On Jan. 23, Yale athletics fans will see their new bulldog mascot. But unlike Handsome Dan, this one does not bark. It dances.
Yale Athletics Marketing will hold tryouts on Saturday to select a small group of performers to play the part of their new bulldog character mascot. The performers will wear a newly-developed costume which will be unveiled at the men’s basketball game against Brown on Jan. 23. The Athletics Department intends the official performing mascot to be a staple of future athletic events.
In the past, Yale band members or cheerleaders have occasionally rented bulldog costumes for special games. But the University has never developed and made a specific Yale bulldog costume for the role — nor has it employed a specific performer.
Director of Marketing Patrick O’Neill said the bulldog has a whole new look. “You can get a mascot that’s a bulldog,” he said, “but it’s not necessarily a Yale bulldog.”
Refining the look of the new costume has been a long process that involved getting opinions from students and alumni. To develop the new bulldog, Athletics Marketing employed Street Characters, a Canadian company that deals with the conception and execution of the mascot and has designed costumes for numerous teams in the NHL, NFL and MLB. O’Neill added that while it has taken years to instigate the creation of the new bulldog, he believes that students and alumni will be happy with the final product.
Athletics Marketing plans for the new official mascot to make appearances at Yale home games and other sports events, as well as community and youth-oriented functions. The Jan. 23 basketball game during which the mascot will be revealed is also Youth Day, where New Haven kids will be able to participate in sports activities alongside Yale athletes.
“We’re looking to add another dimension to Yale athletic events,” O’Neill said.
Athletics Marketing also hopes that the performing bulldog will rouse fan enthusiasm and add to Yale’s home field advantage. Marketing intern Robert Coppola said the new mascot will help create a “hostile environment” to greet opponents.
While some Yale sports players are excited about the updated bulldog, they are unsure whether the mascot will make a significant difference in supporters’ enthusiasm. Travis Pinick ’09, a forward on the men’s basketball team, said he thinks fans will still be more interested in the game itself. But he also admitted that a mascot can’t hurt.
“If it gets the fans excited, it gets the players excited,” Pinick said.
Cheerleading Captain Michelle Wolfe ’11 agreed that having a new, Yale-specific mascot is a good thing. Though the cheerleaders were not consulted about the new bulldog, Wolfe said that they are not disappointed about losing the opportunity to play the part.
Tryouts will involve potential performers doing “basic mascot things,” according to Coppola. These include working with a small crowd and demonstrating their abilities to relate to kids. The Facebook event for the audition calls for the mascot to “have boundless energy and be able to communicate non-verbally with fans of all ages.” While the chosen performers will be compensated, Athletics Marketing anticipates that the students will also be driven by pride and enthusiasm for their school.
“[A mascot] needs to say hello to every little kid; they need to high five every student they see,” Coppola added.
Coppola said it would not matter whether the mascot is male or female, but candidates do need to be between 5’3” and 5’11” in order to fit in the costume.
Fans can also vote for the name of the new bulldog online at the Yale Athletics Web site; they can choose between the names “Blue,” “Boola,” “Danny,” “Eli” and “Super Dan.” Pinick voted for the name “Danny.”
He said that he’s glad that the Athletics Department chose a basketball game to unveil the mascot. But he hopes it won’t take away from the sports aspect.
“Hopefully we can get people out there for the game,” Pinick said, “as well as for the mascot.”