John Massaro wants a bull.
The owner of local Beef O’Brady franchises is the leader of a project to get USF a live mascot, and he’s already got one picked out – a five-month-old Brahman bull calf named Rocky.
As an owner of Beef O’Brady’s, Massaro has donated money, food and time to the Tampa Bay community. According to Massaro, getting USF a bull is philanthropic effort.
“I get excited about raising money for people. I just wanted to give back to the school,” Massaro said. “This is a gift that will keep on giving.”
Massaro approached Riverview rancher Robert Newsome about the idea last year.
For Newsome, it was a chance to give back to the school that took care of his mother.
“For five years, I took my mother out to the University of South Florida medical clinic,” Newsome said. “We made the rounds – she was diabetic – and I think I’ve seen every doctor out there. That’s one thing I thought of – that’s why I wanted to do it.”
According to Massaro, Manna Pro, a company that manufactures and distributes livestock feed, agreed to donate food for Rocky.
Massaro has also been talking to Hillsborough County schools about finding a local school to house the bull. Durant High School is one possible place interested in taking care of the animal, Massaro mentioned.
But just picking out the animal is half the battle for Massaro, a 1989 graduate of USF.
“I’d like to see it happen,” Massaro said. “But the school’s wanting to take a little bit slower approach than I do.”
According to Tom Veit, the associate director of athletics, getting USF a live mascot is a done deal, but there are issues the Athletic Department wants to address.
“It’s going to happen,” Veit said. “We just need to make sure we cover all the bases.”
Veit said the Athletic Department was talking to the University of Texas and Oklahoma University about how they handle their live mascots.
“What Texas and the other schools have done is they have an independent group, and that’s what Massaro’s going to try and spearhead,” Veit said. “It’s going to be kind of a club, a community organization that takes care of the animal.”
Having an independent group take care of the animal is what separates Massaro’s plan from past proposals for live mascots. Kosha Irby, assistant athletic director in charge of marketing and event management, said the idea of getting a live mascot was an old one, but had never been acted upon.
“The department didn’t necessarily go through with it a few years ago because a lot of people wanted to donate a bull – literally just wanted to donate the bull, and we don’t have the capacity nor the wherewithal to raise the bull.”
But care of the bull is only one issue the Athletic Department and Massaro are dealing with.
“Safety is the main concern, and the care of the animal,” Massaro said. “We don’t want to do something that’s going to either put the animal in harm’s way or put people in harm’s way.”
David Dunwoody, a senior petroleum engineering major from the University of Texas, took care of Longhorns mascot Bevo for the past two semesters as a member of the Silver Spurs – the foundation in charge of the animal during games.
“We’ve had our fair share of problems, (but) never any huge problems,” Dunwoody said.
At the Rose Bowl, University of Southern California students tried to throw paint on the bull, but the Silver Spurs hired Marine detail to protect it.
“Normally you really don’t have to worry about it,” said Dunwoody of the animal’s safety. “But if it’s a big game with your big rival, then you’re going to worry about it.”
Dunwoody described an incident at Baylor University, in Waco, Texas.
“All the (Baylor) students there were lined up ready to come in and they come in screaming and yelling – that commotion really scared him,” Dunwoody said. “He dragged us for about 60 feet into some photographers, which he almost ran over.”
Dunwoody said Bevo was relatively calmer than other cattle because it had grown up around people and was castrated.
“A bull will have a little more aggression than a steer,” said Dunwoody. “A bull in general will have more aggression because he’s still got his (testicles) – he’s got a little bit more testosterone.”
Massaro said he was aware of a Brahman bull’s temperament.
“Any bull’s that’s got its (testicles) will want to chase after cows,” said Massaro, who added that Rocky will not be castrated.
“First of all, it’s inhumane,” he said. “He’s going to be the epitome of vigor and stamina. He’s going to be all there.”
Although the Athletic Department placed no definite date on it, Massaro mentioned that the bull would be ready to make an appearance at the Bulls’ first home football game against McNeese State on Sept. 2.
But Veit said the bull would most likely be ready for the 2007 season.
“He’s still a baby, so he’s not ready,” Veit said. “We’ll probably have him out at a game or something so people can see him. But as far him roaming the sidelines, we’re going to do that, but it probably won’t happen until next year.”
Massaro also said the bull would be available for public appearances, which might steal the spotlight from USF’s current Rocky the Bull.
“I never even thought of that,” Massaro said. “Because he’s human, I hope he’s not going to be jealous. We’re not trying to steal his thunder by any means.”
Rocky, who was in Orlando for the Celebrity Mascot Games, commented on the new mascot’s possibility of taking his job.
“I don’t think a live bull would cut into my time; there’s only so much you can do with a live bull at an appearance,” Rocky said. “I think Rocky is much safer for an appearance because he can interact with the fans and they won’t get gored or anything like that.”
So is Rocky ready for a standoff?
“I doubt it. I’m not ready to go up against a real bull.”
Other notable live college mascots
Bevo XIV, University of TexasBevo made an appearance at President Bush’s 2001 inauguration.
Uga VI, University of Georgia Deceased Ugas are interred in a mausoleum near the main entrance of UGA’s Sanford Stadium.
Smokey the Tick Hound IX, University of Tennessee Smokey II was kidnapped in 1955 and then survived a confrontation with the Baylor Bear in 1957.
Mike the Tiger V, Louisiana State UniversityTradition states that LSU will score a touchdown for every time Mike roars before the game.
Tusk I, University of Arkansas Mascot for the Razorbacks, Tusk is not a razorback at all, but a 380-pound Russian Boar.
BATTLE OF THE BRAHMANS
Rocky IFurry mascotRocky’s image was first created as a cartoon to use in athletic department newsletters. It’s image was redesigned in 1984.
Rocky IILive Brahman bullRocky is five-months old and 300 pounds. It should grow to be around 2,500 pounds.