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In Loving Memory of TOM III: University of Memphis family mourns the loss of beloved mascot

In a packed Liberty Bowl Stadium, you could not miss seeing TOM III. With his orange coat, black stripes and an occasional roar, he not only could get the fans cheering but make the entire stadium erupt. 

University of Memphis fans are mourning the loss of TOM III, who died after being the team’s mascot for 12 years. After growing up to weigh over 600 pounds, he was thought to be a healthy tiger but died of a sudden and rapidly progressing illness that did not respond to treatment. 

His long-time caregiver, Scott Forman, said in a statement, “I was with him as he slipped away.” 

In a social media post, Forman added, “Those who know me well know TOM was my whole world, my only child, the passion of my life. Losing him is devastating…It was an honor and a great privilege to dedicate my life to TOM III. A part of me left with him.” 

TOM III could be spotted at home games in a soundproof, air-conditioned trailer, which was reengineered in 2007, at a cost of more than $40,000. The 3,500-pound trailer was made of steel and tempered glass and was able to support twice its own weight. It also had three 

redundant electrical systems to support environmental controls to keep TOM III safe and comfortable. 

TOM III was born on August 31, 2008, at the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Educational Center in Rock Springs, Wisconsin. The Bengal Tiger passed away shortly after his 12-year mark with the university, which began on September 18, 2012. He was housed and lovingly cared for by the Tiger Guard Committee. Although the University did not provide funds for the tiger’s needs, the Highland Hundred football booster club did their best to make sure TOM III was well taken care of. He lived in a spacious sanctuary and was lovingly cared for. 

To maintain a healthy size, the Bengal tiger would eat a beef diet that included calcium, taurine and other supplements. According to the Highland Hundred, the amount of food he ate daily was based on his body weight. TOM III was also monitored by a veterinary team to make sure he received proper nutrition. 

For over 35 years a Bengal tiger named TOM has been the university's mascot. The first TOM, which stands for Tigers of Memphis, was procured by the Highland Hundred in 1972. He went on to live for 20 years. TOM II was brought to the UofM in 1991 and was introduced in a ceremony at the Liberty Bowl Stadium on November 16, 1991. He went on to cheer for the Tigers for 17 years. TOM III was introduced at a press conference on November 17, 2008. 

Before the passing of TOM III, there were only two universities that were allowed to have a live tiger, the University of Memphis and LSU. The University has announced that TOM III will not be replaced with another live tiger. Forman has asked that fans honor TOM’s legacy by not making an issue of this decision by the University. 

“Please focus your passions elsewhere, rather than creating a controversy,” Forman said in a social media post.

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