School mascots have been a long-standing tradition throughout college and high-school athletics. University of Wisconsin–Stout jumped on this ship quite late, introducing their mascot in 2011. In 2012, the mascot was officially named Blaze by student vote.
“I think we wanted to have some kind of identity. Everybody wants something to rally behind, not just on the athletic side, but also on the community side. Someone that can represent our athletic department and the university in the community when they go to runs and when people come to the games and are taking pictures. Everyone wants to watch a mascot, laugh at them acting goofy; kids want to get pictures with them. It’s just a good feeling to have a mascot that everyone can enjoy in different ways,” said UW–Stout’s External Communications and Promotions Coordinator Brett Schreiner.
Blaze’s purpose is really to raise everyone’s school spirit and get people excited for athletic events and other things going on around the university. But who is inside the suit? Anonymity is an important part of being a mascot, and the Stoutonia talked a little bit about being Blaze with a student who regularly dons the suit.
“They help give a face to school spirit. Everybody wants to have a picture with Blaze, which promotes school spirit. It is also good to always have someone cheering at games,” the student said.
Blaze can regularly be seen dancing, running around at games, walking around campus or just getting into some sort of mischief.
“I think as long as you have the right attitude and can get creative, it’s fun. Being creative is the most important part about being Blaze. The perk is the mystery of who is in the costume. A lot of people want to know who it is, but because Blaze can’t talk, nobody knows,” said the student.
Being Blaze isn’t fun and games all the time, though. Blaze has to raise school spirit with his motions, and it takes a very outgoing and tolerant student for people to rally behind them.
Schreiner explained: “It’s very difficult to interview someone and say ‘you are the perfect person.’ It’s more asking question like, ‘are you outgoing? Are you someone that’s shy? Can you handle being around kids?’ Kids are brutal sometimes. I’ve had people get hit in the head, [kids] pulling on the tail, etc. You have to be very tolerant of all that. You also can’t talk, so you have to speak with your hands and speak with your motions.”
Schreiner’s experience overseeing the mascot position has given him a good idea of what makes an entertaining Blaze, along with some of the joys of just watching Blaze work.
“Some of the best mascots I’ve had, I’d almost rather watch them because they’re always doing something: picking on someone, doing something goofy that makes you laugh at an athletic event. I tend to pay attention to that maybe because of my job, maybe because they’re funny, maybe a little bit of both,” Schreiner remarked.