It was quite the conundrum. Mr. Commodore, the “face” of Vanderbilt athletics, had gone missing. Somewhere between the end of football season and the beginning of SEC basketball play, he vanished. AWOL? Unthinkable. Why, the Commodore had been a fixture in Vanderbilt athletics since 1898 when newspaperman and alumnus William E. Beard first labeled the athletes “the Commodores.”
A series of short videos leaked by the Vanderbilt sports marketing group hinted at his whereabouts. He was undergoing a mascot makeover. There was footage of him–always shot from behind–working out under the tutelage of a strength and conditioning coach, and consulting with a Vanderbilt plastic surgeon. And there was the repeated cryptic message: “See the New C 12.1.07.”
Sure enough, on Dec. 1, 2007, in a men’s basketball game against Georgia Tech, Mr. C (as he is fondly known) made his return. The crowd erupted with a roar as Mr. C burst onto the court, tall, buff and impeccably groomed. He wore a traditional naval uniform and waved a polished sword that glistened in the lights of Memorial Gymnasium.
Yes, that Mr. Commodore is quite a guy. Actually, he’s three guys. Mr. C is inhabited on a rotating basis by freshmen Mike Fagan and Sam Newman and a third student who prefers to keep his identity a secret. They were named to the Mr. C squad after going through tryouts.
“I did not come to Vanderbilt knowing that I wanted to be the Commodore,” Newman says. “In fact, I had no idea what the mascot was when I picked Vanderbilt. I had zero past experience as a mascot or anything like it. … Apparently, the shenanigans I pulled during tryouts were slightly less unfunny than the rest of the competition’s. A day or two later, I was the mascot at the Alabama game, with no instruction about what to do other than the fact that I couldn’t do anything obscene or touch the opposing players.”
“When I came to Vanderbilt and saw Mr. C and how he got the crowd going, I knew I wanted to do that,” says Fagan. “I love the tradition that comes with wearing that suit.”
The Mr. C tradition includes two national titles for mascots: the National Cheerleaders Association championship in 2003 and the Cheerleaders of America championship in 2005.
Today’s Mr. Cs attended and worked all home football games, and each got to attend an away game. “My game was South Carolina, which was an incredible experience,” Newman says of Vanderbilt’s 17-6 road win. “The enjoyment I got from running around all over the USC end zone after each of our touchdowns was absolutely amazing. Flying on a charter plane, eating insane amounts of free and delicious food, and staying in a gorgeous hotel weren’t too bad, either.”
Two of the Cs usually work the basketball games, alternating between Mr. C and his inflatable sidekick, Big C. They all agree that the new costume looks good, but it’s also hot in there. “I wear a fleece muscle suit under the traditional outfit,” Newman says. “It is meant to be the kind of suit that a Disney character would wear, to take pictures with little kids.”
After honing their skills through regular workouts and practices, the three Cs went into action. “Being Mr. C doesn’t entail that many duties other than being at the games and getting the fans pumped,” Fagan says. “The latter can be hard, especially if we are losing, but that’s what being Mr. C is all about. You have to be pumped all the time, no matter what.
“Interacting with fans is my favorite part. I love the older fans with their usual greeting of ‘Mr. Commodore!’ They remember and respect Mr. C. I also love the little fans with their greetings of ‘Who’s that?’ or just a blank stare–but once you put out your hand for a high five, they are more than willing to oblige.”
© 2014 Vanderbilt University
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