Our beloved mascot has died and the Georgia faithful must now remember one of the most heralded, paraded and loved mascots in the entire nation through stories, news articles and pictures.
One month shy of his 10th birthday, Uga VI died of congestive heart failure June 27 in Savannah. In a private ceremony Monday, Uga VI was laid to rest in a marble vault in the southwest corner of the stadium alongside his five predecessors. With a secure lineage intact, UGA fans have little to worry about, but as I look back over Uga VI’s tenure as the loudest barker on campus, I’m astounded at the accomplishments of our athletic department between 1999 and 2008.
With Uga VI at the helm, the football team was 87-27 with two SEC Championships (2002 and 2005), a come-from-way-behind victory against Purdue in the Outback Bowl in 1999, the arrival of Head Coach Mark Richt in 2000, the “hobnail boot ... we just stomped their face” play against Tennessee, David Green - most wins by a quarterback in NCAA history, David Pollack - 2002 SEC Player of the Year, 2004 Lombardi, Hendricks, Bednarik and Lott trophy winner, arrival of Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno and who can forget the blackout?
Uga VI was also present as the Gymdogs won four straight national championships, the swimming and diving team, along with the tennis, equestrian, golf and baseball teams embarrassed their competition by bringing home their own individual and team national championships and league titles.
Most UGA fans have a picture of Uga on their wall or tell a story about how they met him and had their picture taken with the adored mascot. My personal story is slightly different. As an undergraduate at UGA, I worked at the Classic Center as an event planner. Before the yearly picture day extravaganza that draws thousands of fans into downtown Athens for a chance to meet their favorite players, coaches and of course, mascot, I had an unforgettable encounter with Uga.
In preparing for the event, I was called by my then boss to make sure the staff bathrooms were vacant. After giving her a puzzling look, I ran to the break room and reported back that the restrooms were all clear. I was then asked to stand watch for Uga who needed to change into his gameday jersey for the festivities.
Of course I was excited to have what I thought was a chance to meet Uga one-on-one, but as soon as the freight elevator doors opened it became obvious to me that my chance to meet Uga was going to have to wait.
Three handlers and two armed guards walked Uga through the back hallways of the Classic Center to the break room, directly past me and into the ladies bathroom. Yes, I said armed guards and yes, I said the ladies bathroom. After ten minutes of wrestling with Uga, one of his handlers exited the bathroom and insisted that I go to the kitchen and retrieve a treat that would help entice Uga into putting on his uniform. I quickly grabbed a box of crackers from the kitchen and rushed back to the break room. After another 10 minutes, Uga exited the bathroom and seemed ready to slobber on and bark at every fan that paid to see him. I never got to have my picture taken with Uga that day, but how many people can say that they helped, albeit in an odd sort of way, dress UGA’s famous mascot?
Uga will be sorely missed by UGA fans, but I feel secure in saying that his legacy will live on as long as the University of Georgia continues to exemplify the first-rate state flagship university it is.
Hasco Craver is executive director of the Commerce Downtown Development Authority and is Main Street manager. He lives in Commerce.