WHO'S THE BEST OF THE BEASTS?

While elephants and donkeys were slugging away at the polls this fall, their furry college counterparts were embroiled in their own grueling election across colleges and universities nationwide. After an intense judging process and a heated online competition, Capital One will be revealing the Capital One National Mascot of the Year during halftime of the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on January 1, 2005 (game time: 1 p.m.)...

Over the past three years, Capital One has helped thrust the spotlight on these unsung heroes of the gridiron. This year's All-America team was announced in August. The selection was made by a panel of judges, which included representatives from ESPN, Capital One and the mascot community. Team members starred in a national advertising campaign, which this year featured the mascots as they vied for the heart of "Maiden Melissa" in ads spoofing reality dating shows. In addition to hooplah, each mascot receives $5,000 for its school's mascot program, and the Mascot of the Year receives an additional $5,000.

From Oct. 11, 2004 through Dec. 26, 2004, millions of votes were cast by college football fans and mascot lovers from across the country at www.capitalonebowl.com to vote for the Capital One National Mascot of the Year. Though the online voting has closed, no one is assured of victory. The winner is decided based on a combination of the online "popular" vote (50 percent) and the panel of judges' ranking (50 percent) conducted last summer, which was based on criteria that included fan interaction, good sportsmanship and community service. This contest is still a horserace, so to speak.

The 12 members of the 2004 Capital One All-America Mascot Team are:
•Air Force Academy – The Bird
•Auburn University – Aubie
•University of South Carolina – Cocky
•University of Georgia -- Hairy Dawg
•James Madison University – Duke Dog
•University of Kentucky – Scratch
•University of Maryland – Testudo
•University of Nevada-Las Vegas – Hey Reb
•University of Minnesota – Goldy Gopher
•University of Montana – Monte
•Virginia Tech – Hokie Bird
•Western Kentucky University – Big Red

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