Somewhere, deep within the catacombs of USF, there is a room. It is a room guarded by a thick, wooden door, with a rusted brass knob. It is a room that is fairly empty, thankfully, because once you go in, you never come out.
It is the Room of Dead Traditions.
Seldom during the past 47 years has that heavy wooden door swung open. Seldom, that is, until last semester. That’s when they started packing it full.
The Room of Dead Traditions is packed with curvy S’s from our old university logo. It’s also home to the old Sun Dome floor, old football helmets and basketball shorts, and any other USF paraphernalia with the old insignia.
But if, perchance, you someday find your way to this dungeon of doom, this prison of peril, this penitentiary of progress, and you heroically break down that old, dusty door, you may be startled at what — or whom, rather — you find lurking within.
Once inside, you will find a dejected, rejected Rocky the Bull.
You’ll probably find him turned to the wall, half-heartedly dancing, egging on a crowd that isn’t there. Yes, inside you will find a lost soul encased in a faux-fur suit. A suit that should have endured as the only lasting relic of USF’s brief football history.
But no. Old Rocky is the latest byproduct of the hasty cosmetic fix USF pulled last semester so it could pretty itself up for its first season in Conference USA.
It unfolded like this:
They changed the university’s official logo — curvy S, be gone with you.
Then it was the athletics logo — Yellow-faced, red-eyed goat/bull, you’re history.
Then it was Rocky — the loveable makeshift bull (a terrier with affixed horns, really) gets the boot.
Wait just a minute.
With the reincarnation of Rocky the Bull, USF’s ever-changing countenance is beginning to resemble a rhinoplasty gone awry.
The new Rocky is mean. He has muscles. His eyes are sort of crossed. He probably scares children.
It’s not supposed to be that way. Mascots are meant to entertain. They are supposed to look goofy. They’re not supposed to look like they have mad cow disease.
Just look at Auburn’s Aubie the Tiger, who is hardly carnivorous, or the friendly felines, Wilbur and Wilma the Wildcats at the University of Arizona. Closer to home Albert the Alligator at UF, with his perpetually opening and closing jaw, hardly instills fear in opponents.
What is also irksome about the change is the way the new Rocky was introduced to the public. He was introduced in such a manner that it was nearly impossible for the 28,000 fans in the stands to truly make a reasonable assessment of his worth as a mascot.
He was traipsed out onto the field with other Tampa-area mascots, and the same inexplicable force that helps create “The Wave,” helped spawn a massive round of applause in Raymond James Stadium which implied: “Having seen you from no less than 60 yards away and for no more than five seconds, we, the like-minded (and doubtless nearsighted) students, alumni and fans of USF, support you, New Rocky.”
At that exact moment in time, in the Room of Dead Traditions, Old Rocky sat, watching ESPN2. A tear descended upon the old bull’s cheek, and in the reflection of that tear were the trappings of the other lost identities that fill that room.
He had sprit. He had rhythm. He had tradition. Now he’s just a ghost in a room from which he’ll never escape.