Photo Caption: Rufus stands on the sideline as the OSU-OU game comes to an end.
Brutus Buckeye apparently has been wearing a target for a long time now. Unknown to anybody else, Rufus the Bobcat has had it out for him for more than a year. And when Ohio State University took to the football field Saturday morning in Columbus, Rufus got his one and only shot.
As the Buckeyes ran onto the field of the “Horseshoe,” packed with 105,000 cheering fans, Rufus spotted Brutus running out with the team, got in front of him and attempted a tackle.
Brutus avoided this first attempt, with Rufus losing his head, literally. Brutus lifted his arms in a “what the hell?” gesture, and jogged away. Rufus got up, collected his head, adjusted it and gave chase. By the time Brutus got to the end zone, Rufus caught up with him and jumped on his back, pulling him to the ground.
Brutus appeared unfazed, and made his way back up, with Rufus still clinging around his neck and striking Mr. Buckeye about his stuffed mascot head and face. The two then toppled to the painted ground again. As they got up, Rufus still swinging, Brutus pushed him off and again raised his arms in protest, with Rufus responding in kind.
A member of Ohio State security then escorted Rufus to the sideline and told him that if he touched Brutus again he would be forced to leave.
Rufus complied, and that was that.
On Monday morning, however, Ohio University athletics spokesperson Jason Corriher issued a statement announcing that OU apologizes to Ohio State University and its fans for the “poor decision made by the Bobcat mascot in tackling the Buckeye mascot when Ohio State came onto the field during Saturday’s football game.
“The individual responsible for these actions has been banned from any further affiliation with Ohio Athletics,” he said. “The department does not condone this behavior and apologizes for the negative effects that this had on an intercollegiate event between two proud institutions.”
Corriher said the incident is not indicative of the quality partnership between the two universities, and that it reflected extremely poor judgment and sportsmanship.
On Monday, now formerly Rufus the Bobcat Brandon Hanning said the whole reason he tried out for the role of mascot over a year ago was to carry out this plan.
“No one else knew about it,” he said.
Hanning, a former student from Pomeroy, said he has played Rufus for the past year, donning the Bobcat costume for basketball and football games.
“I’m probably done now,” Hanning conceded, noting that he had not yet been contacted by anyone from OU and had found out about his ban from Ohio athletics in a story posted on the ESPN website. (The NBC News site also posted a story about the incident, with an additional video.)
“I honestly don’t know what gave me the idea,” he said. “I just thought it would be really funny.”
After Ohio State and OU played back in 2008, Hanning said he realized the two teams would play again in 2010.
“I thought it would be really cool to beat (Brutus) up, and I realized we were playing them again (this) year, so I thought I’d try out for (the part of Rufus),” he said.
On Saturday, Hanning recounted how he got dressed up and went down near the cheerleaders.
“Ohio State’s band was all over the field and they made a tunnel,” he said. “I saw Brutus walk out with a big flag, and I took off down the sideline. As soon as he started running, I just ran out to do it.”
After the incident, Hanning said that Brutus didn’t say anything to him but was obviously angry.
“It’s been mixed reactions really,” he said about the feedback he’s gotten since the game. “All the people that I know thought it was awesome. But some people that I don’t know didn’t like it too well.”
He said that he left the Rufus costume in the Convocation Center and hasn’t heard anything from anybody since then.
After asking to interview Brutus Buckeye for this story, Ohio State media relations director Jim Lynch responded, “Our mascot, Brutus Buckeye, does not speak and we would not want to break that long-standing tradition.”
Shawn Bailes, who played Rufus previously, sent a letter to the editor on Monday condemning Hanning’s actions.
“This is an absolute embarrassment to myself and many other Ohio fans,” he wrote. “I know that one can be caught in the moment - when you're the Bobcat you feel absolutely invincible as far as what you can do and where you can go in the arena. That is pretty much true, but you have to keep focused on entertaining the fans as the number 1 priority and not let yourself get out of control.”
The letter will appear on this website on Thursday morning, as well as the print edition of The Athens NEWS.