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Weird mascots in college sports: Cocky

Photo courtesy of han-shot-first via Flickr

Cocky is the official mascot of the University of South Carolina.

Over the last several months, we’ve taken a look at some of the weirdest mascots the college sports world has to offer. From an anthropomorphic keg to a banana slug, colleges have unique representatives that serve as the face of their teams. However, there is one mascot that tops the list: Cocky from the University of South Carolina. 

Cocky is a cartoon version of a fighting rooster, or a gamecock. The current Cocky made its appearance at the homecoming game in 1980. Robert Lane was in the suit for this debut, and Cocky was introduced as the son of then-mascot, Big Spur. 

Big Spur was a large barnyard rooster portrayed by Chuck Eaton from 1978-1980. However, this mascot was thought to be too large and did not allow enough mobility for the performer to interact with the crowd, so Cocky was introduced to take Big Spur’s place. At his first appearance, he was booed off the field because students and fans felt he was not “dignified enough.” 

Eventually, Cocky earned the acceptance of the student body, mainly due to his performances during the baseball season. Due to these outstanding showings, he was invited to be the official mascot for the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1981 and 1982.

Among that honor, Cocky was also selected as America’s first “National Mascot” in 1984 by the Universal Cheerleading Association, Ford Motor Company and American Airlines. 

From 1980 to 1982, Cocky was portrayed by John Routh, who later became the mascot for the University of Miami and then for the Florida Marlins. Perhaps the most famous Cocky was someone known only as JH.

JH, who remains anonymous to this day, served as the mascot from 1985 to 1992 and redesigned the Cocky costume completely. He did so to allow more mobility inside the suit while making the mascot appear friendlier. The crowd also loved that Cocky was fluent in American Sign Language, giving him another avenue to communicate with fans. 

JH’s tenure as Cocky ended in 1992 when the university decided to move the mascot from under the authority of Athletics to Student Affairs. After this move, the mascot would be portrayed by a series of students. JH’s days as a mascot did not come to a close, however, as he moved on to be a mascot for Shinn Enterprises in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Despite the odd choice of a rooster to represent the school, Cocky is now one of the most beloved and well recognized mascots in college sports. 

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