More than a mascot, Uga is college football royalty
Go YouTube Uga, Georgia’s plump little bulldog mascot who has sat stoically “Between the Hedges” for decades during an amazingly long lineage launched in 1956.
One of the first videos that pops up is an endearing, 7-minute look into what this bulldog means to the Georgia football experience on gamedays in Athens. And the piece wasn’t done by some university promotions department looking to make Uga appear grander than he really is.
It was done by Martha Teichner on “CBS News Sunday Morning,” a national newsmagazine TV show that began airing in January of 1979.
In other words, somebody or something must be a lot more than ordinary to get on the show.
Uga qualifies. Uga is something of an institution and not just a heavy-breathing dog on a leash on a hot Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
— Between The Hedges (@betweenhedges) January 30, 2016
Scroll down below the CBS video in the comments section and a fan, admittedly biased with a Georgia logo beside his name, writes simply: “Best mascot in college football.”
Of course, that one is up for endless debate from fans around the country, never mind the rabid ones across the SEC.
What about LSU’s famous Mike the Tiger? Or Smokey, Tennessee’s beloved hound whose lineage started three years before Uga’s? Albert and Alberta form a fine, enthusiastic pair along the sidelines at The Swamp. And, of course, there’s “Big Al,” the elephant-costumed figure at Alabama who has had it too good lately with the Crimson Tide running off four national titles in seven years.
All speak to their passionate fan bases and are part of their school’s Saturday experience each fall.
But there’s just something about Uga, from Uga I who debuted in 1956 and went 10 years to the current Uga X, grandson of Uga IX, who was formally introduced last Nov. 21 at Georgia’s game against Georgia Southern.
The Bulldogs pulled out a 23-17 overtime victory that day in Athens, and so the newest live bulldog sitting on the sidelines didn’t suffer the embarrassment of a losing debut to a Sun Belt team.
Uga a local, national celebrity
College Football Fan Index did a feature on the 10 best mascots of 2014. Guess which one was perched atop the poll, with a fictional wry grin hidden by that constant, innocent stare? Yep, it was Uga IX, Uga X’s grandfather.
When explaining the history and virtues of the Uga lineage, Alan Siegel wrote: “Uga, the English bulldog that has been a fixture at Sanford Stadium for the last seven decades, is less a mascot than a furry icon. He’s appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he’s been the subject of books, and he’s even starred in a full-length documentary.”
Siegel later points out: “He’s a celebrity — both nationally and locally.”
It's Uga X! pic.twitter.com/KKZsEKw679
— Kristen Woods (@kristenlwoods) January 17, 2016
And this is part of what makes Uga arguably the best mascot in college football. The pooch is bigger than life in Athens, but he’s also well-known everywhere, and that’s with being a “calm mascot.”
Uga mainly just sits there, at his sideline spot Between the Hedges, and looks on, a calming presence amid the madness and desperation of an SEC Saturday. Some Georgia fans might privately wish their recent quarterbacks had as much poise as Uga has displayed since, well, Uga 1, nicknamed “Hood’s Ole Dan,” began this humble march toward mascot greatness in 1956.
A picture with Siegel’s feature could capture best the plodding excellence Uga has become famous for over the years. It talks about how Uga IX “prowls the sidelines” in his jersey made from the very same material the players wear — what other mascot, live or costumed, can claim that? — and then, when the humidity at steamy Sanford Stadium gets to be too much, Uga “occasionally rests in his very own air-conditioned dog house.”
— SECstagram (@SECstagram) November 22, 2015
You have to be pretty important, pretty famous and pretty valuable to warrant a dog house lined with AC. But that’s Uga. He’s an ordinary-looking bulldog who gets the royal treatment.
Speaking of royalty, how about having worldwide appeal, in the United Kingdom? Uga has that, too. In November 2014, Uga IX was featured in The Daily Mail, a British tabloid far, far away from the day-to-day rumblings and ramblings from Georgia fans about the latest Bulldogs letdown in a big game.
The headline to Lydia Warren’s inside look at Uga’s charmed existence tells you everything without even looking at the words or pictures below it. It reads: “Meet Georgia’s mascot Uga, the dog who has his own SUV, license plates and a personalized Nike wardrobe.”
OK, readers in England might have taken a particular interest in Uga because of his English bulldog lineage. America has plenty of sports teams with the Bulldogs nickname attached to it though, including one over in the SEC West in Mississippi State. But there’s only one bulldog sports institution in America, and there’s only one incomparable lineage.
Georgia’s mascot giant also has his own bedroom at his owner’s home in Savannah, a shrine of sorts that is decorated with photos of Uga’s mascot ancestors. His selection of personalized Georgia jerseys are made by Nike, for heaven’s sake.
That Georgia-red SUV is air conditioned, too, naturally, so that Uga can make the four-hour trip to Athens in style and comfort. The Daily Mail, a newspaper used to talking about the royal family, describes the entrance to Sanford Stadium of America’s most royal English bulldog:
“After arriving in Athens, he meets his fans before heading to the Uga suite, where he has a bath using baby shampoo before every game. He then rides onto the field in a golf cart before settling down in his air-conditioned dog house next to a bag of ice — where his view of the game is only interrupted by a cheerleader popping by to pet him.”
— Niral Patel ॐ⚾ (@npatel114) December 30, 2015
Not a bad gameday routine, huh? And if the Bulldogs in shoulder pads win, the players and fans line up to thank the cute little bulldog who’s been resting and staring and taking it all in on the sidelines. If Georgia loses? According to CBS, Uga never shares in any of the blame.
But most of the time, despite falling short in many a big game in recent years, Georgia wins. And so Uga has, too. The lowest winning percentage of any of the 10 bulldogs was .523 by the original Uga.
Each successive Uga has built up a gaudy record and an even better lifestyle, all adding up to a cuddly college football treasure that is celebrated on those Sanford Stadium Saturdays, when Uga is almost always feeling a lot cooler and comfortable than those loyal fans battling the heat in the stands.