American Football Database
Mike the Tiger
Mike VI
University Louisiana State University
Conference SEC
Description Bengal tiger (or mix)
Origin of name In honor of athletic trainer Chellis "Mike" Chambers
First seen October 21, 1936
Official website Mike the Tiger

Mike the Tiger is the official mascot of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and serves as the graphic image of LSU sports. Mike is the name of both the live and costumed mascots.

By tradition the tiger is a live Bengal tiger, although, the last two tigers were of mixed breeds. Mike V was a Bengali-Indochinese mix, while Mike VI is a Bengali-Siberian hybrid.[1]

LSU's men's and women's sports teams are called the Fighting Tigers and Lady Tigers, respectively, and the university's football team plays its home games in Tiger Stadium. LSU first adopted its "Tigers" nickname in the fall of 1896.[2] The moniker is a reference to the state's Confederate heritage; the Louisiana troops of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia became known as the Tigers during the Civil War in recognition of the bravery of two New Orleans brigades, the Tiger Rifles and the Washington Artillery (whose logo featured a snarling tiger's head).[3]

History of Mike the Tiger

Mike I (1936–1956)

Born on October 10, 1935, the first Mike was purchased from the Little Rock Zoo with money raised by collecting 25 cents from each LSU student for a total of $750. Originally named Sheik, the new mascot was renamed in honor of Mike Chambers, LSU's athletic trainer at the time, who was the person most responsible for bringing him to the school. Mike assumed his duties as the living symbol of LSU only three days after arriving on campus on October 21, 1936. In the 1950s, Mike was kidnapped by Tulane fans before a Tiger-Green Wave football game. He was found, abandoned, in New Orleans—he and his cage sprayed Tulane green. Mike I lived for 20 years before dying of kidney disease in 1956. He has been displayed in the LSU Natural Sciences Museum on the campus in Baton Rouge.

Mike II (1956–1958)

A few days after Mike I's death, a resolution endorsing the purchase of another tiger was introduced in the Louisiana legislature and a fund was set up by LSU students to underwrite the cost. Mike II had a short but somewhat mysterious life. He was born on February 28, 1956 at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans and was chosen because his paws were larger than those of the other cubs.[4] He was unveiled on September 29, 1956, during the opening game of the new football season. Legend has it that less than a month after his arrival at LSU, Mike II died of pneumonia, at only eight months of age, during a six-game losing streak and that a second Mike II was secretly brought in as a ringer. To explain Mike's absence, and after much rumor, the LSU student newspaper, The Daily Reveille, printed a statement that the young tiger needed time alone to adjust to his new home and position as mascot, with its attendant excitement. All rumors of Mike II's death and replacement were denied. The official story is that Mike II reigned for only one football season before his death on May 15, 1958 in Audubon Zoo of complications associated with multiple fractures to his left rear leg.[4]

Mike III (1958–1976)

Mike III was born on November 26, 1957 and arrived from the Seattle Zoo just in time for LSU's 1958 National Championship football season. During Mike III's 18-year reign, LSU also won three Southeastern Conference football championships (1958, 1961, 1970) and eight of 13 bowl games. Mike III died of pneumonia in 1976 after the only losing LSU football season of his lifetime. The mascot's death affected the students and faculty so greatly that the vet at the time, W. Sheldon Bivin, said he would never allow another tiger to die on campus.[5]

Mike IV (1976–1990)

Mike IV, originally called Jerry, was born at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida in 1974. He was donated by August A. Busch III and was two years old when he came to LSU in August 1976. One memorable incident involving Mike IV began in the early-morning hours of November 28, 1981 when pranksters cut the locks on Mike's cage. The tiger roamed freely for hours, attacked a small tree, and appeared to be enjoying himself before becoming trapped in the Track Stadium near his cage. Three tranquilizer shots later, the wandering mascot was returned to his home without further incident and awoke without ill effects.[4] Mike IV reigned for 14 years and retired in 1990 to the Baton Rouge Zoo where he lived until his death in 1995 at the age of 21, the oldest of the tigers serving as LSU's mascot.

Mike V (1990–2007)

File:Mike the Tiger 1.jpg

Mike V, December 2006

Mike V was considered to have the best personality of all the tigers that have served as LSU's symbol. Originally named Stevie, he was donated by Dr. Thomas and Caroline Atchison of the Animal House Zoological Park in Moulton, Alabama. Born on October 19, 1989, the 7-pound baby tiger was introduced to LSU fans at a basketball game in February 1990. In his 17-year reign, Mike V saw an LSU football team win another National Championship (in 2003) and received both a new trailer and a massive renovation of his enclosure.

In March 2007, Mike V officially began a three-stage retirement. His personal vet, David Baker, cited his age and health as reasons. Mike V retained his mascot status and lived in his on-campus habitat until his death.

Mike the Tiger died on May 18, 2007 at 2:23 AM, which coincided with the undergraduate commencement ceremonies. The cause of death was renal failure.[6]

Mike VI (2007–present)

File:Mike the Tiger in water.JPG

Mike VI in water

After Mike V's death PETA contacted the university and urged them not to replace him with a new tiger.

However, LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe rejected PETA's request by stating that LSU would acquire a new tiger. O'Keefe further defended LSU's decision by noting that four of the previous five 'Mikes' lived to be at least 17 years, nearly twice the normal 8-10 year lifespan of tigers in the wild. O'Keefe further explained that tigers were currently a critically endangered species in the wild, and any attempt to preserve them as a species would require some level of raising them in captivity, such as at LSU's veterinary school.[7]

LSU did not wish to buy a tiger but instead sought for one to be donated to the school. On July 27, 2007 WBRZ ABC News 2 announced that LSU had located a tiger at Great Cats of (Idaville) Indiana, an Indiana-based large cat and carnivore rescue facility.[8]

File:Mike the Tiger VI.JPG

Mike VI

"Roscoe" arrived in Baton Rouge on Saturday, August 25, 2007, after a plane ride from Indiana and was kept quarantined in the "night house" in the LSU habitat, away from the public. On August 31, 2007, LSU officials decided that the tiger was adjusting well and allowed him into the public habitat during morning outings. He was returned to the night house each evening. On his first outing on September 1, 2007, LSU staff invited members of the media and the public to view and take photographs of the tiger.[9][10]

On September 8, 2007, LSU staff acknowledged that "He’s Mike VI" in a press release.[11] A ceremony dedicating the tiger as officially "Mike VI" took place on September 14, 2007,[12] Mike VI was to make his Death Valley debut at the September 22 game against the University of South Carolina.,[13][14] but LSU Veterinarian David Baker felt that a day game would be rough for the new tiger, delaying his anticipated debut until the October 6, 2007 night game against the University of Florida.[6][15]

Mike VI is a 7-year old Siberian-Bengal mix male currently weighing over 450 pounds. The product of an "unintended breeding" at Great Cats, University staff believe his youth, size and temperament may give the athletic department a "more ferocious mascot much sooner than watching a cub grow up at LSU."[16] Estimates by LSU Veterinary staff are that Mike VI may top out at 600 lb (270 kg) or more, making him LSU's largest tiger mascot ever.[17]

In Mike VI's first year as the LSU tiger, the LSU football team won the BCS National Championship for the 2007 college football season.

File:Mike the Tiger, VI.jpg

Mike the Tiger, VI

Mike VI is frequently visited by Darrell Bezet, who is known as "Darrell, Tiger Whisperer."[18] Brought to local stardom through YouTube and word-of-mouth, Bezet is often at Mike VI's habitat talking and playing with him.[18] Observers say that Mike VI instantly recognizes Bezet's white Lincoln Towncar and his distinct walk, steadied by his black cane, as soon as he arrives at the habitat.[18] After watching Bezet for several seconds, Mike will ease into a pouncing stance, inching closer to him. Then without hesitation, he'll sprint and launch himself towards Bezet, pawing and jumping at the net that separates the two. At which point, a giggling and pawing back Bezet will respond:

“That’s my buddy! I love you, too! That’s my buddy!”[18]

Upon drawing crowds to watch Mike VI interact with Bezet, an onlooker has recalled:

“One time [Bezet] came in the afternoon, and that’s when Mike sleeps in the corner. There were people in the corner calling and as soon as [Bezet] said, ‘Hey buddy,’ boom! He’s right up."[18]

Mike the Tiger Habitat

In 2005, a new $3 million habitat was created for Mike. The Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) raised funds, entirely from private sources, to subsidize the construction project. The habitat (situated between Tiger Stadium and the Pete Maravich Assembly Center) features state-of-the-art technologies and includes among its amenities lush plantings, a waterfall, a flowing stream that empties into a wading pond, and rocky plateaus. The new habitat ranks among the largest and finest Tiger preserves in the country and expanded Mike's home from 2,000 to 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2). It also features research, conservation, and husbandry programs, as well as educational, interpretive, and recreational activities. Mike's new home can be viewed via the live Tigercam.[19]


After the death of Mike III in 1976 while he was still LSU's active mascot, a three-stage retirement plan was instituted for the tigers:[5]

  • Stage 1: He no longer participates in pre-game events such as the roar before the game.
  • Stage 2: He stops attending the games altogether.
  • Stage 3: He retires to another location.


  • On home football game days, Mike's cage on wheels is parked by the opponent's locker room at the southeast end of Tiger Stadium. Opposing players must pass by Mike's cage in order to reach their locker room.
  • With his cage topped by the LSU cheerleaders, Mike rides through Tiger Stadium before the start of home games.
  • According to folklore, LSU will score a touchdown for every one of Mike's roars on game day.
  • Many students seek to take a picture with Mike on graduation day wearing cap and gown.

Costumed Mike

LSU has a costumed mascot (also named Mike). Costumed Mike appears at most LSU sporting events (including away games, as Mike the Tiger does not travel) and also appears at several LSU-related functions. In August 2007, Costumed Mike was featured on a This Is SportsCenter Commercial with LSU alum Shaquille O'Neal.[20]

Further reading

  • David G. Baker and W. Sheldon Bivin, Mike the Tiger: The Roar of LSU, LSU Press (2003) ISBN 0-8071-2888-0

See also

LSU Tigers
Tiger Athletic Foundation


External links

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