Not everybody gets to go to work with their best friend, but Coran Sigman, University of Indianapolis associate director of alumni engagement does.
In addition to her duties working with UIndy alumni, Sigman is also the university’s live mascot handler.
Before she worked for the university, she was a student, graduating in 2014. Sigman said she would frequently joke with university president Robert Manuel that the school should bring back its live mascot program.
After graduation, she said she loved her school so much she stayed and started working in her current office with alumni engagement.
After starting working with the annual giving aspect of the alumni office, Sigman transitioned into the event planning department where she gained experience working on UIndy Day, a day where community members, faculty, current and former students and their families celebrate the university.
Through the planning process of UIndy Day, the idea of restarting the live mascot program developed and from there, the idea became a reality. Sigman and her colleagues met with multiple departments from the university in the planning process.
After receiving approval in the early stages of the idea of having a live mascot, Sigman volunteered to do research on how to have a live mascot for a university. She said the team at Butler was helpful in giving advice and information about their program
When it came time to pick a handler after the final approvals and research had been made, Sigman stepped up and was dedicated to the program and wanted to see it through after spending time being immersed in it.
Sigman and her team at UIndy worked with the Indianapolis chapter of Greyhound pets of America (GPA) when they started the search process.
“We wanted a dog that would be good with people and good with other dogs and one that we’re not going to have to worry too much about,” she said.
After talking with GPA, they found ‘Ringo’ who became Grady.
The organization brought him to Indianapolis where he stayed with a foster family while Sigman went through testing and had her home and yard examined to make sure Grady would be a good fit for her and her home.
After the testing and examinations, Sigman finally got the chance to meet Grady.
“The foster family brought him over and I had my two dogs on harnesses to introduce them correctly… and within a minute, everyone was playing and running around,” Sigman said, “It was exciting to see him run freely as fast as he could that wasn’t at a track.”
She said within five minutes of him being home, she knew he was the dog for the university. In addition to being the university’s dog, Grady is also Sigman’s dog. Since he lives with her, he has become a part of her family as well.
Grady goes everywhere with her. He goes to meetings, athletic events, classrooms and everywhere else Sigman goes. He even has his own space in her office
Restarting a live mascot program comes with more challenges than obtaining a dog and picking a handler. There are now copyrights, content ideas and partnerships different departments have to think about.
After she got Grady, she was introduced to a Facebook group with other live university mascots. Sigman said the group has been helpful, especially during COVID-19 to come up with ideas for social media.
Live mascot history
According to the UIndy website, before 1926, the university had a different name and mascot. Prior to the name change, the university was called Indiana Central College and their mascot was a warrior.
In 1927, the urge for a new mascot had risen and a group of fans met in Men’s Hall after a basketball game and decided to brainstorm a new name, thus, the Greyhound. The animal was chosen for its speed, jumping prowess and fighting heart.
The university’s first live mascot came in 1965 and was a gift from former athletic director Edgar Bright. Dixie, a retired racing greyhound, was the mascot for two years before retiring.
Similar to Dixie, the university’s second live mascot, Timothy O’Toole, was also a retired racing greyhound from Florida. Sigman said nobody can find a record of why the live mascot program stopped after Timothy.
Now, the university has Grady. (his real name is Crimson Greyson Veritas but Grady rolls off the tongue faster) Grady was adopted in November of 2019 from a greyhound racing track in Daytona, Florida.
The time for the university to ‘restart’ its live mascot program came at an opportune time.
Dog betting outlawed
In November of 2018, the Constitution Revision Commission of Florida passed Amendment 13, banning wagering at dog tracks in the state of Florida.
Prior to the ban, Florida was home to 11 out of 17 dog racing tracks in the country. After the federal government enacted the ban, the racetracks lost a way to make money, leaving the dogs that once raced at the track with no reason to be there.
Before he was officially introduced to the public, Liz McKinley, director of marketing strategy, said the team started announcing little by little that a live mascot was coming to the university.
In the time before revealing him, the team around Grady had to get to know him so they could build his personality on social media.
“We’ve been really supported from the top down,” McKinley said, “from the president’s office and everyone on staff has been really supportive of the process.”
Prior to Grady’s official introduction to students, Sigman had to try to hide him when she would take him to and from her office.
“No one knew what he looked like officially,” Sigman said, “I had him in my office and I was trying to hide him as best I could but there were a couple of times students passed me when I was walking him in our neighborhood.”
In November 2019, the university officially unveiled Grady to everybody. The university invited members of the media, students and members of the community, set up a stage and President Manuel spoke about the history of the university’s mascot and why having a live one is important.
Sigman related Grady’s grand unveiling to a politician because after his name was announced, the school fight song played and she walked down the aisle with him as he went from side to side sniffing peoples hands.
Since 2019, Sigman and Grady have gone to visit classrooms, university charity events and together, they’ve impacted the lives of their students and university community. Sigman said Grady is also being used as an educational tool for the university. This upcoming athletics season will be Sigman and Gradys first full athletics season together.
“One of the most rewarding things about this program is walking into classrooms and watching students faces beam with excitement,” Sigman said, “When you walk up to a student and they give Grady a hug and say ‘Oh you don’t know how much I needed this today’ he’s almost become an emotional support animal without actually being one.”