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RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Utah State benched its mascot for Saturday night's championship game between the Aggies and Nevada a day after "Big Blue" the bull and New Mexico State's "Pistol Pete" got physical with each other near the end of a semifinal matchup in the Western Athletic Conference basketball tourney.
During a timeout with 7 seconds left and NMSU leading Utah State 70-69, Big Blue confronted the cowboy mascot and ripped off his fake mustache after a man wearing a Nevada shirt at the game offered $100 to the student in the costume modeled after Paul Bunyan's Blue Ox if he would do so.
The cowboy then chased the bull to half court, jumped on his back and tried unsuccessfully to pull him to the floor. He then started to try to choke his rival before retreating to his end of the court. Moments later, Utah State's Tyler Newbold hit a 15-foot shot with 3.1 seconds remaining to defeat NMSU 71-70.
Utah State said in a statement Saturday that the university apologized to NMSU officials following the incident. The school said the $100 Big Blue accepted for the evil deed will be donated to Kids Kottage, a shelter for abused and neglected children in Reno.
The man confirmed to The Associated Press Friday night that he did in fact pay the mascot the $100, but declined to provide his name. He said he did not expect the NMSU mascot to respond the way he did.
"This is an unfortunate situation and a real learning experience for the entire (Utah State) Spirit Squad said Tiffany Evans, director of Student Involvement and Leadership Center at the school based in Logan. "We hold our spirit squad to the highest standards as official representatives of our institution."
The school did not provide the name of the student who serves as the mascot.
WAC Commissioner Karl Benson watched the game Friday night but said he did not see the incident. He said in a statement Saturday night the league "appreciates what Utah State has done to deal with this matter in a swift manner."
"The WAC will continue to enforce and uphold its sportsmanship policies," he said.
Tiffany Franklin, a spokeswoman for New Mexico State's athletic department, said from Las Cruces, N.M., on Saturday she would try to contact officials at NMSU to see if they had any comment.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)