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The Blue Devil... another tradition of traditions

He's big, he's blue and he seems to pop up just about everywhere. He's the Blue Devil mascot, and he's not just a figure at athletic events, but an icon for Dukies everywhere.

There are currently three Dukies who don the Blue Devil uniform, but as a part of mascot tradition, they stay anonymous, representing the school only in costume, and remain silent while in Blue Devil gear. "That's a universal mascot rule that we follow because [talking] ruins the persona of the character," the freshman Devil said.

Right now, there is a graduate student, a junior and a freshman who bear the Blue Devil responsibilities. They were selected through an advertised try-out process which is usually held in the spring by the cheerleading coach, the cheerleading captain, a representative from the band and a former mascot. Mascots must try out for the position each year.

"We try to select people that are motivated and want them to understand that they are an extension of the athletic department," said Mike Sobb, director of Duke sports promotions.

But the mascot was not always chosen in this manner. Beginning in the 1960's, the suit was passed on through Phi Delta Theta fraternity, a tradition that ended at some point during the early 1980's.

Most students are aware of the Blue Devil's presence at football and basketball games, where he works with the cheerleading department to rally fans around the team.

His devotion, however, doesn't stop there. He also makes appearances at events like soccer and volleyball games. "That's a little something extra we do for those teams," a first-year engineering graduate student said.

Sports promotions is responsible for scheduling the mascot at non-athletic events, like a party at a local elementary school or a Duke-related fundraiser. "Anything you can think of where you might want the mascot to be, they ask us to do it," the graduate student mascot said.

But other campus groups use the mascot as a symbol for Duke as well, and often mascots will come up with ideas on their own. For example, the graduate student mascot tutors at a local Durham elementary school and received special permission from Sports Promotions to appear as the Blue Devil.

The Blue Devil also makes a point to stay around late after games to take pictures with and sign autographs for those who attend the games. "Kids love it," the eldest Devil said.

Those in the suit explained that the mascot serves as a good means of community outreach. "Bringing the Blue Devil gets people's attention better than any person can," the freshman mascot said.

But Sobb explained that there is only so much the mascot can do, especially since the suit is worn by full-time students with a variety of other commitments. "It's a lot to wear that suit. It gets really hot in there," he said. "They go through a lot during games, and it can be fairly taxing."

While much of the Blue Devil's work relies on spontaneity, there is also a great deal of tradition to the suit. Some of the mascot's historical actions include wearing a headband poking fun at the opposition and banging the bass drum during basketball tip-offs.

The senior mascot explained that they are in the process of perfecting and standardizing the mascot program. "A lot of the job is improvisation, but there are some things we can do," he said. In an effort to do this, the Blue Devil has begun to attend camps, along with other ACC university mascots, specifically for training.

So why do the mascots choose to take this time- and labor-intensive job? "It's part of our responsibility as the mascot, but also some of it is just really fun," the graduate student Blue Devil said. "We make more of a difference than we realize. Here we are just thinking we're being goofy, but it really is paying off."

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