by Husky Enthusiast (@NoEscalators)
NoEscalators is one of the best UConn fan accounts on the internet and leads an incredible community of Connecticut fans on Twitter, even if the account claims to be "mad online."
Let's get this out of the way at the top: the Husky Slide was a bad idea and it has been rightfully banned for more than 25 years. But let’s say this too: the Husky Slide was great, and I miss it terribly.
Let me back up for anyone who is not a UConn fan over 30-years-old: It is the 1980s, or maybe the early 90s, and you’re watching a UConn game on TV. The broadcast comes back from the under 8-minute timeout in the second half with the camera on the baseline, low to the ground. Halfway across the court, a UConn student in a husky dog costume takes off in a dead sprint. The crowd noise swells as he hits halfcourt. He keeps picking up steam. When he gets to the top of the key he leaps. He goes prone. He’s flying. He’s soaring. He’s … well now he’s crashing. Hard. Onto the floor, and then sliding into the camera. Practically into your living room. That was the Husky Slide, and as I said, it’s banned now. Because of the crashing part. But you probably guessed that.
It’s not like the problem was hidden at the time. Here’s how UConn’s cheerleading coach described slide tryouts to the Hartford Courant in 1992:
“I look for height,” he said, “and distance from when they land.”
“And if they get up after it or not.”
He was not kidding. The article lists a litany of injuries caused by the slide: a dislocated shoulder that required a hospital trip, a neck cut by the head of the mascot costume, a knee injury requiring medication, and daily treatment. There were no soft landings.
But despite the bangs and bruises, the mascots kept sliding, because the Husky Slide was awesome. The crowd loved it. Try telling me you would not love watching a dog fly. Thousands and thousands of UConn fans did. Here’s a former mascot, again to the Courant in 1992:
“It’s just an incredible experience … The crowd is going wild; you get this rush of adrenalin. It always hurts, but it’s always worth it.”
So how did it get banned? Before we get to that, a short disclosure: this is not my first time writing about the Slide. A lifetime ago, as a student reporter, I wrote about its demise. Much to my–and everyone else’s–relief, my college reporting has been banished from the internet, so what follows is only as true as my memory (if I make a mistake, feel free to ask Homefield for a refund on this free newsletter).
Anyway, the ban: at some point in the early-to-mid ‘90s two friends donned the suit, and being in their early 20s, they decided to compete. Who could jump highest, float longest, and slide furthest? Could a man leap from the 3-point line and make it to the post? They were going to do their damndest to find out. And so, as the season progressed they ran faster and faster, jumped higher and higher (one of them swore to me there were photos of him floating above a spectator’s shoulders), and, yes, fell harder and harder.
But, like Icarus, our heroes in a dog suit flew too close to the sun.
But, like Icarus, our heroes in a dog suit flew too close to the sun. And not metaphorically. One day at practice (yes, they practiced), a new slider was being trained. There was a bad landing that resulted in a broken rib and pierced spleen, and then I imagine there was a quite short conversation between UConn’s administrators and lawyers. The Husky Slide was no more. The mascots tried to save it: were there other pads they could wear? What if they donned a catcher’s chest protector under the suit? But no. Of course not. No one was giving a thumbs up to a belly flop onto the hardwood. And through at least the late 2000s mascots were told that if they tried to slide it would be their last day in the suit. No one ever went rogue, as far as I know.
There is not really a moral to this: 30 years ago some college kids did something ill-advised, and, because it was 30 years ago, an arena full of people cheered them on every time they did. I suppose it is for the best that they stopped: I’m pro-spleen, for you and for me. But what is reminiscing for if not looking back fondly on ill-advised things that also happened to be cool as hell?
And now that the nostalgia is flowing, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch the 1990 Oscar winner for Best Short Film: “What I Like About UConn”.
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