The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

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

The life of the Coug behind Butch T. Cougar

Behind Butch Vol. 2: Romance, friendship and memories created
Courtesty of James Coclasure
James and Ali.

On the very first Butch T. Cougar skit of the 2021 WSU football season, the plan was for Butch to propose and marry one of the cheerleaders. Originally not even supposed to be the one working that game, the man behind the mask did not think of the skit beyond just that singular moment. 

Butch proposed to a cheerleader named Ali Tate, choosing her because he thought she was cool. But during the next weekend, he saw her at a party and asked if they needed to figure out their taxes. 

That’s how James Coclasure and Ali first hit it off. Since then, they have been dating for two years and have created several memories together, including traveling to places such as New York City and Hawaii; that all started because James signed up to be one of the guys behind Butch for the past several years and Ali was on the cheer team. 

James, WSU fall ’23 marketing graduate, joined the Butch team in February 2020 as it was a dream of his since his high school days. 

“I told every one of my friends in high school that I was gonna go to WSU and be the mascot. They probably thought I was joking. But, I was dead serious in my mind,” he said.

Since joining, he met not only his girlfriend but also Paul Dennis, who he describes as his lifelong friend and one of his closest friends during his time at WSU. Dennis, the other man behind Butch over the past three years, said that working with James has been the absolute best part of being Butch. 

“Working with and getting to know James over the past three years was absolutely my favorite part of the whole Butch experience. During our time together in Pullman, we became very close, and I consider him one of my best friends for life. We bonded very early because of our shared sense of humor, and from there, we became close friends,” Dennis said.  

With how many events Butch has to work over the course of the year, two people have the responsibility to work out their schedules so that the mascot can make an appearance at all these events. James said that with this responsibility, he and Paul would see each other just about every single day and would certainly text every day about the upcoming schedule. 

While a daunting task, the two made it work and made it fun for each other, although they had to fight for the big and fun games. 

“My favorite memory working with James would have to be anytime he would be Butch while his mom was around. Seeing her light up because of how proud she was of James is something I’ll remember forever,” Dennis said. 

One of the most difficult tasks of being Butch is being the consistent good guy and learning how to properly communicate without words. With the help of his handler, Butch can always make time for taking a photo or a high-five, but sometimes fans can be too much.

“Kids grabbed your tail like crazy. I mean, adults grab your tail like crazy too. The ones that were real trouble, though, were the moms. They have a real affection for Butch and they would come get on you,” James said.

One time, he said he had crowd-surfed into the crowd and ended in a group of drunk people. Like many times before, he started getting his tail pulled and grabbed from every which way, needing his handler to save the day once again. 

Another difficult task is being in the suit itself. While the team of Butch T. Cougar prides themselves on keeping it smelling nice, if you can tell it is a smelly college kid, then it takes away from the character. However, the temperature is much harder to control. 

“I worked a minor league baseball game in the Tri-Cities during the Summer and that was the most challenging experience I’ve ever had. It was insane. I never realized how tired you get instantly. I’ve never sweated that much,” James said. “But it evens out with the late winter games, where the heat really helps out.” 

One way the team combatted the smell of sweating in the costume was to assign whoever wore it that day to take it home and wash it that night. Although keeping your identity as Butch a secret is a guideline, James knew he had to let his roommates know as it would be near impossible to hide. 

“I brought the huge bag home and just thought, ‘this is going to be impossible,’” he said. “I sat them down and told them that it was super serious and asked them not to tell anyone.”

Butch has brought James more than just his friendship with Paul. One of the coolest things has been his new friendships with several of the other mascots in the Pac-12 Conference. 

“It was so cool to see just how close the Pac-12 mascot community is. It’s not just the on the field. We’re actually buddies with some of the other guys. Benny the Beaver really stands out with that,” he said. 

While the labor and daunting schedule that Butch brings combined with the relatively low semester stipend, it would be understandable to feel that it might not be worth it to wear the suit. But James never had regrets about joining the team.

“Overall, it was tons of fun, every time I put on that suit. I think every event I ever did was pretty enjoyable and I would never regret it now,” he said. 

After graduating in December, James is starting a new role with Coca-Cola on their marketing team in Seattle with the goal of one day working with a major sports team like the Seattle Mariners or Seattle Seahawks.

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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.