Last weekend, in the midst of the snow, and Pitt pulling out an impressive 28-10 win over Cincinnati in its regular season finale, the Cincinnati Bearcat mascot was ejected from the contest, and eventually arrested after throwing snowballs at fans. The mascot was repeatedly asked to stop, as his attempt to get the crowd involved turned foul.
On the same weekend, a Lee Corso mascot head disappeared from the set of the ESPN Gameday show, for Oregon's matchup with Oregon State. Corso, known for making his predictions by putting on the head of the respective mascot during the show, had his own mascot created for a promo with the Oregon Duck mascot heading into the game. The theft resulted in felony charges for the two fans that stole it.
In summary, there's some excitement that either goes into being a school mascot, or wanting a piece of being a school mascot. There's a select few that get to do it for their respective school.
This past week, Panther Digest had a chance to get caught up with Pitt's mascot, Roc. Don't ever expect to talk to Roc in person. Though we can't reveal Roc's identity in this article to keep up with the true spirit of being the school mascot, in addition to some general conduct rules about being the mascot--the individual who gets to don the mascot uniform gave us an inside look at what it's like to be Pitt's mascot.
First of all, there has to be a genuine interest in being a Pitt fan.
"Growing up a Pitt fan, from a very young age, it's something I thought I'd enjoy because I'm a Pitt fan," Roc said. "I've done it for four years. You really do have to be a fan of whatever the institution. When I am Roc, I have to be excited on my own; it's just because I'm that much of a fan."
Being a fan is a given, but when in costume, it allows the person playing Roc to let their school spirit loose. Think of singing karaoke, or even taking a public speaking class. There might be some nerves involved. With a mascot costume on, you're allowed to lose yourself a little. Whether it's dancing around, doing pushups--anything that might look odd to do in public is acceptable when you're the mascot. In addition to that, you can shake hands with as many fans as you want. You don't have to worry about your hair being messed up, what clothes you have on. With the mascot costume on, it opens a world of possibilities.
One of the many questions that come to mind, is how many people don the costume on a yearly basis? With the addition of new sports facilities on campus, Roc is going to have a busier year as this school year goes on.
"In years past, we've had more than one (Roc) all year round," Roc said. "We've been changing things around. In football season we're going to have one Roc. With basketball season underway, we'll bring in one additional person and a backup to help with the hectic schedule. There's men's basketball, women's basketball, throw in volleyball, wrestling. We get at least one match in every single sport."
But, that's the mascot part of it. Roc follows a strict order of conduct, that gets updated on a yearly basis. With recent technologies such as Facebook and Twitter holding more people accountable, the person serving as Roc has a tough order to follow. Though Roc has his own Facebook and Twitter page, no one is allowed to pose with just the Roc head for a picture and tag it. Roc is also not allowed to post any kind of status updates that might give away his identity. Also part of the code of conduct, is strict regulations on grades.
"We are held to a very high standard," Roc said. "All communication on Facebook or Twitter must be positive and keep the University of Pittsburgh in the best light."
One thing that's common among school mascots around the country, is some that like to tussle before or during sporting events. Roc adds that it is all in fun, and that it rarely is a serious fight. In fact, it‘s staged similar to a professional wrestling match. For example, in recent weeks, Roc has dueled with the Robert Morris mascot and the Duquesne Duke. Against Robert Morris, Roc had what looked like a fight set up, with a pre-planned victory over the Colonial mascot.
"I actually contact the mascot before the day of any event," Roc said. "I called the Robert Morris mascot, and I brought out huge boxing gloves. I said, 'Do you want to have a fight?', and he said, ‘That would be great, we can kind of go back and forth, it's your home court. I'll fall down, it'll be cool.' Eventually (the Robert Morris mascot) will go down, and students will get what they want. I would do the same at Robert Morris, for their fans."
For Duquesne, at the first-ever basketball game at Consol Energy Center, both Roc and his Duquesne counterpart pre-planned a dance-off. What they weren't expecting, was an electric atmosphere before the game. They planned to do the dance-off at some point during the game. Neither mascot was sure when that would be. Because of the energy right before tip-off, they both signaled each other that this was the right time for the dance-off.
"Before both teams ran out, they had some popular music playing," Roc said. "I pointed at (the Duquesne mascot), basically saying, ‘lets go,' with one going back and forth, with both student sections. It got much more of a response than we thought it would get."
Off the field, the Roc mascot appears at hundreds of events, including some events for special needs children, one of Roc's favorite things to do in the community. He will also appear at an upcoming mascot skate at Schenley Park, with other local mascots such as the Pirate Parrot and Iceburgh.
Though Roc has restrictions on what he can or cannot say on Facebook or Twitter, you can become a friend or follow Roc. You can find him on Facebook by doing a search for "Pitt Panther." You can follow him on Twitter, at Roc_1787.
If you are a close enough fan, you've probably seen or met the person, or persons, who don the costume and never realized it. However, he'll never tell you, in order to keep Roc's true mascothood imaginary.
"Nobody knows completely who we are," Roc said. "At the same time, it's almost impossible to keep that secret. We do our best to keep (secret) whoever that is."