Wildin’ Out: Fiesta and Cheez-It Bowl Head Coaches Discuss the Phoenix Zoo’s Primate Pick

Yes, you read that correctly – two Bornean orangutans from the Phoenix Zoo will be taking up Lee Corso’s mantle and choosing the winner of the 2019 Playstation Fiesta Bowl and the Cheez-It Bowl.

This actually isn’t that weird, given that orangutans are born with the ability to reason and think. They are one of humankind’s closest relatives, sharing nearly 97% of the same DNA. And over the years, the animals have about a .500 record when it comes to choosing correctly, according to the Zoo’s director of communications Linda Hardwick.

Jiwa, the Zoo’s five-year-old male orangutan is choosing the Cheez-It Bowl winner, and fourteen-year-old female, Rayma, is choosing the Fiesta Bowl winner. Jiwa suffered a bit of stage fright last year, but luckily his dad swooped in and grabbed both UCF and LSU jerseys, causing a bit of controversy over which jersey he touched first. This year, the rules are as follows:

Jiwa will go first and choose the winner of the Cheez-It Bowl. There will be two t-shirts in his habitat, one for each team. Whichever t-shirt he “interacts” with (more than a touch or brush-by) will be the winner.

Rayma enjoys putting on t-shirts. There will be two t-shirts in her habitat, one for each team. Whichever shirt she puts on first, will be the winner.  If she doesn’t end up putting on a shirt, it will be the one that she interacts with more and that will be determined by her keeper.

Hardwick says the Zoo toyed with the idea of several other creatures choosing the champion, but ultimately chose the cutest option.

“We tossed around the idea of having a hawk fly to a banner of the winning team and we also thought about having Huck, our resident hyena, choose,” explained Hardwick. “We decided upon using the Bornean orangutans since they are so amazing to watch, especially since Rayma has been known to actually put on a t-shirt from time to time!”

When asked about his confidence in the primate’s prowess, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had complete faith the orangutang would recognize a fellow jungle inhabitant.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day had his eyes on the prize – he wanted to know what the orangutang would get if it was right.

Meanwhile Washington State head coach Mike Leach, who takes on Air Force in the Cheez-It Bowl Friday night, thinks the pick will come down to animal instinct.

“If they don’t pick us, I guess my reaction will be ‘what do you expect, it’s an orangutan,'” laughed Leach.


The anticipation around this wild card pick was palpable at media day Thursday. But what Hardwick and the Fiesta Bowl committee love the most is how much the fans enjoy the event.

“It seems that LSU, Ohio State and Oregon have always had a big showing at the Zoo to cheer on the animal who is choosing the winner, as well as enjoy the Zoo while they are in town!” shared Hardwick. “We are also offering a discount to team fans who show up the Zoo wearing their teams’ gear with the logo, of the four teams in the local bowl games. Discount offer runs through January 1.”

So if you are in Arizona, make sure to embrace you inner Cougar, tap into your Tiger mentality, flaunt your Falcon pride or bust out your Buckeye gear and head to the Phoenix Zoo. And make sure to tune in at 1 pm (MST) to see the primates’ winning pick.

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