University's lion mascot out like a lamb after DUI

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Friday, December 5, 2008

James Sheep as Penn State's Nittany Lion mascot.
Image: Ben Stanfield.

Another member of the Pennsylvania State University's cheerleading squad will step in to play the Nittany Lion at the 2009 Rose Bowl, after the main performer was suspended after being charged with DUI and summary traffic violations late last month. Penn State is the largest university in Pennsylvania and among the ten largest public universities in the United States.

Pennsylvanian James Sheep was charged with driving under the influence on November 22. Cheerleading coach Curt White told the Associated Press that Sheep will return later in 2009. The duration of the suspension was not mentioned.

Sheep was pulled over on campus at 3:16 am November 22, before Penn's game versus Michigan State. He registered a .164 blood alcohol level. Penn State won the game 49-18.

Sheep has avoided interview requests by The Daily Collegian, Penn State's newspaper, on multiple occasions.

In a statement, White commented: "James has been a very enthusiastic and hard-working Nittany Lion, but we are disappointed that his recent actions did not represent the high standards of this position. We are planning to have James resume his duties in the new year and are confident that he will represent Penn State Athletics and the University with a high level of energy, dedication and respect."

The Pennsylvania State University website lists Sheep on their website as the Lion from 2007-2008, conflicting with coach White's comment that he would return in the new year.

The mascot was introduced in 1907, brought in as a costume character in 1921, and is even the subject of the book The Nittany Lion: An Illustrated Tale. While most American university mascots change in appearance over the decades, the Nittany Lion remains essentially the same design as it has for generations.

Some earlier reports suggested that "46 current or former Penn State [football] players have been charged with crimes on 163 counts in the past six seasons." Of those players charged, 27 were found guilty of at least one charge.