Ralphie VI Set To Debut This Friday Night
BOULDER — The University of Colorado has anointed its newest live Buffalo mascot – Ralphie VI – and she is set to make her debut this Friday night at the Buffaloes' season opener against Northern Colorado, Ralphie Program Manager Taylor Stratton announced Wednesday.
The newest Ralphie is a shade over 15 months old, as she was born on May 27, 2020 on a ranch in western Nebraska. An orphan rejected by her mother at birth, she was adopted and raised in part by a beef cow. She now tips the scales at just under 500 pounds; the previous quintet of buffalo mascots eventually weighed around 1,300 pounds, but it is hard to predict just how big VI will grow.
Ralphie V was retired after the 2019 season after serving the university for 12 years, matching the tenures of both Ralphies I and IV. She is in good health and is enjoying "retirement."
Stratton was the assistant coach and took over the Ralphie program on April 1, 2020; she was involved from the get-go with former head coach John Graves to identify a new mascot. The search for her successor started immediately, but the process was put on hold and then delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The newest Ralphie was donated to the program in November 2020, and after months of training, evaluation and getting to know the fast-growing calf, Stratton felt confident over the course of this past summer that she had secured the candidate for VI.
"I couldn't be more excited to introduce Ralphie VI this Friday night," athletic director Rick George said. "This will be a really special moment in our Ralphie history as Ralphie VI makes her first appearance to open our 2021 season. Colorado football is synonymous with Ralphie and I'm ecstatic to continue this tradition with Ralphie VI as the best tradition in college athletics."
"We're very excited for the opportunity to continue the Ralphie live mascot program," Stratton said. "We understand how much Ralphie means to everyone in Buff Nation. Throughout the entire process, we have always prioritized the care and safety of the buffalo and her handlers above all else.
"All of Ralphie's training is completed with positive reinforcement, and ultimately the decision on whether or not she runs will always depend on her safety and that of her handlers."
The Backstory of Finding VI
On his ranch just north of Chadron, Neb., Will Isham has been in the buffalo business for the last 20 years. As a CU Boulder graduate (Finance '80), he has always had a love for these majestic animals. His daughter Drew followed in her father's footsteps and also attended CU (Communication '13). After graduation, her close friend and sorority sister Sara Abdulla, began working with CU's Alumni Association (program manager of student outreach). Drew started attending more alumni events and over time, became friends with Sara's colleague, Taylor Marie Stratton, who started working with the organization in 2017.
Stratton left the alumni office when she was named as the manager of CU's Ralphie Live Mascot Program. After it was decided for Ralphie V to retire and the need for a new Ralphie arose, she remembered the young woman from all those alumni gatherings who grew up on a bison ranch and gave her a call. Nine months ago, the Isham family formally donated a bison heifer calf to CU and hope to remain a part of the program for years to come.
While the ranch may be in northwestern Nebraska, the Ishams are truly CU through-and-through. Five members of the Isham family have attended the university: in addition to Will and Drew, Michael Burns ('67), Glory Isham Burns ('75 and a board member of CU's prestigious Leeds School of Business) and most recently, Jay Braddock Voss (Graduate School of Banking '15).
Taylor Stratton succeeded John Graves as the program's director on April 1, 2020. A 2013 CU graduate, she lettered three years as a handler and represented the program on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Growing up in Southern Colorado on her family's multi-generational working ranch, she was always around horses and livestock so it was natural for her to become involved in the program. She was the assistant coach for four years before being promoted.
The assistant coach is Colton Behr, himself also a four year letterwinner as a handler. He was the rookie of the year for 2015, was twice named the recipient of the Tough Buff Award for strength and conditioning prowess, and as a senior, was presented with the Heart of the Buffalo Award. Then there are 16 handlers in all – 12 men, four women – all current CU students, including four first-year members, all of whom also help care for Ralphie year-round,
The five previous Ralphies, dating back to her first appearance on Sept. 16, 1967, have led the Buffaloes on to the field for 355 games (not including spring games or scrimmages). Those break down into 296 home games, 24 bowl games, 19 Rocky Mountain Showdowns in Denver, 12 regular season road games and four Big 12 Championship games.
- Ralphie I ran the most times (78), with V next (76), followed by IV (75) and III (73); Ralphie II had the shortest tenure – 53 games -- but passed away early in the 1987 season. The original Ralphie performed six times at away games and in seven bowls for the most outside the state of Colorado (13); III appeared at the most bowl games (8, including CU's two Orange Bowl national championship games).
- The Ralphie Live Mascot program is completely funded through private donations; those interested in supporting the program, please visit https://cubuffclub.com/RALPHIEVI.
Karl Dorrell is in his second year as Colorado head coach; named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2020, he led the Buffs to a 4-2 record in the season that was abbreviated due to the pandemic. Northern Colorado and all Big Sky Conference teams opted out of the entire 2020 season, thus the Bears' new head coach, former Denver Bronco Ed McCaffrey, will make his college coaching debut against the Buffs.
Kickoff is set for shortly after 7 p.m. Friday (Sept. 3), and the game will be nationally televised on the Pac-12 Networks. Plenty of tickets remain available for the contest; fans have a chance to observe a special moment in CU history as only five other games showcased the very first appearance of a new Ralphie. BUY TICKETS HERE!