Sparky’s prank may cost ASU $120,000

An Arizona State University mascot’s hijinks could wind up costing the university more than $100,000.

Tempe Councilman David Schapira has filed a claim against ASU over injuries he sustained during the halftime ceremony at the football game against the University of New Mexico on September 18.

While Schapira stood with other city officials on the sidelines of Sun Devil Stadium as part of City of Tempe night, ASU’s Sparky snuck up and jumped on the 6’5″ councilman’s back.

Unknown to the mascot, Schapira hadn’t fully recovered from a major back operation in July.

“A moment after he landed squarely on my back, I felt a pop in my lower back,” Schapira wrote in his claim. “I tried to push Sparky off as my wife and others yelled to him to get off, but I needed the assistance of another Council Member, Joel Navarro, to get him off my back.”

Schapira then staggered over to fence and asked an ASU security guard for a chair, according to the claim. Schapira said the guard denied the request.

“I then sat down and eventually laid down on the ground as I could feel muscles in my back start to spasm,” wrote Schapira, who continues to walk with a cane.

He was eventually taken by ambulance to a hospital where he spent the next four days.

Schapira, who is an assistant superintendent at the East Valley Institute of Technology, said he missed 10 days of work because of the injury.

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His doctor estimates the muscle tear he suffered will take up to six months to fully heal, Schapira said.

The councilman is seeking $96,146 in total damages for himself and an additional $27,000 to reimburse the City of Tempe for what it has been billed as a result of the incident.

Schapira said he didn’t want the claim to be construed as groundwork for a future lawsuit against the university.


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“There has been no contention behind the scenes whatsoever. They’ve been extremely helpful,” Schapira said, who has kept in contact with ASU officials since the injury.

But state law requires a person file a formal claim if they seek payment, Schapira said.

“My hope is this (claim) should be it,” Schapira said.

An ASU spokesman responded to The Republic with an e-mail restating the university’s desire to help Schapira.

“ASU sincerely apologizes for the incident at the Sept. 18 game,” the spokesman wrote. “We have offered our fullest assistance and cooperation in getting the Councilman’s bills paid, and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

Kaila White contributed to this report.

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