For years, Baxter has watched from the sidelines as athletes have competed for Binghamton University. But this March, he has the chance to represent the school on his own.
For the second year, the SUNY system has organized a mascot competition known as Mascot Madness, where mascots from 44 public New York colleges compete to crown the most popular mascot.
The competition is a bracket system, similar to the NCAA’s March Madness, where pairs of mascots compete to garner the most online votes over the span of a few days. Whichever mascot accrues the most votes during the period moves on, but the length of the period decreases after each round.
Last year, Baxter, who is seeded fifth in the current edition of the tournament, lost in the semifinals to Stony Brook’s Wolfie the Seawolf. However, Associate Athletic Director David Simek said that Baxter will see better results in his second attempt at the championship.
“Last year was actually pretty low-key,” Simek said. “[The tournament] was mainly advertised by word-of-mouth. But this year a lot of schools are really pushing social media.”
In the first round of this year’s competition, Baxter overwhelmed SUNY College at Old Westbury’s mascot Owwin, 5,761 votes to 2,369.
But as of Thursday night, BU was nearly a thousand votes behind 44th-seeded SUNY Adirondack, which had previously earned an upset win over 12th-seeded University at Albany, according to SUNY’s website. Baxter has until Sunday night to catch up in the polls.
“We’re not nervous; we have a plan,” Simek said. “We have someone dealing with Facebook, Twitter [and] BU Zoo quarter sheets. We’re also billboarding on Friday, and Baxter will be wearing a sign saying, ‘vote for Baxter.’”
Schools were able to garner thousands of votes in only a few days because each voter is allowed to vote every day by smartphone and by computer.
Simek also recounted the various mascots that had existed before Baxter, and said that in 2001 Baxter brought stability to a previously uncertain position.
“There was no official mascot, but we used to be the Colonials, and the most recognized mascot was Colonial Woody,” Simek said. “He was someone that dressed up, had a coonskin hat and looked like a soldier. There was also a chicken costume. It hasn’t been used in a long time, but if you ask students from the ’60s and ’70s, they probably remember a full-body chicken mascot.”
Nathan Holahan, finance chair of the BU Zoo and a sophomore double-majoring in economics and management, agreed with Baxter’s boosters and said he deserved to be recognized.
“Baxter epitomizes school spirit. His ceaseless energy and hilarious antics always pump people up,” Holahan said. “One example would be the dance-off between Baxter and the BU Zoo’s Green Man at the Albany basketball game. Those demonstrations showed the love and unity of the student body.”