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Michigan State boots Sparty from parades over heat concerns

Payne Lubbers
The Detroit News
Michigan State University's Sparty mascot will no longer participate in parades after university officials raised concerns about student safety.

Muscle and Fitness Magazine's "Buffest Mascot" might be too much in hot weather, so Michigan State University has canceled Sparty's parade appearances because of overheating concerns with students wearing the costume.   

“Participating in parades increases the risk of heat stroke and health-related concerns, regardless of temperature and duration,” said MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant in an email. “It is our responsibility to ensure the safety of Sparty and his team.”

While no incident sparked the decision, feedback from students and the university’s concern for student safety produced the policy change, Guerrant said.

"In the past, hot or extreme weather was always a factor and written into the contract as a condition that Sparty may not be able to participate after all," she said.

The MSU Alumni Office decided on the new policy on May 1, Guerrant said.

Sparty will continue to participate in other events, barring risks to student health, Guerrant said.

The current Sparty costume, introduced in 1989, consists of a bodysuit made to look like a Spartan warrior in full body armor. The previous costume consisted of a 6-foot-tall papier-mâché Spartan head that weighed more than 60 pounds.

The alumni association oversees the Sparty Mascot Program. Interested students can apply for tryouts in the fall of each academic year.

Application requirements on the alumni association website include a copy of a health record or physical examination report and proof of health insurance. The tryouts page does not list any associated risks with the mascot program.

In addition to promoting university sporting events, the alumni association offers Sparty appearances for non-university events such as wedding receptions, birthday parties and alumni events.