FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ...
(As told by Uga owner Sonny Seiler)
1. Uga is one of the nation’s most well-known live mascots. Although the University of Georgia is now known as the home of Uga, the pure white English bulldog, several mascots led the program before Sonny Seiler provided the current lineage beginning in 1956.
“In 1956 I was in law school and had just gotten married. I was working for the athletic department in the afternoons selling football tickets. My wife, who is from Columbus, Georgia, got a telephone call from a guy she used to date who wanted to give us a white English bulldog as a wedding present. We couldn’t feed ourselves hardly, but we couldn’t turn that down. We took the dog, which was a puppy, and when we got him he didn’t look anything like an English bulldog and I didn’t even know why the hell I wanted him because I was disappointed. But that was in April, and by the next September he had filled out and looked like the hood ornament on a Mack Truck. He really looked great.”
2. Uga’s jerseys are custom made each season from the same material used for the player’s jerseys, but it wasn’t that way in the beginning.
“Just on a hoot my wife made a jersey for him out of a child’s red T-shirt, put some elastic in the neck and the arms and fashioned a black ‘G’ for the chest and we look him over to the Sigma Chi fraternity house before the first home game, not intending to take him to the game. Well, after several iced teas everybody said, ‘Let’s take him to the game.’ We opened with FSU that year in Athens. We didn’t take him on the field, we took him up in the stands. He got a lot of attention; The Associated Press photographer took his picture and it got in the Atlanta Journal and it found its way back to Dan Magill, our legendary tennis coach who was also the athletic publicity director. He told coach Wallace Butts, our coach at that time. He said, ‘Sonny Seiler has a bulldog that might make us a good mascot.’ Georgia did not have a live mascot then because Mike had died the year before and they hadn’t gotten a replacement. Mike was a bulldog, and no relation to the Uga line. Coach Butts called me down to his office the next week and said, ‘Dan Magill says you have a bulldog that might make us a good mascot, and we don’t have one now, what do you say you let us use him?’ I said, ‘Well, Coach, if you think he can help the program, I’ll be glad to do that.’ That’s the way it started. I never dreamed it would go this far, but we’re now on Number 9.”
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3. Uga is an icon, and is awarded a varsity letter in the form of a plaque, identical to those presented to all Georgia athletes who letter. Uga IV attended the Heisman Trophy Banquet with Herschel Walker.
“He goes to every game, home and away. We travel with the team and stay with the team. Still, he’s a family pet. We live in Savannah; that’s four hours from Athens. We manage to get him there and we go with the team. When we fly on those big jets he can come up top, but he’s a distraction up there so we’ve learned it's better for him to stay in his kennel where the baggage is because it’s all pressurized and he’s just going to sleep anyway. The team, they’re amused by him. We don’t need that. We use the airplane to get where we’re going; not to entertain anybody.”
4. Georgia is the only major college that buries its mascots within the confines of the stadium. Ugas I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII are buried in marble vaults near the main gate. Before each game, flowers are placed on their graves. The current mascot is on the field during games.
“My son has been holding him for 20 years on the sidelines, but in Athens he has a dog house that is air-conditioned on the sidelines by the cheerleaders and that’s where he hangs in Athens. When we go on the road we take his kennel on the field just to keep some of the noise away from him. They’re well-behaved dogs; they don’t make any trouble.”
5. The current mascot — Uga IX “Russ” — is the half-brother of Uga VII, and began as interim mascot in 2009.
“We don’t have any other dogs, and we don’t have more than one at a time. We don’t breed them, we don’t sell them, but we control them and we know a lot about them. We’re very happy to have this one, but he’s over 8 years old, so we’re going to have to do this over, unfortunately, in a few years. But right now, he’s the man.”
— Brent C. Wagner