Ralphie Retires from CU

Ralphie running to retirement

Ralphie V, the University of Colorado’s live buffalo mascot for the better part of the last 12 seasons, has officially retired,” athletic director Rick George announced Tuesday.

Ralphie turned 13 in October and is in great health; she receives regular veterinarian check-ups. As the season progressed, she just wasn’t having the consistency she had displayed in prior years. With past Ralphies, as they aged, their speed typically decreased; with Ralphie V, she has been so excited to run that she was actually running too fast, which created safety concerns for her and her handlers. She also wasn’t consistently responding to cues from her handlers, and her temperament was such that she was held back from leading the team out for CU’s last two home games against USC and Stanford.

“Ralphie V has served the department and the university well,” George said. “She has been a very special buffalo and has truly been adored by many. We hope she lives for many years to come and look forward to finding her successor.”

Ralphie V will make her final appearance as a spectator at CU’s final home game against Washington on Nov. 23. She will not run but her career will be celebrated.

She will continue to live on her ranch – alongside a companion buffalo – under the program’s care as previous Ralphies have done. She will make public appearances on behalf of the university as other retired Ralphies have done while her eventual replacement is groomed for the 2020 season.

“Ralphie V had an outstanding career as the face and symbol of our great university and athletic department,” said John Graves, the Ralphie Program Manager since 2015 and one-time handler as a CU student. Graves has been around her since she was six months old and was one of the handlers for her first time leading the team out on to Folsom Field on Sept. 6, 2008.

“Ralphie V was our first Ralphie to serve in the age of social media,” Graves said. “Thanks to her, we were able to incorporate an educational aspect to the Ralphie Program and hundreds of thousands of fans were able to meet her and learn more about her and buffalo in general, while countless more learned via social media. As one of the biggest and fastest Ralphies, her love for running and power was showcased every home game during her career. It’s almost like she knew she was the queen of campus and she loved to show that fact off when she ran onto the field and at her public appearances.”

This is the 53rd season that a live buffalo has led the team out on the field, both at the start of games as well as before the start of the second half. In all, the five Ralphies have led the team out 296 times at Folsom Field, and 355 times overall including road games, conference championship games, neutral site contests and bowl games. There have been only 13 occasions during the program’s history when a Ralphie did not lead the team out at home. 

Ralphie V led the team a total of 76 times, appearing 65 times at home, on 10 occasions in Denver and at the 2016 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. She was held back from running five times, including the two times this season. The Buffaloes were 8-2 in Denver against Colorado State when she ran in front some of the biggest crowds during her tenure and retires with a 39-37 record overall.

Ralphie V retires as the second longest serving Ralphie. The original Ralphie ran at 78 games over 12 seasons, Ralphie II ran at 53 games in nine seasons, Ralphie III ran 73 times over 11 seasons, while Ralphie IV ran at 75 games in 10 seasons. IV was the last Ralphie to appear at a regular season road game, traveling to Georgia in 2006 where she was showcased with Uga, the school’s famous bulldog mascot.

As for her replacement who will be named Ralphie VI, Graves and athletics personnel have been preparing for some time and are currently in the process of identifying potential candidates that will be the next in line for CU’s nationally revered live buffalo, often ranked as the best live mascot in college football.

“It has truly been an honor to care for and work with Ralphie V the past 13 years,” Graves said. “Being able to see her and spend time with her each and every day is the best part of my job. She has such a fun and energetic personality, and while I will miss her leading the team onto the field, I still have the privilege of being able to spend time with her every day at her ranch.

“I also want to thank the 78 Ralphie Handlers who worked with and cared for Ralphie V during her career,” he continued. “The dedication and commitment of these students to Ralphie V was immensely important to the Ralphie Program.”

A lesser-known fact about the Ralphie Program is that it is 100 percent donor-funded and relies on the generosity of donors for the upkeep and care of CU’s most-beloved mascot. With an operating budget of more than $60,000 annually and the retirement of Ralphie V, the financial needs of the program will increase exponentially as we continue to provide for her care and train her successor. In recognition and celebration of Ralphie V, those who would like to donate to the Ralphie Program can donate through this link: https://cubuffclub.com/.

“Thank you to all the fans across the country who love Ralphie as much as we do,” Graves added. “And thank you to everyone who has supported the Ralphie Program in the past and continues to do so.”

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