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Feature: Sparty by the Numb3rs

  • Author:
    Paula Davenport
  • Published:
    Winter 2015

            MSU's mascot first began to take form in 1955. But he’s enjoyed a few sartorial improvements since then. Most recently, crowd-funding campaign

            Dan DiMaggio directs the MSU Future Alumni Association, which oversees the Sparty Mascot Program. Janel Rutzen keeps Sparty’s social calendar.

Sparty Fun Facts:                                                     

25—Sparty’s age

6—Height in feet

10XL—Helmet size

22—Shoe Size

3--Number of times Sparty’s won Universal Cheer Association’s mascot competition

350—Average annual appearances

4—Number of fingers

Birthday: Sept. 16, 1989

Sparty Interview:

Paula: How does a big guy like you get around campus?

Sparty: My driver takes me places in my personalized golf cart.

P: How do you keep so fit?

S: I frequently practice with our cheerleading and dance teams.

P: Do you have a favorite exercise?

S: My specialty is one-arm pushups.

P: You’re always so fashion forward. How do manage that?

S: My recent wardrobe updates were made possible by online contributions from more than 324 fans.

P: Where do you like to hang out on campus?

S: In front of our two Spartan statues.

            The Sparty Mascot Program is organized by the Association of Future Alumni. For information on Sparty’s availability call Janel Rutzen at (517)432-0014 or send email to On the web:


One of my favorite moments in costume: (At a celebrity golf outing)...I decided to take a shot at the green (on a par 3). I lined up a shot and swung as best as I could, and while I was trying to see where it went, Tom Izzo turns to me and said "Holy shit, Sparty. You just hit the green."  --Michael Thompson, Sparty from 2007-09

My most memorable event was a visit to the DeVos Children's Hospital visiting terminal children. It was amazing to see the joy that we could bring to families and children in dire situations. One little boy in particular, mustered all the strength he could to raise his hand for a high-five. It brought me to tears in suit. --Jack Vigneron was Sparty from 2007-11

I had just done the President's Brunch in the Breslin Center and was heading back to the changing room before the game. A person comes up to me and asks if I would stop by a private party just down the hall...I nodded and walked into the room, where I discovered Mohammed Ali and his family relaxing before tipoff! While people were taking photos, the Champ leaned in and told me "You look good, but I'm prettier." Never will forget that. --Jack Dye was Sparty from 1999-01

SPARTY: Peek under the Helmet of the Tough, Tireless Mascot 

            He’s the three-time winner of the Universal Cheer Association’s national mascot competition. Twice, Muscle & Fitness called him its “Buffest Mascot.” He’s Sparty, MSU’s big green man on campus.

            A towering seven feet tall, Sparty evokes ancient Greek fighters. He’s decked out in body armor and ready for battle. His helmet, however, resembles those worn by ancient Roman warriors.

            Though tough on the outside, he’s a big softy at heart. His boundless energy, crowd-pleasing personality and love of the limelight may make him more recognizable than MSU’s Tom Izzo or Mark Dantonio, the respective basketball and football coaches.

            You’ve probably spotted him dancing and cheering on the sidelines at MSU athletic events. Perhaps he’s even posed with you for a photograph. Aside from hamming it up at all major MSU athletic events, he also spreads smiles and good will during regular visits to hospitals, daycare centers, schools, fairs, parades and alumni events—more than 300 appearances each year. And believe it or not, he’s appeared at hundreds of weddings and one funeral.

            Sparty’s so slammed with invitations that he’s been known to be in three places at the same time. Now that’s some Spartan magic, right there.

            The big guy debuted in 1955, courtesy of the Theta Xi fraternity. Back then, he was a primitive 60-pound, six-foot-high papier-mâché head that slipped over a sturdy set of shoulders. In 1984, the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity introduced the unshaven look of “Gruff” Sparty, still popular among many fans.

            The Association of Future Alumni, a student group, keeps the warrior up and running. The group led a $15,000 crowd-funding effort to get Sparty new body armor and epaulettes, revealed last fall.

            MSU co-eds try out for the coveted job of being Sparty each fall. Those chosen must agree to keep their identities secret for two years after graduation. Today, 54 Sparty Alumni are scattered across the country. This fall, an impressive 45 of them made it back to campus for their regular five-year reunion.

            The Sparty program, which is overseen by the MSU Alumni Association, runs completely on grants and donations. For more information on Sparty and his availability, contact Janel Rutzen at (517) 432-0014 or send email to