especially when it comes to messing with tradition.
I have no doubt that Brandon is willing to cross the line and do something as radical as adding a mascot to Michigan, but unless he wants an angry mob of fans standing outside his office at Weidenbach Hall, he better reconsider ever going through with it. I mean, there was outrage over Michigan State having a fake wolverine mascot in the early 2000s for the Michigan game, and that was something a different school was doing. If Michigan ever added its own mascot, let's just say the sales of torches and pitchforks in the Ann Arbor area would skyrocket. Just don't go there, Dave Brandon.