ATHENS - Georgia is going to roll with Russ for awhile longer.
The search for a proper dog to become Uga IX recently hit another stoppage. So for the foreseeable future Russ, who has served as interim mascot off and on for nearly three years, will remain on duty.
"It's very simple," said Sonny Seiler, the Savannah lawyer whose family has provided the Uga mascot since 1956. "We had our eye on two puppies of the direct line. We watched them as they grew and we were gonna choose one of them. But we decided that neither one of them could mature into the type dog that we'd like."
Seiler said the hope is to pick a new Uga by the end of the season. But right now they don't have their eyes on any particular candidate.
"We're going about it very carefully," Seiler said. "We don't want to run any risk health-wise. It wasn't that these dogs (that weren't chosen) had any health issues. That wasn't it. It just didn't have the presence we felt the Uga should have."
Russ, on the other hand, does have that presence, according to Seiler. For instance, his skeletal structure is strong enough to hold up his weight. But he's eight years old, and the family wants to have a mascot in place for a long time.
"Boy he would have been a good one too. Well he is a good one. He's just too damn old. Like the guy you're talking to," Seiler said, with a laugh.
Seiler said he recently spoke with UGA president Michael Adams and athletics director Greg McGarity to inform them of the decision to wait on the new Uga.
The past three Uga mascot have suffered untimely deaths. The most recent, Uga VIII, or "Big Bad Bruce," was unveiled midway through the 2010 season. But he passed away with lymphoma the following February.
Since then Russ, who was interim mascot after Uga VII's passing in 2009, has served as the mascot at official functions. Russ' next duty will be UGA picture day on Saturday.
"He's so popular," Seiler said. "He's built up his own fan base. Can you believe that?"