Ranking the Pac-12's Mascots
Welcome to the final installment in my second attempt to accurately rank the mascots in each of the Power Five conferences. It's a taxing, and at times traumatizing, experience based on some of the mascots I am forced to write about and the reactions I receive. I learned more about mascots than I ever wanted to know, as well as a few new things in regard to what makes certain fan bases tick.
I'll just be up front: The Pac-12 is a bit of a letdown as far as mascots go. Given the prestige of some of the institutions in the conference, you'd think there would be more in the way of quality and originality. Unfortunately, the most original mascot is lacking in quality. The rest of the conference is largely a collection of cookie-cutter cartoon characters with a couple of diamonds in the rough.
Let's see where your favorite team ended up.
Related: Ranking the SEC's Mascots
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
12. Cal's Oski
Oski is probably the single saddest and goofiest excuse for a mascot you'll find in the Power Five. He's a fat, friendly bear in a college sweater who looks more like he's about to give a confidence-boosting pep talk to the chess club as opposed to firing up the crowd for a football game. He looks like he's offended by other mascots, which — if you pay attention to current events — makes sense for a mascot residing in Berkeley.
11. Stanford Tree
I'm just done with this thing. A lot of people probably love how quirky and original this 3rd grade art project is. I don't. I think it's awful and a lazy attempt at trying to be cute. That said, the tree blends in well with Stanford's annoying marching band of trolls. I guess I'm not smart enough to "get" any of it. After all, it's Stanford, and their student body knows all.
10. Utah's Swoop
And now I'm confused. A Ute is a member of a Native American tribe called "The Ute." So... as a representation of The Ute, we get Swoop, a shoddy-looking, red-tailed hawk. I guess the feathers hanging off the Utah logo once belonged to Swoop, and we are just supposed to be OK with that. This is just another reminder of the nationwide movement to eradicate any and all mascots that pay homage to Native American history and culture.
9. Colorado's Ralphie the Buffalo
The real Ralphie would probably top this list, but since I'm only ranking the stuffed version of each school's mascot, Colorado lands at No. 9. Stuffed Ralphie looks worried, as if the football team he roots on just had a fairly amazing season and is now about to go back to being irrelevant in the conference.
8. Oregon State's Benny Beaver
Is Benny cross-eyed? He looks a bit over-excited if nothing else. I'm not sure why, considering the track record of Oregon State's athletic department over the years (sans baseball). He has a slightly cheap appearance, and I question why the powers that be don't go with something that more closely resembles the Oregon State logo — orange and a bit more modern. Benny is old, tired, sad and raggedy.
7. USC's Tommy Trojan
Tommy is yet ANOTHER case of a school trying to get cute with a cartoon mascot. As far as design and cleanliness — fine, it gets the job done. But pull up a pic of Michigan State's Sparty — a similar mascot — and you'll see that Tommy is just a cheap knockoff.
6. UCLA's Joe Bruin
Poor Joe falls victim to what most bear mascots do: an element of plainness. I fail to understand why every school with a bear as its mascot refuses to make the bear look mean. Bears are mean. They are not friendly. They don't want to "hang out" with you. They want to rummage through your camping supplies while you sleep and then murder you when you wake up. I watched The Revenant. This thing isn't about to maul Leo. On the plus side, he appears clean and well kept, and they dress him for the occasion.
5. Washington's Harry the Husky
Harry is a fine husky. He's clean and very detailed. He has an "all business" look to him — even a little bit of an "I'm better than you" thing going on. I can appreciate that. In a way, he's the Husky version of head football coach Chris Petersen.
4. Washington State's Butch T. Cougar
If I were ranking mascot names, Butch would definitely be up there. As it stands, the Washington State mascot still breaks into the top five of his Pac-12 brethren. He has much more detail than Penn State's similar mascot, and he's not afraid to show some teeth. When it comes to cougars or mountain lions, the more detail, the better. Washington State got it right, and I have rewarded them for their efforts in this prestigious list.
3. Arizona State's Sparky the Sun Devil
Sparky got a makeover not too long ago and I'd say it went well. For starters, he's a devil, so he needs to look like one. Check. He also needs a devilish grin, which he has. Add in some vibrant school colors and a clean, modern look and we've got ourselves a quality mascot. Good job, ASU. Keep this thing the way it is as long as you can.
2. Arizona's Wilbur Wildcat
Wilbur is one of the more underrated mascots in the nation. Now, I'm a bit partial, because I love a good hat, and Wilbur sports some fine headgear. I also just enjoy his overall look. He always appears a little disheveled. Then again, if you lived and partied in Tucson year-round, you probably would look a little off as well. Despite probably walking around with a permanent hangover, he brings the energy to every event like a champ. Overall, Wilbur is a solid wildcat in both image and behavior.
1. The Oregon Duck
I tried to find any and every reason I could to not put the duck at No. 1, as he's almost too much of an obvious choice for the top spot. I couldn't do it. He's too iconic. He's too much of a symbol of a program and a brand. He's everything you'd ever want in a duck mascot, and part of me thinks he's one big troll attempt. If they every decided to give him some muscles and make him look a little meaner, he might top a list of mascots nationally. For now, the Oregon Duck reigns supreme at the finest mascot in the Pac-12 Conference.