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Weird Mascots in College Sports

Photo Courtesy of arctic_whirlwind via Flickr

Sebastian the Ibis is the mascot for the University of Miami.

The Miami Hurricanes are a formidable opponent in the ACC, but their mascot has raised more than a few eyebrows over the years. Though they are called the Hurricanes, their mascot is a bird — an ibis to be exact.

The gangly white bird with a fierce expression works the sidelines of most Miami sporting events, but many people may not be familiar with the story of how Sebastian the Ibis is connected to the nickname of the Hurricanes.

The North American ibis is a marsh bird native to wetlands such as Miami. The bird is said to be a leader to the other wildlife as bad weather approaches, especially hurricanes. Using its instincts, it alerts other animals that danger is coming and is the last to seek shelter. After the storm is over, the ibis is the first to return to the area, giving the signal that it is safe to return.

Sebastian was not the first mascot at the University of Miami. Their first official mascot was a boxer dog named Hurricane I. Hurricane was chosen as the mascot in 1950 and wore an orange and green blanket with his name on it.

In 1957, Norman Whitten, the director of the Student Union created Sebastian as a homecoming competition entry. 

The following year, a student named John Stormont dressed up as an ibis in a costume made of various materials. 

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Stormont said, “The whole costume took about three weeks to complete and cost about $30.” Stormont used terry cloth to resemble the feathers of the bird and the head was made of Armorlite insulation. Originally, the ibis was named Icky but eventually the name was changed to Sebastian after San Sebastian Hall where Stormont resided while on campus.

Sebastian is not the only mascot at the University of Miami. While he handles most of the sporting events, another creature works Hurricane baseball games. The Miami Maniac, often referred to as just The Maniac, was created in 1982 by Miami baseball’s Head Coach Ron Fraser.

The Maniac’s roots actually begin at the University of South Carolina. Undergraduate student John Routh helped create Carolina’s mascot, Cocky. Routh was invited to the 1981 College World Series to perform as the Series’ official mascot due to his impressive performances as Cocky at South Carolina baseball games.

One of the coaches at that year’s series was Fraser, who decided to create a mascot specifically for his baseball team. The next year, Fraser and a private donor helped create the Maniac, who was partially inspired by the Philly Phanatic.

Fraser invited Routh down from the University of South Carolina to show the new mascot how to excite the crowd. Fraser eventually offered Routh a permanent position as Assistant Director of Marketing which allowed him to perform as both the Miami Maniac and Sebastian the Ibis.

Miami gets a high place of honor on the weird mascots list, having two of the most interesting and distinct mascots in college sports.

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