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The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Behind Butch: Reflecting after an identity uncovered

What it was like to be Butch from a former mascot
Paul Dennis reveals himself as Butch. T. Cougar during the home opener of the 2023 football season, Sept. 9.

When someone is selected to be Butch T. Cougar, they commit a lot of their college life to representing the university in a meaningful way without telling the people closest to them about what they are doing. 

While a taxing position, it is one that brings countless opportunities unique to the role and is one that not many Butches regret. For the most recent Butch, who revealed his identity earlier this season in the home opener against Wisconsin, it was an experience that he will never regret. 

Paul Dennis, senior sport management major and 2022–23 secretary of the Sport Management Club, was Butch for the past three years, serving the campus at athletic events and other major events. 

Becoming Butch was straightforward, as the previous bearer of the mask came to Paul to see if he had any interest in taking over the position. 

“I just had a video tryout and then a walk-through. And that was pretty much it. Like the process itself wasn’t too bad,” Dennis said. 

Although taking the role was easy and straightforward, mastering it was a whole different beast. Looking back at his first time as the mascot, Paul said that he had bombed it. He had no idea what to do, how to properly communicate with fans and be entertaining while not being able to talk. 

By the time he wore the head for the final time, he was more than confident in his ability to be a good Butch, thinking of it more as second nature than something he needed to worry about.  

Although he had been Butch for essentially his entire college career, the end of his time was something that Paul embraced, thinking of it as finally his time to pass on the mantle. 

“I was nervous to take off the head. I was definitely ready. That’s for sure. I’ve been looking forward to that moment for a while,” Paul said. “To be honest it was super emotional because it’s just like a big thing to say goodbye to. Once you take it off, that’s it, there is no going back.”

Even on his worst days, Paul enjoyed his time as Butch. Even in the heat of the costume or when he was not feeling 100%, the moment he was Butch, he was ready to go. 

“Obviously some days were harder than others like. Like on a third day in a row, having to put it on and kind of go be super energetic or even if you’re kind of feeling sick or anything like that. Those days were kind of hard. It sounds weird, but as soon as you put the head on, you’re just ready to rock and I always had such a blast out there,” he said. 

Paul witnessed many great WSU memories from the perspective of Butch, everything from an upset Apple Cup win in Seattle to the women’s basketball team’s Pac-12 Championship run, which is what he said is his favorite memory and his favorite team to be around while being Butch. 

” [The women’s basketball team] is just so nice and seem to really appreciate the thing that Butch does,” Dennis said.

In the Cougs’ upset win over the Huskies in Seattle, fans in attendance and those who watched live may remember a specific moment that involved the mascot. During the game, Deon McIntosh and Butch embraced in a hug which resulted in an unsportsmanlike penalty for the Cougs, something Paul said made him very nervous for the perception of fans around the nation. 

Despite the stress in the moment, once he realized that people were not upset as he was worried they would be, the experience went back to being one of his favorites. 

“I opened up Twitter, and I was pretty relieved that everybody was pretty supportive about it. So that was super, super fun experience after all,” he said. 

Even though he could not talk as Butch, Paul made sure to make meaningful connections with the fans. One way he did that was making sure he did the usual Butch duties of taking pictures and interacting with as many fans as possible, as well as waving at people he recognized to show he remembered them. 

Whether it was their first interaction with Butch or not, he wanted to make sure they left the experience feeling good about it and feeling good about themselves. 

“Seeing just their reaction when they realize, ‘Oh wait, you remember me’ or whatever it was. That was always pretty special,” Paul said. 

Getting the opportunity to be Butch is something that Paul said he is thankful for, despite the challenges of a long schedule and needing to keep the identity a secret. While some weeks were no longer than 5–6 hours, weeks with a football game and several other events could quickly build up to 30–35 hour weeks. 

The time commitment also became a problem when communicating his absence with professors, as, despite getting a note from the Athletics department, Paul could not be completely truthful at face value to his professors.

“Hiding it from professors became a little bit difficult. I’d be gone on a football trip and going with the men’s and women’s teams to tournaments and different things like that. So I’d have to miss class,” Paul said. “I’d give them the slip and they’d be like, ‘What are you doing,’ and I just have to be like, ‘Oh, I’m like a marketing intern,’ or say I was on the cheer team. Eventually, a few of my professors kind of put it together.” 

Although it takes a lot of time and dedication to be Butch, Paul said the compensation for being Butch is a $500 stipend per semester and some free clothes. Despite the low pay for the time commitment, he said the experiences and networking he got to do solely because of his role more than made up for it. 

“I got some cool experiences traveling. But my biggest benefit, honestly, being a sport management major, was all those connections I was able to make in the athletic department and then going up and working with like the Mariners and the Seahawks and all those different teams to opening that network and you meet so many people at the other schools as well,” Paul said. 

One of the coolest people he met? Benny the Bull. The TikTok and social media phenomenon is the Chicago Bulls of the NBA. He is one of the most recognizable mascots in the world for his presence alone, and Paul got the chance to learn from and spend time with him. 

“Meeting Benny the Bull was pretty cool. I got to spend like a full week with him training and doing some things. That was a lot of fun and it really helped me,” he said. 

Especially during the heat it can prove difficult to perform at your best. Paul said in the suit it was never cold, only warm to hot. But, it got to the point where the difference between 80 degrees and 100 degrees-plus was not noticeable. 

“It reaches a point where hot is just hot. You can’t really notice the difference between 80 degrees or anything higher. Whether in Pullman when it is sunny or when you go down to Arizona, and it’s like 110 degrees and you’re on the turf, it all just feels the same at that point,” Paul said. 

Looking to the future beyond his time as Butch, Paul said he wants to stick around the college sports scene or move on to working with the NHL or NFL on the marketing and fan experience side of things, as those environments are where he believes he will thrive in. 

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.

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  • Carol O'CallaghanOct 12, 2023 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks so much Paul and everyone else who has been and will be Butch! We always love to see Butch at games and parades, it’s like a little jolt of pride and excitement, an official WSU stamp on things. My grandson Ryan (8) loves Butch’s antics and seeing Butch helps make the sports a little more fun for him when he doesn’t understand the rules and like the games for their own sake — yet! Good luck in your future endeavors. Good article, thanks Brandon. I never thought I’d see an article about the inside scoop on Butch. Carol O’C (’88 ’91)