WASHINGTON — At their best, mascots are weird. Maybe some are funny or vaguely “cute,” but at the end of the day, they are humans inside anthropomorphic felt costumes. Some are fine, just fine. Some are not fine.
If you watch this year’s NCAA Tournament, you will be exposed to mascots in both categories. While I feel no need to warn you about the former, if you’re not well-versed in college basketball, you should really brace yourself for the latter. With 351 Division I teams, schools have gotten creative with not just their school nicknames, but with the characters that represent them. And some of those characters seem specifically designed to haunt your dreams.
So without further ado, here are the 10 most terrifying mascots in this year’s field of 68.
10. Sebastian the Ibis (Miami)
An ibis is a long-billed, somewhat crane-like bird, which on its own seems innocuous enough. This all comes down to the eyes. I know they’re supposed to be looking up, but instead they look vaguely cross-eyed, and perhaps vaguely evil, and either way it’s unnerving.
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox
9. Brutus Buckeye (Ohio State)
Brutus has been around for so long it may be easy to take for granted the fact that he is an anthropomorphic buckeye nut. But his face is one that buries its way deeper into your subconscious the more you look at it. At first, you assume he’s smiling, but he’s not really. It’s more that his mouth is forced open — like his eyes — as if he’s being overinflated, past the point of no return.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Joe Robbins
8. Sparky the Sun Devil (Arizona State)
As my colleague Rob Woodfork pointed out, Sparky looks less like a devil than an old-timey movie villain, the kind with the overexaggerated gangster accent. “Shee, thish ish how we’ll shteal all the gold from Ft. Knox, shee.” But get past the pencil mustache and there’s also evil in those eyes — those white-pupiled eyes. Yep, now you’ll never not see it.
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Ethan Miller
7. Willie the Wildcat (Kansas State)
The wildcat mascot head itself is only slightly creepy, with its beady little eyes … but that’s all there is to the costume. It’s a disembodied character head on top of a human body. That, friends, is terrifying.
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Ed Zurga
4. Killian (Iona)
Oh my god. Don’t do it. Don’t dump the ice bucket. This creature’s name is literally KILL IAN. Wait, Ian, is that you with the bucket? Run very far away, Ian!
3. WuShock (Wichita State)
A literal shock of wheat, the Wichita State Shocker looks like what the scarecrow of Wizard of Oz might have if, instead of lacking a brain, he ate them for dinner. I’m not saying he knows how to operate a chainsaw and has one in his garage at the ready, but I’m not not saying it.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Gregory Shamus
2. Purdue Pete (Purdue)
Why? Why is it … with the plastic … and the eyes … why? Pete is the masked face of Bodhi robbing banks in “Point Break,” except instead of actually following through with it, he’s suspended in permanent existential crisis. That sledgehammer … it’s been places, man.
(Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Eric Francis
1. Friar Dom (Providence)
THERE IS NO FRIAR, ONLY ZUUL.
Just because we’re not the first to point out that Friar Dom should be banished to the depths of outer space doesn’t mean we’re wrong. Look at that photo — you can hear it howling. Please, think of the children. No, seriously, won’t you think of the children?
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Streeter Lecka