Baylor's New 'Chance'June 3, 1999
When Baylor senior Josh Pittman visited South Dakota's Bear Country USA in mid-May, the bear trainer knew he would bring back to Baylor a new bear cub mascot. Problem was, Pittman found himself surrounded by 20 to 30 cubs, all wanting his attention and all hoping to win the audition to become one of the nation's most recognized collegiate mascots.
But one cub stood out, and Pittman took a "Chance" on him.
"Chance," a five-month-old, 15-pound black bear cub named after Baylor Chancellor Herbert H. Reynolds, lives with Pittman in his Waco apartment and walks the campus every evening as part of his training regimen.
"Chance is doing great," said Pittman, a member of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce. "He's doing very well on his leash work and enjoys checking out all the buildings and being around people. We take him around water, too, like the fountain or the pit. He loves to splash around."
So how did Pittman decide that this little cub would make a perfect Baylor mascot?
"We were surrounded by 20 to 30 cubs who all wanted to climb up on you and nurse on your ear. It was quite funny, but Chance just happened to be the one to climb up first," recalled Pittman. "He just sat in my arms while I looked around at all the other cubs. He wasn't too energetic, but he wasn't too lazy. He was right there in the middle. He also looked like a full-grown bear, even though he was just a little cub. He came up to me every time, and he's proven so far to be a wonderful bear."
A typical day for Chance begins with a morning breakfast of apples, oranges and puppy chow, a supplemental protein diet that Pittman said gives Chance all the energy he needs for the day. After breakfast, Pittman and Chance "wrestle around" and play for an hour or so. Then the cub takes a nap and Pittman heads for his summer job. When Pittman returns home, he wakes up the bear, they play again, and then head to Baylor for their daily walk about campus. After the walk, Chance has dinner, and then he sleeps for about 7-8 hours a night. Then the whole routine repeats itself.
In July, Pittman and Chance will meet with a professional bear trainer from California to begin work on what Pittman calls "natural behaviors."
"These are things Chance already instinctively knows how to do: the bear claw, smile, lay down, growl," Pittman said. "We'll just be training him to do these natural behaviors on cue."
And Baylor Bear fans will see more of the mascot at upcoming football games, including Baylor's first home game Sept. 11 against UNLV. "We plan to walk around the stadium more. He'll have his pool and probably swim a lot because he loves the water. He'll also have a bigger box he can jump on," said Pittman, who's also hoping that Chance will be allowed to run with the team when players leave the stadium tunnel for the field. "I'm talking with Coach Steele and administrators to see if we can implement that again."
For now, Chance enjoys his daily walks on campus. Pittman said he also plans to take Chance to meet professors who are at Baylor for the summer semester and other administrators who haven't yet had the opportunity to visit with the cub. President Robert B. Sloan Jr. and Dr. Reynolds met a lively Chance for the first time in late May.
Pittman said that Chance will weigh 40-50 pounds by football season, 75-100 by the end of the year, and after two years will tip the scales between 200-225 pounds. When Chance is full-grown, he'll weigh over 350 pounds.
Baylor's previous mascot, Ginny, now resides at Yellowstone Bear World, a natural setting wildlife park near Rexburg, Idaho. Pittman, who also visited Bear World in May, said Ginny is "doing wonderful and having a great time socializing with about 20 other black bears."
In the meantime, Chance seems ready for his time in the spotlight as Baylor's mascot. "Everybody who's seen him on campus just loves him, and he really takes to people," Pittman said. "His training is a very difficult and important process so we try to make it enjoyable for him and for the Baylor community. So far it's been great. Chance is a wonderful bear."