It's the fall of 1987 at the University of South Dakota. The DakotaDome is buzzing with USD football fans dressed in red and ready to see their team win yet again; Coyote football was ranked second the previous year in the Division II level. Junior David Hanna is suited up in the Charlie Coyote costume for his first football game as mascot. The cheerleaders are in their positions, the football team is under the bleachers prepared to run out, and a ramp, made by Hanna for his entrance, is waiting for him. Hanna practiced his stunt earlier in the day, but only while wearing the Charlie head. He mounts his bicycle and pedals toward the ramp. The hope is to fly off the ramp through a paper "U" he created with the cheerleaders. As he starts his ascent, the front tire swerves off the side of the ramp, launching him over the handlebars and through the paper. The stunt resulted in some bumps and bruises, but Hanna only has fond memories as he recounts his years as mascot at USD.
“If someone would pay me, I would keep doing it. It was way too much fun,” Hanna said.
Hanna earned his accounting degree in 1989 from USD and returned for graduate school. He currently lives in Rapid City and now works at Paystubz, a Human Capital Management systems company he started in 2008. Hanna was raised in Parkston, SD, and according to him, has always bled red. His father attended USD so Hanna was quickly immersed in the Coyote experience by attending sporting events as a child. He recalls at one of these games, he tugged on Charlie Coyote’s tail and loved the mascot’s reaction to this. This sparked his interest in someday pursuing the mascot role.
During his sophomore year at USD, he was a resident advisor at Julian Hall, but realized he wanted to do more while at school. In the spring of 1987, he tried out for the coveted role of Charlie Coyote. The tryout consisted of acting out game day mock situations; he claims his audition was horrendous. Hanna spent the next day calling the cheerleading advisor every hour to see if she had decided who would get the role. When he called one last time at 5 p.m., she told him he could do it. He later found out she had been attempting to call another hopeful Charlie Coyote that day, but he didn’t answer.
“I effectively annoyed my way into being Charlie Coyote,” Hanna laughed.
Despite the rough tryout, Hanna excelled as Charlie Coyote. In 1987, he competed in a mascot competition and placed 16th among all Division I, II, and III mascots. He was “the” Charlie Coyote his junior and senior years, and half of his first year of grad school, meaning he was at all sporting events, and other events that included photo ops. He decorated a trunk with USD bumper stickers and used that at sporting events. Inside were props, like a rubber chicken on a leash, and other goofy items he used to entertain the crowd. He didn’t have a car, so he rode his bicycle around Vermillion to get to events in the Charlie Coyote suit.
Hanna is now partnering with the USD Foundation to create an endowment for future students who will portray the mascot. His hope is to get former Charlie Coyotes on board to support the endowment as well. He feels college athletics have changed since he was mascot and hopes to see Charlie Coyote become revered for the excitement and vibrancy the role brings to games. He would like to reinvigorate some former Charlie traditions, if possible. He is excited to give back to USD by helping a student pay for college as they take time out of their schedule to be the USD mascot. He feels the notoriety would also increase interest in USD athletics and USD as a whole.
“We always want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We can leave this place better than we found it. Whatever you’re most passionate about, volunteer your time and or treasure. Whatever you believe in, stand behind it. You just have to be willing to step out of your skin and get after it.”
"We always want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We can leave this place better than we found it," Hanna said.