UAB athletic director Mark Ingram has helped revamp the athletic department at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. After reinstating the football program and watching the energy and new support, the university began construction on a new downtown football stadium.
In order to wow the fans, Ingram had a unique idea that would add to the gameday experience.
Because of his history with live mascots, Ingram had wondered whether UAB — whose nickname is the Dragons — would be able to have a live Komodo dragon at its sporting events. On paper, it was a good idea and a good way to create some buzz.
The logistics, however, would have been virtually impossible and an all-out nightmare as he quickly found out.
“Funny story. I came here from Temple University and they are the Owls. And we partnered with a zoo in Philadelphia to get a live owl at our games. The owl’s name was Stella, and she was really stout and a beautiful animal, and fortunately well-trained. You could take your picture next to Stella, fans loved it, and we brought her to football and basketball games and she just sat on a perch with her handler. It was really a neat deal,” Ingram told al.com.
“So, I thought the same thing coming here. How cool would it be to get a komodo dragon? As luck would have it, within my first couple of weeks, someone from the Birmingham Zoo was here for a meeting. Introduced, and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you’re here. I’ve got this idea I want to share with you. What do you think having a komodo dragon?”’
The zookeeper gave Ingram a weird look and informed him that the animal is more like an alligator and not a large iguana. Understandably, having a live, meat-eating carnivore next to your fans could lead to trouble.
And while Ingram briefly thought they could just keep the Komodo dragon in a cage, he quickly learned just how dangerous that would be as well.
“They said, ‘They spit at their prey and the spit causes paralyses. So, you know, they can go and eat it.’ I said, ‘So this is a bad idea is what you’re saying?’
“Children getting spit on and paralyzed, and eaten, potentially, by the komodo dragon. I thought it seemed like a great idea, but apparently it’s not as good of an idea as I once thought.”
That’s a little aggressive.
We can all be glad that logic and reason won out in the end because no one wants the PR nightmare of having a child paralyzed by Komodo dragon spit and then getting eaten at one of your sporting events.
You can read more of Ingram’s comments about progress on the stadium and UAB athletic department on al.com.