Every semester during finals week, students at the University of Maryland, College Park place "offerings" around a 1,000-pound bronze statute of Testudo, the campus' mascot, for good luck.
Sometime after midnight Wednesday, Testudo was ablaze after those offerings caught fire, according to several witnesses who expressed their shock on social media.
Campus police have ruled the cause of the fire to be accidental after initially saying "malicious intent" had not been ruled out.
However, UMCP president Wallace Loh said on Twitter that Testudo was not harmed in the incident.
"I am happy to report that there was no damage to Testudo in front of McKeldin. Testudo is ready to continue supporting our #UMD community!" he wrote.
Campus police found the fire already extinguished when they arrived at around 1 a.m. No one was injured in the fire, and facilities management staff cleaned up the mess, police said.
Testudo, cast in 1933, has been the victim of pranks in the past, according to UMCP's history of the statue.
"At first, Testudo had his perch in front of Ritchie Coliseum. Unfortunately, this relatively open spot soon became the scene of multiple crimes against the unguarded mascot, including painting, defacing the pedestal, and kidnapping. In 1947, when Testudo was captured by Johns Hopkins students, many Maryland students rushed to Baltimore and laid siege the building where the mascot was held. Even though 200 police were called to control the riot, the 'siege' quickly turned into a party," the official account goes.
"Soon after, Testudo was again snatched from his perch. Two years later, [former football coach Dr. H. Curley] Byrd, now president of the University, received a call from a University of Virginia fraternity telling him to please get Testudo off their lawn."
Testudo was filled with 700 pounds of cement and moved to Byrd Stadium, though vandalism by Hopkins students allegedly continued. He was eventually moved to the front of McKeldin Library when it was built in the 1960s.
Besides leaving offerings, students rub Testudo's nose for good luck, especially around finals week.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun