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RIP Mike VI, 2005-2016

Rest easy, sweet prince

LSU has confirmed that what we have expected for the last few days has finally happened. LSU mascot Mike the Tiger has passed away following his battle with cancer.

LSU’s sixth live tiger mascot had been diagnosed with spindle-cell sarcoma last May, a type of brain cancer that had formed near his eye. It was not expected that treatment would cure him, but it was hopeful that a ground-breaking (for a tiger) round of radiation treatment at the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center would help prolong his life.

On October 5, LSU announced that the cancer had spread, giving Mike just one or two more months. A few days later, he was moved to hospice care.

For a lot of your younger readers, Mike VI is the only tiger they’ve really known. Personally, I have a lot of memories of his predecessor, especially from my time as a student. But “Roscoe” as he came to us, was different. A Bengal-Siberian mix from an Indiana refuge, Mike’s father pushed 700 pounds, and Mike grew to be well north of 400 himself, with a gorgeous split-stripe pattern. A truly beautiful animal.

He arrived at LSU in the summer of 2007, and made his public debut that August. I had been on the job as a member of LSU’s media relations team for about 13 months at the time. The news had already broken that Mike was on campus, but after spending some time in isolation to adjust to his new surroundings, we had planned a special “debut” for him on the first Saturday of that college football season (many of you will remember it for the day that Appalachian State famously upset Michigan), in which he would be formerly introduced to his expansive habitat. We mostly promoted it to local media, but it naturally drew a bit of a crowd.

Mike seemed to relish both the attention, and his new digs, running from corner to corner, sniffing, rolling around in the grass, leaping into his pool and getting nice and up close to his public at the viewing windows, especially the small children. It’s one of my most vivid memories from my time working at the university, and one that I know will always stay with me.

Mike VI always felt less like a stately, revered animal and more almost like a pet. Somebody you could go check out and watch play. He loved his habitat, and he almost seemed to want us to know that, even when he decided he didn’t want to leave it. He had personality. A very cat-like one but well...that’s what he was.

Whether he was eating rival-shaped food, dominating social media or his favorite pastime, taking a nap, Mike seemed to genuinely love his life and his caretakers at the LSU vet school. The sixth Mike the Tiger fit the role, and fit the modern climate of college football as well as anybody could have asked. Personally, I will miss him a great deal.

Veterinarian Dr. David Baker says that a search for the seventh Mike will begin immediately — the last search took approximately three months as Baker and his team searched for a male Tiger of the right age, appearance and temperament.

He has one hell of a legacy to live up to.