Everyone loves a good mascot when it comes to sports teams. They help keep the interest level high during lulls in a game, they pump the crowd up for important moments, and they're responsible for firing those cool t-shirt cannons. Only a select few are lucky enough to be considered the cream of the crop. I'm talking about your icons that are known across the land like Mr. Met, the Philly Phanatic, the Oregon Duck, and the San Diego Chicken. We might not have any professional teams here in Montana but we're pretty blessed to have an awesome mascot like Monte to represent the University of Montana. But do you know the story of the years that preceded Monte?

It's tough to think of a Griz Game and not picture Monte arriving in style, doing flips, and high-fiving the kids. But I stumbled onto an article from the Montana Kaimin yesterday that took a fun trip down memory lane when it comes to UM's mascots of the past. Did you know they used to use live bears back in the day? Or how about a run where they actually used Ronald McDonald as well as other corporate sponsors?

Between the Kaimin article and Monte's Wikipedia page, there's quite an interesting history when you look back through the tales of mascots from the past. You can check out the stories for yourself but here's a quick look at what the University of Montana used until Monte made his debut.

  • The athletic teams used to be known as the Bears and beginning in 1897 they used live bear cubs for promotion. They would often be held in chains and serve one season before growing beyond a manageable size.
  • Four different bears named Fezzy were used between 1937 to 1946 to honor former coach Doug Fessden and one named Jerry to honor former coach Jerry Williams.
  • Live bears serving the role of mascot ended in 1961 with a bear named Cocoa.

Press and student outbursts at the complications of live bear mascots led the university to try a more conventional approach, and in the 1970s, the Grizzlies were backed by a variety of traditional company-sponsored costumed mascots. These included the Hamm's Beer Bear, Domino's Pizza's Noid, and at one point, Ronald McDonald. The local business Grizzly Auto Centers sponsored Otto the Grizzly, who was the primary mascot for the athletics teams for most of the 1980s. -Monte's Wikipedia page-

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  • Monte was developed in 1991 when the athletics department worked with mascot experts to create a friendlier version of a bear mascot than had been used in previous years.
  • Monte made his debut during the start of the 1993 season.

Monte has gone on to have a storied career since his introduction. That includes being nominated for Mascot of the Year multiple times and winning the award twice. How far back does your memory go when it comes to UM mascots that predate Monte?

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