As state and university budgets continue to shrink due to the worldwide recession, many schools around the country have begun looking for ways to generate revenue from within. And one of the most lucrative sources of cash is being found within the athletic department.
"We slaughtered Bevo and sold his meat for $2,119," said Texas head football coach Mack Brown. "That's cash-in-hand for our athletic department. That's enough to keep our women's diving team going for three years, with some money left over to fund field hockey, too."
In addition to Bevo's meat, Texas sold his hide to a tannery for $475 and auctioned off his head to a football booster for an undisclosed sum.
"When the decision was made that Bevo was going to be slaughtered, I knew I had to get his head," said Tommie Davis, an oilman who graduated from Texas in 1967. His final bid bested one put together by a group of Oklahoma fans. "I've got it mounted atop my the fireplace in my great room now. I couldn't be prouder."
Other schools have followed Texas' lead, such as Baylor killing their live bear mascot, Judge, and LSU doing the same to Mike The Tiger. LSU raised additional funds by selling $100 tickets for a Mike The Tiger hunt.
"I understand how this can be a little emotional for some fans. But if and when the economy turns around, we'll just buy another Tiger," said LSU head football coach Les Miles. "They've got, literally, dozens of them in Africa. It's not that big of a deal. It's too bad our current one had to die. But I know I'll never forget the rush that I got when I shot him behind the ears. There's a lot of blood in a tiger!"
Still more schools plan to follow suit with their mascots, although a few are feeling resistance.
"We would have sold off parts of Uga months ago," says Damon Evans, Georgia's director of athletics. "But we don't have the same luxury many of these schools do. Kill a steer, kill a bear, kill a tiger fine. But try to kill a dog and sell it's meat and hide and people freak out. Well, that's fine, but then we're going to lose our women's cross country team. Is that what they want?"
Then there are schools like Penn State who are facing resistance of another kind.
"I don't want to die," says Steve Smenko, a junior sociology major who plays the Nittany Lion. "But the board of trustees is voting tonight and then I'll find out my fate. I wish I would have listened to my parents and never become the mascot."