Exactly who is this masked man doing back flips and crazy dance moves during football and basketball games? UMHB Life investigates.
By James Stafford
He steals the show at athletic events and pep rallies, but who is the man behind the CRUnk mask?
Larry Stitle may not look like a cheerleader, but at 6’ 6” he looks every bit the basketball player that he was throughout his high school career, even winning the state championship his junior year.
“I wanted to be a mascot in high school, but I was always playing basketball,” Stitle said.
While competing in the university’s intramural leagues he met and befriended last year’s mascot, Sam Williams. It was Williams who pursuaded Stitle to try out for the role of the mascot, who is known on campus as “CRUnk.” Stitle’s tall build, positive attitude, and strong work ethic made him a shoe-in for the position.
Each summer the Cru cheerleaders and the mascot attend a cheerleading and mascot camp at SMU. There Stitle learned what it meant to be a mascot and sharpened his performance skills.
“I consider myself an outgoing person,” Stitle said. “I really need to get out there and do something, and this was something I had always been interested in.”
He learned that being a mascot is not easy. “A mascot has to make their actions larger than life, because the costume is bigger than life,” explains Sue Weaver, director of campus recreation. “There is a mystique about mascots, because they never reveal their true faces. Mascots are not allowed to speak, so they have to be very animated, to convey what they want to say.”
Stitle stepped into his new persona last fall, at the beginning of football season. One of the players for whom he cheered was his CRUnk predecessor, Williams. Since every part of his body is masked by the costume, few people realized that there was a new CRUnk in town until he and Sam appeared side by side on the playing field.
“Sam was exceptional, a great mascot, a great dancer,” Stitle said. “I am a tall, lanky guy, and I am not as good a dancer. I can’t be Sam. I have to do my own thing.”
“Larry’s done a fantastic job of stepping in and creating his own CRUnk personality,” says Weaver. “He’s an incredible athlete, and it shows when he performs.
“The mascot has to monitor the pulse of what is happening in the game as well as in the stands,” Weaver says. “It takes a special person to do this. Larry knows how to work with the fans, with the players, and with the referees. He makes it all look fun and easy—and that takes a special gift.