Is a 45-year tradition coming to an end? A football-crazed Ohio high school brought out a live tiger cub before its season opener on Thursday as it always does, but the Guardian reports the school apparently did so without meeting new state regulations on exotic animals. Every year since 1970, boosters for the Washington High School Tigers in Massillon—a city where every male baby is given a football before leaving the hospital—have leased a live tiger cub to fill the role of mascot "Obie" at all home and away games. But the tradition was endangered in 2011, when an Ohio animal farmer released 56 exotic animals—including tigers, grizzly bears, and giraffes—from their cages before killing himself; that prompted the state to enact new laws on the keeping of such creatures.
Under new guidelines, the booster club was responsible for proving to the state any future tiger cubs wouldn't have contact with the public, would live in an accredited facility after their mascot days, and would be cared for in retirement, the AP reports. On Thursday, the new Obie was wheeled out before the Tigers' game without the booster club meeting the final two stipulations. The Massillon Independent reports the booster club wouldn't say where it got the cub or how much it may have paid to facilitate the appearance. And while it may be the cub's only appearance of the season (the expectation of future appearances would be premature, the booster club president told the paper), fans were happy: "For people that live and breathe football, he's a huge deal."