MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - TOM III, the beloved Bengal Tiger mascot for the University of Memphis, died Friday less than three weeks after his 12th birthday.
University officials say TOM III was euthanized at his compound Friday morning after being ill this past week. He will be taken to the Memphis Zoo for an autopsy.
TOM III’s last game attended came as the Memphis Tigers defeated Cincinnati in a 29-24 victory in the 2019 American Athletic Conference Championship at the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 7.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of TOM III,” said UofM President M. David Rudd. “He was a majestic animal who brought so much joy to all of Tiger Nation. TOM III had some of the absolute best care, and I want to thank all of the people, especially the Highland Hundred, who have supported TOM III as well as the original TOM and TOM II for nearly 50 years. The TOMs have truly been wonderful ambassadors for the University of Memphis and will be dearly missed.”
Right after TOM II died on Oct. 15, 2008, the Tiger Guard began the search for a new tiger to serve as TOM III.
After an unexpected pregnancy at the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue & Educational Center in Rock Springs, Wisconsin, founders Jeff Kozlowski and Jenny Meyer offered to donate one of their young tigers to serve as TOM III.
TOM III was introduced on Nov. 17, 2008 at a press conference. On Nov. 22, 2008, the Highland Hundred Tiger Guard officially presented him to the University during a football game against UCF.
During TOM III’s reign, the Tigers football team has been to a school-record six consecutive bowl games and seven overall, including its first New Year’s Six bowl in the 84th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
If you would like to donate, click here and enter “TOM III” in the Specify Fund donation box, which will help support Tiger Football in TOM’s memory.