Meet the mascot: The Grizz

The Grizz gets the crowd engaged during sports events on campus.
Nowshin Chowdhury
The Grizz gets the crowd engaged during sports events on campus.

As student-athletes wear their jerseys on game day, behind closed doors another student puts on an oversized costume to become the Grizz for the next few hours.

The Grizz, Oakland University’s current mascot, can be spotted at home games and other events greeting fans and taking pictures.

Right now there are six mascot performers who have been through tryouts and had the chance to become the spirit of the Golden Grizzlies. While everyone wonders who’s inside the costume, the identity of the Grizz must remain anonymous.

The Oakland Post set up an interview with one of the performers who gave an insight to the life of the Grizz.

How long have you been the Grizz?

Grizz: For three years.

How often are you the Grizz?

Grizz: Originally when I started off, I became the Grizz maybe four times a week. It was very, very busy.  As I’ve gotten more responsibilities, it’s really toned down and now I might even just do two events a year.

How did you get the job?

Grizz: I used to work as Athletics staff and I still do it, so those are the yellow shirt people at the basketball games. Someone else who did that was also the [Grizz] coordinator at the time…so I talked with her…and that’s how I got into it.

What’s it like being the Grizz?

Grizz: It’s physically demanding, that’s one of the top things, but right up there with physically demanding, it’s very fun. One of my favorite things as the Grizz is to see a little kid who’s deathly afraid of the Grizz and does not want anything to do with it. But then I’ll get down on their level and play with them a little and honestly as soon as there’s a high-five between the kid and me, they’re happy. It’s really cool to see them go from completely scared of Grizz to absolutely loving Grizz.

What other mascots have you had the opportunity to meet?

Grizz: Through my journey, the last three years, I got to meet [Michigan State University’s mascot] Sparty, Roary the lion for Detroit Lions, Paws from Detroit Tigers and some mascots from the west side of the state.

How hard is it keeping your identity a secret?

Grizz: It’s really hard, because you want to tell a lot of people. We did an event, Hooper’s birthday, and we were talking to Sparty there. He said they get to wear the Sparty shoes when they graduate. Sparty’s one of the most loved mascots in the nation and I think it’s a good role model for Grizz.

According to Mascot Coordinator Aaron Helander, the identities of the mascot performers may be revealed during spring 2017 commencement ceremonies. The seniors would be wearing Grizz paws on their hands as they walk across the stage.

Sometimes the suit gets hot and Helander says “you literally sweat OU pride” but the Grizz gets paired with a handler who schedules breaks during events.

“Usually we try to not go more than 25 minutes without a break,” Helander said.

The jobs also come with perks such as backstage or locker room access and free food.

“I’ve been in the players’ area of both the Joe Louis and the Palace as well as the green room for the Fox Theatre,” Grizz Handler Syed Murtaza said. “I can’t imagine any other circumstance where I would get to hangout in the same room that I’m assuming people like Elvis Presley or Kevin Hart were before they performed.”

“I love Grizz as our mascot,” Murtaza said. “I’m pretty sure a grizzly bear is way cooler than say, a certain Greek soldier. I couldn’t imagine being anything else besides an Oakland [Golden] Grizzly.”

For questions regarding the Grizz or to apply for positions, contact Aaron Helander at [email protected].