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REAL MASCOT SECRETS: THE FOCUS GROUP

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YOU KNEW IT WOULD COME TO THIS EVENTUALLY

UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you all for joining us today. As you know, we’ve convened this special committee to review one of the most pressing issues facing our institution today.

STAFF MEMBER: The rising cost of tuition, which threatens to turn a college education into a luxury good accessible only to those with inherited wealth or a willingness to incur crippling, lifelong debt?

ADMINISTRATOR: That’s not what I meant.

STAFF MEMBER: Or are we talking about the woefully under-addressed epidemic of campus sexual assault, which many institutions are not only incapable, as currently structured, of addressing - but seemingly wholly unwilling to even acknowledge?

ADMINISTRATOR: No, I meant with our athletic program.

STAFF MEMBER: Ah, so you’re talking about the fundamentally immoral situation we’ve allowed to persist wherein the university profits massively off the labors and physical toil of young athletes who cannot even profit off their own likeness, but are told to appreciate it because they’re receiving a college education - ignoring the fact that their educational opportunities are unnaturally constrained by the overwhelming demands of participating in top-flight college athletics - demands placed on them by coaches who are profiting massively from said arrangement?

ADMINISTRATOR: Dammit, Eric.

STAFF MEMBER: So what are we talking about then?

ADMINISTRATOR: We don’t have a mascot. All the other schools have mascots, and it’s clearly holding us back.

STAFF MEMBER: I’m submitting my resignation.

ADMINISTRATOR: Kids love mascots. Builds goodwill in the community. I mean, just look at these guys! Doesn’t this say “I want to attend this institution of higher learning”?

TRUSTEE: Is that Crash Bandicoot?

ADMINISTRATOR: Quite possibly, we’ve got people looking into it. Anyways, let’s brainstorm. What makes a successful mascot?

GRAD ASSISTANT: Enthusiasm! They’ve got to be able to rile up a crowd. We can get awfully quiet at times.

ADMINISTRATOR: [scribbling on whiteboard] That’s great, great point. We need enthusiasm. What else?

CONSULTANT: Oh, I think you want toughness. Something that says “hey, we’re a fierce beast”. I mean, that Duck is cuddly and all, but do we want cuddly when it’s 15 degrees in November? We want a ferocious beast.

ADMINISTRATOR: Great point. Enthusiasm, but real-world ferocity. Something you’d be scared to be stuck in an elevator with. This is all good stuff. We’re going to have this sorted out by lunchtime. I have pizza coming.

TRUSTEE: I think you need to pay homage to the university’s unique heritage and culture. You know, embrace figures from the past. Look at this guy. Duke Dog. He’s named after a former university president, Samuel Page Duke.

ADMINISTRATOR: This is one of the best focus groups I’ve ever been in. Terrific, terrific stuff. And you’re absolutely right. Whatever we create here, we want it to show respect for the history of this program - respect for the figures who preceded it. On top of the enthusiasm and ferocity. I think we’re getting close here.

BRAND STRATEGIST: We don’t want to be staid, though. We want unpredictability.

CONSULTANT: Something vaguely human, but in a creepy, non-human kind of way. We call it the “uncanny valley”, it tests very well. People like something that looks like them, but in a totally unsettling and unrealistic sense.

MILLENNIAL CONSULTANT: Also, millennials love edginess. Give me a schmear of dickishness.

TRUSTEE: Let’s not forget about the boring dads, though. Can we dad-ify it by 10%?

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: [furiously sketching]

ADMINISTRATOR: Oh, yeah, bingo! There it is right there!

CONSULTANT: Yeah, that works.

STRATEGIST: That's it.

TRUSTEE: I love it.

[later, at a press conference]

[the university brass is standing proudly in front of a display covered by a sheet]

ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: - and so we’re proud to announce that after exhaustive research, extensive brainstorming, and massive expense, we’ve finally developed a mascot befitting this program.

ADMINISTRATOR: It’s enthusiastic. It’s ferocious. It pays homage to our history, but it’s unpredictable. It’s human, but it’s edgy. It’s an original, but it’s ultimately very familiar. Let’s meet him!

[pulls sheet off]

TRUSTEE, whispering to colleague: We couldn’t have just gotten a live wolverine?

NOTE: Jim Harbaugh died on the way back to his home planet