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*Disclaimer: The student inside the suit of Cal Poly’s mascot, Musty the Mustang, will be referred to in this article as Michael. His real name cannot be disclosed due to the deep-seeded tradition of the mascot’s identity remaining anonymous. *
Cal Poly students have received Facebook friend requests throughout the year from an account called “Musty the Mustang.” In reality, it’s run by a student named Michael, the man under Musty’s costume at most events where the mascot is present.
Cal Poly administrators admitted to combing through students’ social media accounts looking for students who had attended the party after the St. Fratty’s Day roof collapse on March 7.
Michael friend-requested a number of students on Facebook shortly after the party. People reported him to Facebook administrators, thinking the page was being used to gather personal information on them.
“(The) Facebook page and account for Musty the Mustang are in no way connected with the investigation into the March 7 party,” Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier said via email.
Facebook shut down Musty’s account due to many reporting it as an inappropriate page. Michael plans to create an entirely new account since his efforts in contacting Facebook have been unsuccessful.
Michael has been the mascot since 2013 and the sole manager of Musty’s social media accounts. He claimed university officials have never had access to them.
“I want students to know that administration and athletics have nothing to do with Musty,” he said. “He is all student-run and has always been student-run.”
According to Michael, Musty’s social media accounts are passed down from mascot to mascot, and Cal Poly Athletics has no association with the accounts, which include Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“They know it exists,” Michael said. “But they basically have no control; (the mascot) is in charge of social media.”
Michael added students through Musty’s Facebook account to build a fan base. When he was appointed as the mascot by cheer/stunt head coach Annette Laron-Pickett, Musty’s social media had not been used in a while.
“I started using it to advertise Musty more as an ambassador of Cal Poly — it’s building up his character and our school spirit,” he said.
In addition to creating a brand for Musty, Michael used social media to increase the number of friends on Musty’s Facebook account in order to compete for a national Capitol One Mascot competition.
Michael must submit a video showcasing Musty’s role on campus. The judges will review Musty’s social media to factor into his overall score. If Michael wins, he receives scholarship money, a trophy and recognition.
Though the financial aspect is appealing, Michael says he is striving to get Musty’s name known. He has recently been following the University of Oregon’s Duck mascot and adopting similar initiatives in order to build up Musty’s status.
“There’s no way to email Facebook or to call a number,” he said. “I haven’t been able to find it. Everything I posted is lost.”
However, this bump in the road will not stop Michael in his quest to give students an interactive way to get to connect with their mascot. Musty’s Facebook account is more than just a place to post photos — Michael also books additional gigs for Musty through Facebook messaging.
There are certain events that Musty is required to attend, which include football games, men’s and women’s basketball games, the UCSB vs. Cal Poly soccer match, Open House and WOW’s (Week of Welcome) Big Fall Welcome. All other events are optional and must be worked around Michael’s schedule.
“It is all volunteer,” Michael said. “So it’s up to us. Sometimes I have to study, so I let them know I can’t do the whole time they’ve requested.”
However, Musty is usually available since there is now another person chosen to be the mascot alongside Michael.
The new mascot has a lot of promise, according to Michael, but he is still learning the ways of being a mascot and has not yet been given access to the social media accounts.
Musty’s traditions must be taught to each new person who becomes the mascot, Michael said. The first tradition is to keep your identity a secret.
“It’s easier to mess around with people or interact with people when they don’t know who you are,” he said. “You can’t associate a person with the mascot because whoever is under the suit changes every time, but Musty stays the same.”
The only people who know Michael’s actual identity are a couple of friends who found out by accident. His roommates do not know he is the mascot and, for quite some time, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong did not know either.
Other traditions include adopting Musty’s walk: a choreographed “pimp-type” stride that must be accompanied by the bobbing of the head.
Before one can master Musty’s step, they have to become comfortable (or as comfortable as they can possibly be) spending hours in a 30-pound suit, where the temperature inside the suit is about 30 degrees hotter than the temperature outside.
“I’ve had people try out to be a mascot, and the first time they get in the suit, they’re done and can’t handle it,” Michael said. “People think it’s easy.”
There is a lot more to being the mascot than just smiling for pictures and dominating the field at halftime: accommodating the suit itself is a task all in its own.
The suit is one piece in its entirety, but the head is an additional piece and the shoes Musty wears consist of three pieces.
First, Michael dresses Musty before he himself puts on the actual suit. He wears a football helmet under the suit for further protection, which is needed on the days when he encounters a rowdier crowd.
“(Adults and students) tend to pull pranks,” he said. “One time, somebody tried to jump over me and it gave me whiplash.”
Michael can barely see inside the suit. There is mesh where the teeth are located, and that is his only source of air. Having tunnel vision doesn’t ease the process by any means.
All in all, the journey to be the mascot is one that can be strenuous, but it’s overall a gratifying experience.
As he prepares to graduate soon, Michael continues to pass down the reigns of Musty’s persona to the new appointed person.