LSU is known for its traditions carried on year after year.
Football is a major part of that tradition. From the tailgates to the Golden Band from Tigerland, LSU football has become a landmark event and continues to draw in thousands of fans from around the country.
Mike VI, LSU’s live Bengal tiger mascot, plays a huge role in the overall game day experience. Over the years, Mike’s habitat, across North Stadium Drive from Tiger Stadium, has grown into a spectacle of its own and draws thousands of people annually.
Before home games, Mike rides down Victory Hill on his way to Tiger Stadium in a travel trailer.
As teams are warming up, he enters the southeast end of the stadium and is stationed right next to the opponent’s locker room. Before reaching the field, the opposing team is forced to make its way past Mike.
Mike has a front-row view of the pregame festivities as they begin and takes a trip around the field in the travel trailer with the LSU cheerleaders riding above cheering for the Tigers.
As one LSU alum told his kids Saturday outside Mike’s habitat, he remembers former players saying coming out of the locker room and seeing that live tiger on the field is quite intimidating.
Some loyal LSU fans will stand in the hot sun or pouring rain before a game, waiting to see if Mike will load onto his trailer. When Mike decides he would rather stay in his habitat for the day, as was the case for Saturday’s home opener against Sam Houston State, the disappointment on their faces is noticeable.
Fans have often expressed how they miss having Mike travel around the field for every game. Older fans don’t seem to understand why he is not loaded every week and believe there has to be some way to make that happen.
Mike would have to disagree, because he decides completely whether he will load or not.
Times have changed since the first Mike I debuted as LSU’s mascot in the 1930s, and the methods to load the tiger have as well. It is completely up to Mike whether he loads or not on a game day, and he is not forced in any way.
Current veterinary student and handler Trevor Davis explained that Mike’s team practices loading as if it were a game day before the actual game in hopes of eliminating the tiger’s dislike of change.
Davis said Mike VI showed interest before the Sam Houston game, and his handlers hope that means he will load for future games this season.
LSU veterinarian Dr. David Baker said in an interview for the Veterinary School website, “His veterinary student caretakers have been loading Mike VI into his trailer this summer to get him ready for the LSU home games; however, he doesn’t always cooperate.
“We know how important it is to the fans that he be in the stadium, but we can’t force him to do so, and we absolutely would never do that even if we could. Mike’s safety and well-being are most important to us, and we know that these are important to the fans as well.”
There’s little debate that the tradition of having Mike the Tiger roll around the field in Tiger Stadium adds that extra spark to LSU game days. After attending only three games last season and missing the 2014 home opener, it’s hoped that Mike will decide to attend the remainder of this season’s home games.