This is a reprint written by Kyle Reeves for the Oct. 25, 2012 Homecoming edition of The Bison.
For years, Harding University has been associated with the bison mascot. With its caricature stamped all around campus, the bison is also accompanied by history of the symbol. Long before Harding’s current mascot “Buff the Bison” began to rally the crowds, an actual bison roamed the sidelines of fall football games.
In 1964, Dr. George Benson acquired a three-month old bison named “Benny” that would become the living mascot of Harding’s gridiron warriors.
“It was great to have a live mascot,” Chancellor Clifton Ganus said. “The students all liked having him around and going up to visit him. So did I, but just don’t get your arm in the trailer. He might knock it off.”
Benson traveled to Kansas to bring Benny to his new home in Searcy, but it was there that Benson learned how much of a problem-child the new ally was. Upon loading young Benny into the trailer that would carry him to Searcy, Benny refused, bucked and kicked his way out of the trailer, and in the process ripped out the base of his right horn.
Benny stayed calm for most of his first year as mascot and remained docile through the better part of two years, but Benny turned into an angry wreck in his third year and was no longer allowed onto the field. Instead he was kept in a trailer next to the stadium. In addition to numerous on-field antics, Benny caused a ruckus in captivity and continued his disruptive ways forcing President Clifton Ganus to issue a “behave or barbeque” act. Benny continued to act up and Ganus stayed true to his word.
“Benny became dangerous and would attack people if they got close,” Ganus said. “We told him that he was going to behave or barbecue. He didn’t behave so we sold him to different individuals. I bought one-fourth of him and put the quarter, cut up and packaged, in my freezer. It was very good lean meat, because Benny ate grain with our calves on the farm. Would like some more like it.”
It would seem as if all actual mascots have been a curse for Harding as there have been numerous other occasions of misbehavior, which is why Harding went without a mascot for much of the 21st century, but in 2010, “Buff the Bison” made his first appearance. Buff was introduced to Harding University on Sept. 4, 2010, as the Bisons took the field against Southern Arkansas University. The Bisons defeated SAU, shutting out the Muleriders 20-0. Since Buff’s arrival into First Security Stadium, the Bisons have won nine of their 16 home games, and more importantly, no bison has been devoured since then.