Fri Feb 04 04:03pm EST
His predecessor, "Loran's Best," died of a heart attack only a little over a year ago, in November 2009, failing to complete his second season as Uga VII. "Big Bad Bruce" – the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the original Uga – was barely a year old when he was formally introduced as Uga VIII last October, and presided over all of six games before health problems kept him from making the trip to the Liberty Bowl in December.
That marks the shortest tenure of any mascot in the Uga line, by far – prior to Uga VII, each of the first six dogs to carry the title lasted at least six years in the role. All but one of those, in fact, served for a decade. The first five Ugas served for a combined 44 years; when Uga IX assumes the collar, he'll mark the fourth new dog to wear it since 2008.
In short, even for a breed with notorious cardiac and respiratory problems and zero tolerance for heat, the Ugas are beginning to resemble the mascot version of the royal hemophiliacs of Europe: Blue-blooded, inbred and increasingly feeble beyond function. (Unless, of course, the imminently capable but formally "unworthy" standby, Russ, is executing a sinister plot to consolidate power behind the scenes, which seems ... unlikely.) It's a long, distinguished line, but after almost 70 years – the first official Uga was grandson of a dog that accompanied the team to the 1943 Rose Bowl, where the Bulldogs secured the school's first national championship – maybe it's time to inject a little fresh blood?
Coincidentally, your new star running back just happens to have the perfect candidate. Common though its stock may be, can you honestly look at that face and deem it unworthy of mascothood? Think of it as, you know, package deal.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.