Sept. 18, 2003
Ever wonder exactly how the Ram became the mascot of the University of Rhode Island? The origin of the mascot is believed to have involved the university's historic agriculture thrust when the institution was founded in 1892 as the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts under the Land Grant Act of 1862.
The Ram has been roaming the sidelines of the Rhode Island athletic teams for more than 80 years. On March 8, 1923, the Ram was adopted as Rhode Island State College's official mascot. On November 21, 1929, the first actual "live" Ram made an appearance for the school. Live mascots were actually housed on campus for many years until the 1960s when it was no longer feasible to maintain a live mascot. The live ram at the university was housed in what was known on campus as the "dairy barn" which stood across the street from the north end zone of Meade Stadium. The dairy barn that was once the home to the live ram is now nothing but a pile of dirt but at the time of housing the live mascot it was actually a very useful building. Between the dairy barn and East Farm, which would also occasionally be the home of the ram, agricultural students would use the cows and sheep kept there to produce milk that would later be sold and also served in the university's dining halls. These animals were mostly donated by local farmers and maintained by students.
During this era of college sports that included the use of live mascots for athletic teams there was also the friendly competition of actually stealing these live mascots the night before a big game. Rival teams at the time such as Brown and Connecticut would come to campus and take part in what was known as "ram napping," and in turn Rhode Island students would do the same with the rival's mascots. This practice of stealing your opponent's mascot was always done in good fun and would be returned the next day.
During the football games on the Rhode Island campus the live ram would be guided around the field by two agriculture students. One student would stand on each side and guide the ram by chains tied around its horns, which would be painted blue before the game. The ram was also used in some publicity pictures for the school and for the football team especially. The pictures would show a Rhode Island football player down on his hands and knees and in full uniform butting heads with the ram.
Since that time, the only season in which Rhode Island has had a live mascot on the sideline was 1974 and one has not been maintained since. However, the ram still roams the sidelines and represents the university's athletic teams in the form of a big student filled ram costume named "Rhody the Ram.