Anna Dellinger, Features Editor
Between social media networks, friend groups and all other manner of human interaction, it is hard to keep a secret these days. However, one of the best kept secrets on Bison Hill is the identity of Shaz the Bison, OBU’s one and only mascot.
Though he couldn’t reveal his identity to the whole campus, Shaz was willing to give the inside scoop on life inside a suit. One of his favorite parts of being the mascot is having the opportunity to be different than he might be without a suit.
“You get to figure out who people are without them knowing who you are,” Shaz said. “And you get to completely break out of any social bubble you are in because no one knows who you are.”
While the former student portraying Shaz held the title of mascot for four years and had other mascot experience to his name, this year’s Shaz is different.
“I’ve never done a mascot gig anywhere,” he said.
“My girlfriend asked me if I wanted to try out, and I found out there was a small scholarship attached to it. I thought it would be fun and the scholarship would help a lot. I went the day they were doing the tryouts and I was the only one who showed up.”
Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing and Promotions Deonne Moore held the first ever tryouts for Shaz in August of this year. Even though there was only one student at tryouts, he fit the criteria for becoming Shaz.
“We were really anxious to see the talent that we had here at OBU,” Moore said.
“[The mascot is selected based on] a number of things such as fitting the mascot suit, being able to portray charisma, being energetic, interactions with fans and kids especially, funny, etc. – all the things that go into be being a great mascot.”
Even though there is only one Shaz and he is the mascot for a full school year, there is always room for a Shaz-in-training.
“They are committed to the entire year and we hope to retain that person for the next year to help groom the next person up,” Moore said.
“Ideally, you’d like to have about 2-3 people portray Shaz, because of the commitment. If someone quits, it would be a next person up deal. Having just one person at the moment portraying Shaz is not an ideal situation, so I’m always looking for students who are interested.”
The mascot auditions are open to all enrolled OBU students, both male and female. Those interested in trying out to be Shaz can contact Deonne Moore at his email: email@example.com.
One perk of being Shaz is getting to take home the t-shirts he wears at events. Another bonus is the opportunity for consistency at events.
“I have a few children who come to every football game, and I get to hang out with them every single game – we always take pictures and high five.”
However, not all aspects of being a mascot are as heartwarming… they are a different kind of warming. One of the most difficult parts of being Shaz is a problem faced by most mascots: the extreme heat inside the suit.
“I sweat a lot,” Shaz said. “It’s so hot, that even in the basketball gym during [a] rally, I’m dripping sweat. I can wring out my sweat from my t-shirt… I drink six bottles of water and sweat it all off.”
And, while being in a suit can save a person from personal humiliation, embarrassing accidents can still happen.
“I was going up the stairs and wasn’t looking where I was going and I stepped right on a kid sitting on the stairs,” Shaz said.
Life as a mascot isn’t always easy, but for the student portraying Shaz this year, there are great things about it.
“It’s a surprise how much people love the mascot and would like to interact with it,” Shaz said.
“I love when the crowd interacts back, because it’s awkward if they don’t.”
Sometimes, Shaz is mistaken for another popular Bison mascot – Rumble of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“People ask if I’m Rumble or his brother or cousin,” Shaz said. “I say ‘no’ or ‘I’m better than him or older than him.’”
While mascots are often seen as representatives of college athletics, they can be so much more.
“It’s a furry ambassador to the university,” Moore said.
“It’s a school’s image. Things that kids and families can relate a university to. Many times, athletics can be a gateway to a university, and having a mascot that looks cool and everyone enjoys is great for the university.”