Game on for new Grizz

Photo Courtesy of Oakland University Athletics

Suiting up, stepping onto the court and performing the role of the “ultimate cheerleader.”

Each year, dozens of students compete for a chance to do just this as part of playing the role of Grizz, the Oakland University mascot, at athletic games and other spirit events on campus throughout the school year. Only a select few are chosen to represent the school.

Becoming a mascot

To earn the role, students must first go through an interview process with questions that include why they wish to perform as the Grizz as well as what they think they’ll bring to the role.

Students at any level of undergraduate or graduate studies can try out for the role.

One Grizz hopeful, sophomore Greg Webb, said auditions involved several tasks in the costume.

“We had to walk around to see how well we could maneuver in the suit,” Webb said. “We had to do push-ups and  dance around or do reactions to the crowd. It was basically behaving as the mascot would in front of a crowd, but with no crowd.”

After the initial tryout, the top prospects for the job received callbacks. From there, the athletic department made their selections.

Webb said he originally decided to try out to be the Grizz because he was already someone with strong school spirit.

“I need a job and I’m a big fan,” Webb said. “What better way to be a fan? The Grizz is the ultimate fan.”

Once hired as the Grizz, students are given shoes, a shirt and shorts, as well as $30 for each O’Rena basketball game performance.

Mascots must maintain a 2.25 grade point average.

Life as the Grizz

Although tryouts are over and a new Grizz was named, the NCAA has a general policy that those who perform as college mascots are not named for reasons of personal security. Additionally, Kate Boylan, coordinator of athletics marketing and promotions, said revealing the Grizz’s identity could take away from the Grizz’s individual personality.

On conditions of anonymity, two of the students chosen for the Grizz role were willing to speak about their experiences.

Since tryouts this year were not held until Sept. 8, Boylan said the Grizz missed the beginning of some fall sports, but will perform at the remaining home sporting events this year.

The Grizz appears at all home basketball games, as well as various other home sporting events and campus activities. In general, he is not allowed outdoors due to the expense of the costume and its maintenance fees.

“The Grizz’s main purpose is really community engagement,” Boylan said. “He unites the student body, Rochester, Auburn Hills and others that come to campus. He is the face of our programs and he shows everyone a good time. He makes sure everyone has fun.”

One student chosen to wear the Grizz uniform said Grizz isn’t a performance at all.

“You don’t perform as the Grizz,” he said. “You ARE the Grizz. You gain his impeccable strength, his courageous heart and his adoration for Oakland.”

Another student said the Grizz is vital to OU’s athletic events.

“Grizz’s personality is so fun and he just has an aura about him that gets the crowd pumped,” he said.”

Ups and downs of the job

The students who perform as Grizz say the job is mainly rewarding, although it does have certain downsides.

The major problem the mascots see with the job is the sheer size of the costume.

“The head for the costume is immensely heavy,” said one Grizz. “It’s eight pounds, which doesn’t seem like a ton until you realize the only thing holding it up is your neck.”

Additionally, the suit’s lack of room inside makes for some uncomfortable situations.

“When I perform during doubleheaders, I will easily drink four bottles of Powerade to keep myself hydrated and energized,” said a Grizz. “Even with all of that, I can lose four pounds during that time. The amount of energy loss is awful.”

Both students, however, agree that the positives of playing Grizz far outweigh the negatives.

“When you step into the suit, you become someone completely different,” said a Grizz. “You’re a different personality than you usually are and you can really have fun with it. You get into the costume and you are the Grizz.”

Another Grizz thinks the best part of the mascot experience is all of the attention from the crowd.

“I have to say the best part is having hundreds of people cheering you on when you do silly things,” he said. “You become an instant celebrity just by putting the head on.”

This Grizz said he thinks playing the role is a good opportunity for those who love attention.

“I’d recommend being the Grizz to anyone who loves attention, loves to dance around and just be goofy,” he said.

Boylan said the Grizz is important to the overall sporting event atmosphere at OU.

“He creates an enjoyable environment,” Boylan said. “He brings that special element of fun to each sporting event and brings a smile to everyone’s face.”