The nickname “Tigers” was used for nearly half a century before a live tiger was brought to the LSU campus as an official mascot. For more than a decade, a very realistic papier-mache Tiger was used as the prized mascot of the Ole War Skule.
In 1934, Athletic Department trainer Chellis “Mike” Chambers, Athletic Director T. P. Heard, Swimming Pool Manager and Intramural Swimming Coach William G. “Hickey” Higginbotham, and LSU law student Ed Laborde decided to bring a real tiger to LSU, then known as the “Ole War Skule.”
They raised $750, collecting 25 cents from each student, and purchased a two-hundred pound, one-year-old tiger from the Little Rock Zoo. The cub was born on October 10, 1935 and was originally named Sheik. His name was changed in honor of Chambers, the man most responsible for bringing him to LSU.
On October 21, 1936, Mike I arrived on campus. Students staged a protest that the day be classless in honor of “Mike’s” arrival. The campus found freshman picketing all entrances, while the band thundered beneath dormitory windows. Excitement reached an all-time high when President Smith declared the afternoon a holiday.
Mike I served as LSU mascot from 1936-1956. Mike I died on June 29, 1956, of complications associated with kidney disease.
Following Mike’s death, a fund was established to perpetuate his memory by mounting his pelt in a lifelike manner and displaying him at the university’s Louisiana Museum of Natural History, where it remains to this day.
Mike’s cage was demolished at the end of the 2004 season to make room for a new 2.5-million-dollar habit.
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