The story of Sylvain Tauzy - the first Mike

Aside from the head football coach, who is the most recognizable figure associated with LSU football? That's an easy one right? Who other than Mike the Tiger. LSU's live Bengal Tiger mascot is one of only a small number of live animal mascots in all of college sports.

Sure there are bulldogs, buffaloes and even a burst-orange longhorn named "Bevo" gracing the sidelines of major college football games across the country. But without a doubt there is no more intimidating mascot in college football anywhere than Mike the Tiger.


Introduced to the student body in 1936, Mike I reigned for 20 years giving way to four more Mike's. Mike V, in his 16th year, has ruled over Tiger athletics since 1990.


But what about the other Mike?


The costumed Mike the Tiger mascot has grown in popularity throughout the years and is nearly as popular as his ferociously furry companion. Mike can be seen dancing up and down the sidelines of football and basketball games, acting out funny skits, posing for pictures with small children, cheerleaders and other Tiger fans. Even on rare occasions, Mike can be seen being lowered through the ceiling of the Pete Maravich Center to the hardwood floor prior to big basketball games.


The story of the official Mike's rise to prominence is well documented in the history of Tiger lore dating back seven decades to the mid 1930s. However, the other Mike's story may not be as well-known.


The year was 1959. While the football team was fresh off a national title, the Tiger basketball team left something to be desired. LSU was in the midst of a losing season and few fans turned out to see coach Jay McCreary's team in action.


Trying to drum up fan interest, Tiger band member Sylvain Tauzy (at the time a freshman from New Orleans) came up with the idea to gather some friends together to perform skits to entertain the crowds in hopes of attracting more people to the games.


The skits were such a success they caught the eye of band director Thomas Tyra. Tyra, who had previously been the band director at Northwestern, dreamed up the idea of creating a costumed Mike the Tiger mascot, similar to Northwestern's Wildcat that stalked the sidelines in Evanston.


Tyra approached Tauzy with the idea and he ran with it. Tauzy said he would make his own Tiger costume, but ran into difficulties constructing the head. Finally, Tyra contacted a costume company in New York and the appropriate headgear was purchased.

The plan was kept very quiet and the target date was the 1959 football season opener set for Sept. 19 versus Rice.


When Mike's cage was rolled onto the field, Tauzy was hunkered down inside tying his best to portray the real Bengal tiger. When the cage stopped, Tauzy bolted out of the unlocked cage door. Cheerleaders and fans alike shrieked in terror, "MIKE'S LOOSE!"

Shortly thereafter, people realized it wasn't the real Mike. However, fans warmed up to the masked figure who became a fixture on the Tiger Stadium sidelines.


Tauzy remained in his capacity as Mike the Tiger until 1961. His official record as the costumed mascot was an impressive 24-7-1.


The tradition continues to this day as Mike the Tiger is very much a part of the Gameday activities. Sadly, however, Tauzy passed away on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at the age of 67.


Sylvain Tauzy was born in New Orleans in 1939 and attended Fortier High School before enrolling at LSU. He attended LSU for three years and later enlisted in the Air Force, where he eventually served in the Secret Service. Tauzy married the former Rena Esponge and the couple reared two children, son Sylvain Jr. and a daughter Judean. He was the proud grandfather of three, Alex (7), Carter (3) and Sarah (1).


Tauzy, the man behind the Tiger mask, will be missed by all.

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