ATHENS, Ga. — After less than two seasons as Georgia’s mascot, Uga VII died of heart-related causes Thursday.
The English bulldog took the reins as one of the nation’s most well-known mascots just last year. The death came as a surprise to Uga VII’s owner, Frank W. “Sonny” Seiler.
“We are all in a state of shock,” Seiler said in a statement released by the university. “We had no warning whatsoever.”
There will be no mascot present on the sidelines at Saturday’s final regular-season home game for Georgia, a rarity since the first Uga was officially introduced in 1956.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt was informed of the news Thursday afternoon and spoke with Seiler soon after.
“I was sad to hear about Uga VII,” Richt said. “You never think something like that can happen that quickly, and I’m sad we won’t have him on the sideline anymore.”
Uga VII presided over 23 games, with Georgia posting a record of 16-7 during that span — the fourth-best winning percentage the Bulldogs have had with any of the Uga mascots.
The dog was a popular figure among Georgia fans following his introduction in August 2008 prior to the Bulldogs’ home opener against Georgia Southern Universit. Richt said the line of fans waiting for their photos with the dog dwarfed the amount hoping for a snapshot with the Georgia coaches or players.
Uga VII was known for his more laid-back personality, rarely showing as much playfulness as his father, who gained a reputation for a mischievous personality.
Seiler said there are several options for Uga VIII but noted that no replacement would be made official until next year.
Georgia’s players were not made available for comment Thursday, but after news of Uga VII’s death, several players including Jeff Owens and Michael Moore expressed sadness and sympathy and posted photos of their time with the dog on their Facebook and Twitter pages.
“This is a very sad day for the Seiler family, but also for all Georgia people,” athletic director Damon Evans said. “Just as his ancestors, (Uga VII) had captured the hearts of college football fans everywhere as the country’s No. 1 mascot. He had been truly embraced by all those who follow the Georgia Bulldogs across the country.”
Uga I was born on Dec. 2, 1955, in Columbus. It was given to Cecelia Seiler by Frank Heard of Columbus.