TOM III, Memphis’ live Bengal tiger mascot, died on Friday in his private sanctuary, his longtime caretaker announced on Twitter.
TOM was fighting a rapidly progressing illness, his trainer said, and died about 48 hours following his initial exam after symptoms first showed up. He will be taken to the Memphis Zoo for an autopsy.
"TOM's loss is devastating to those who loved and cared for him. The list of people to thank for their support of the wonderful life TOM enjoyed is extensive, longer than can be listed now, but I am deeply indebted to each of them," Forman wrote, in part. "I must also thank Tiger Nation in general for all the love and support they have shown me over my two decades spent supporting the Tiger Project. TOM's memory and legacy will live on in the hearts of all Tiger Fans."
TOM III had attended 73 straight games
TOM III — which stands for Tigers Of Memphis — was the third tiger to work as a live mascot for the program. He was a gift to the program from the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue.
A live tiger had been the sideline mascot since 1972. The school will no longer use a Bengal tiger on the sidelines for football games following TOM III’s death.
TOM had attended 73 straight home games starting in 2008. TOM didn’t take the field for Memphis’ game against Arkansas State earlier this month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His last game was their win at the AAC Championship game last December.
"We are heartbroken with the passing of TOM III," athletic director Laird Veatch said in a statement. "I will never forget his presence at home games and all of the smiling faces he brought to so many people. I know TOM III received phenomenal care, and I want to thank everyone, especially Scott Forman. Scott and TOM III had an unbreakable bond. Special thanks to the Highland Hundred and our alumni who have completely provided for all three of our TOMs' needs for nearly 50 years. It is a sad day for all Memphis Tigers."
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