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University of Missouri

Bringing Up Truman

Former athletic director Joe Castiglione recalls Truman’s early days.

evolution of Truman the Tiger from sketches to finished costume

The athletic, corporate and entertainment worlds abound with tiger images. International oil company Exxon once urged drivers to “Put a tiger in your tank,” Kellogg’s pitchman Tony assures customers that Frosted Flakes are “Gr-r-reat!” and Pooh’s friend Tigger bounces about the Hundred Acre Wood like a buoyant basketball on Norm Stewart Court.

So when Joe Castiglione, former Mizzou athletic director and current University of Oklahoma AD, set out to reimagine Missouri’s mascot in the early ’80s, he wanted to ensure originality.

“There were countless tiger logos being used at Mizzou,” says Castiglione, who was associate athletic director in 1981. “Even ones that were orange and black.”

First, Castiglione did away with the male and female mascots and asked the Mizzou cheerleaders to orchestrate a naming contest among students for the yet-to-be-created costume. Suggestions included Tiger Mo, Bengal Buddy, Claws, and even Quantrill and Baldknobber (both Missouri historical references). When administrators heard “Truman,” the contest was virtually over.

“It stuck instantaneously, and everybody loved it,” Castiglione says.

Next came the character’s design. Mizzou Athletic Director Jack Lengyel used his formidable sketching skills to illustrate some ideas for Fiberworks LLC. Truman needed to be approachable yet not too cute.

When the costume arrived at the Hearnes Center, it was a hit among staffers. It was especially appealing to Castiglione, who is proud to reveal he has donned the black-and-gold fur for a few functions.

“It has been a well-guarded secret until now. I don’t like wearing costumes as much these days — the kids are meaner,” jokes Castiglione, who has also worn the OU mascot costume, Boomer. “You get a range from precious kids who come up and hug you, to those who are ornery, kick you, pull your tail and say, ‘I know you’re not a real tiger!’ ”

More: The Truth about Truman