This year marks the Masked Rider program's 50th anniversary as a tradition at Texas Tech. Texas Tech will celebrate a tradition that has its roots in a bit of mischief from nearly 70 years ago.
In a 1936 game against TCU, two students, George Tate and Saddle Tramps founder Arch Lamb, cooked up the idea of having a horse and rider mascot on the field to fire up the team; an idea which could have got them kicked out of school because it was unconventional and risky. George Tate made that first ride on a "borrowed" Texas Tech owned Palomino, and the game ended in a 7-0 victory for Texas.
"We were happy as we could be about it, but we were scared because they'd got the horse out without permission. You know, the faculty, everyone knew what horse that was, but no one ever said a word about it," said Lamb.
The horse and rider made sporadic appearances until World War II. The Red Raider rider was forgotten until January 1, 1954, when Joe Kirk Fulton made a stunning appearance at the Gator Bowl, as the first sanctioned Masked Rider.
"I agreed to do it, I did do it, it was a lot of fun, the fans seemed to like it. And when I did it the first time, I had no idea it would become the tradition it did," said Fulton.
The 50 years of tradition has only become more exciting with time. Stacy Stockard will represent the program during its anniversary as the 2004-2005 Masked Rider.
"This is a very exciting year for the program. Everybody's excited about the reunion and the celebration, especially the parade and all of our half time performances and having all the masked riders come back," said Stockard.
And Stacy knows that this is the experience of a lifetime.
"The Masked Rider was probably the first Tech figure I cam in contact with. Ever since then, I always knew I wanted to try out for Masked Rider," said Stockard.
While other universities have horse and rider mascots, Texas Tech is one of the only universities that has a student rider. The masker rider makes well over 100 appearances in a year, and averages more than 1200 miles of travel, all while going to class and keeping up those grades.