Logan Wiening's help-wanted ad could go a little something like this:
“Wanted: A fun-loving, entertaining mastodon that connects well with people and is available three nights a week for six or seven hours. Pay $8 an hour and a suit is required. Attention seekers welcomed as you'll be guaranteed many fans.”
He's been trying to fill the position for a while now, but he's not having any luck.
Wiening, fan engagement and marketing coordinator for Purdue University Fort Wayne, is responsible for recruiting the basketball teams' mascot, Don. To say that he is down to the wire is not an exaggeration as the season begins tonight with a men's and women's doubleheader.
The team has one student who can do the job, but that person's availability is limited and can't often meet the need of three games a week for six or seven hours.
It could be the wearing of the costume, a fluffy, padded body suit with a giant mastodon head. But that's not actually the problem: Wiening says it has been difficult getting college-age students to commit to nights or weekends. Most are either working to pay for school or don't want to give up their weekends.
Many PFW students have jobs and don't live on campus, Wiening says. In addition, many student workers end up being student athletes, eliminating prospective candidates.
But Wiening is not alone. Finding students to fill campus jobs has been a problem since school began this fall semester, Wiening says.
And it appears that filling the mascot role, as well as other jobs, is a problem happening at many colleges, including Trine University in Angola.
“This is my 10th year, (and) this has been the most challenging year to fill the mascot role,” says Shea Sims, Trine's director of cheer, dance and mascots.
Sims says she sends out a campuswide email about the tryouts, and anyone interested can come put on the suit and do their thing. Trine's mascot is Storm, a white tiger that represents the Thunder teams. The cheerleaders and dancers vote on the best person, and Sims looks for how a person looks in the suit, how they interact with people and of course, how they entertain.
However, at the first tryout Sims held, nobody tried out. And at the second, well, only one person showed up. Sims is still trying to fill roles.
She tries to have two people lined up for football and four for basketball. Right now, she has just one for this semester, and basketball season started Saturday.
Sims is not sure why it has been so challenging filling the mascot roles this year. Students get scholarships for the job.
“I know that a lot of our campus jobs are struggling to find people who want to do them,” Sims says.
Wiening believes one issue for PFW is that they didn't have to recruit for a mascot last year because of COVID-19 restrictions and cancellations. But he knows how important the mascot is for a team – especially since he is a former Mad Ants mascot.
Wiening slipped on the suit for the Fort Wayne minor league basketball team for years, adding that it was “definitely a thing that certain people enjoyed.” And he did, too, except for at the parades in August.
So Wiening understands that filling the mascot suit will take someone special.
“We want somebody who wants to have fun, let yourself go a little bit; no one knows who you are,” he says.
Hopefully he finds that special someone whose willing to be the Mastodons' biggest cheerleader – or at least the one with the biggest head.
Terri Richardson writes about area residents and happenings that affect their lives in this column that publishes every other week. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 461-8304.