Nittany Lions, Tigers and Bearcats, oh my!
Check out some of the mascots from around the college hoops world.
CINCINNATI - Clumps of Abby Strietmann's red hair cling to her forehead as she slips out the zippered back of her Blue Blob mascot costume. She slides her 5-foot-1, 125-pound frame wearily to the floor and leans her sweat-soaked back against a cinderblock wall.
Ah, a little cool air.
Xavier's nationally ranked basketball team has just dashed off the court for halftime. With a double-digit lead, the Musketeers would probably rather keep playing.
Not Strietmann. She needs this timeout.
"This is warmer than normal,'' she says, sticking out her tongue. "Still, it's a lot of fun. I love it.''
She's got plenty of sweaty company now that it's tournament time.
Hundreds of college students are climbing into costumes of blobs and Billikens, panthers and peacocks, demon deacons and founding fathers, and heading to far-flung arenas for their own version of March madness.
Like the players, they are fit, they vie for a competitive job, and some even get all their tuition paid.
They're at center court for the best moments of the season — and some of the most grueling, given that teams can play on three or four consecutive days in conference tournaments.
Consider the Hawk, mascot at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia: As he roams the arena floor, tradition dictates that he also flap his wings during games. Constantly.
"All our coaches always joke with me about how bad I smell,'' said Tim Klarich, the current Hawk.
But like Strietmann, who will accompany Xavier's women at the NCAA tournament, students consider it the coolest thing they've ever done.
"It opens opportunities that normal college kids don't usually have access to,'' said Steve Klarich, Tim's older brother, who was the Hawk from 2001-03.
Tim Klarich called it "the next best thing to playing.''
Just like the athletes, mascot candidates have to make it through demanding tryouts. They must be able to handle an intense cardiovascular workout in a bulky, heat-retaining costume.
Nobody just walks off the street to become an eagle or an anteater — at least not usually — although there's the occasional understudy-becomes-star story.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl was an administrative assistant at Boston College in 1981, when the Eagles made the NCAA tournament. The mascot got sick, so Pearl was ordered to put on the beak. He took the role to heart, doing everything he could to distract the Ball State players, even using a ladder behind the basket to wave obnoxiously during free throws.
"They had a meeting after the game and they were going to throw me out. I broke like five NCAA rules,'' Pearl joked.
There are specific requirements for how those in costume do their jobs. For instance, all Brutus Buckeye mascots at Ohio State are trained to move and pose alike.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Mascots of both feather and fur agree the most difficult part of the job is the costume, which sometimes can be unbelievably awkward. Vision is limited through the eye holes - like looking through a mesh-covered periscope.
The most unpleasant part?
There's no delicate way to put it: After absorbing about 10 pounds of sweat each game, the costume really stinks. Fabric sprays and dry cleaning don't help. Mostly, the students just get used to the smell.
CBT: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made it official that he'll be coaching Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and he'll also be with Duke at least that long, too.
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