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September 14, 2004

Nicknames Are Vital To A School’s Image

FROM THE VITALLY IMPORTANT TEAM NAME DEPARTMENT comes a feature from the NCAA News providing a light-hearted and comprehensive perspective of mascots, team names and another unique facet of American sports.

Quoting liberally from California University of Pennsylvania professor Roy Yarbrough, a thorough sweep of the range of names and mascots is provided.
Professor Yarbrough, author of the book, “Mascots: The History of Senior College and University Mascots / Nicknames,” appears to be the preeminent authority on the subject.

Indeed, much of the emphasis revolves around the historical roots of college names. For example, one of the oldest American universities, Princeton, saw its Tigers nickname adopted by several other schools as well.

Among the tidbits:

Most popular:

• Eagles (approximately 70 schools)

• Also Tigers, Cougars, Knights, Wildcats, Hawks, Panthers, Pioneers, Bears


• Hokies (Virginia Tech): a made-up word from a student contest winner. He selected it because “it sounded good.”

• Keydets (Virginia Military Institute): derived from the southern drawl pronunciation of “cadet.”

• Hoosiers (Indiana): supposedly derived from the question “Who is your family?”

Colors as nicknames:

• The Orange, formerly Orangemen (Syracuse), Red Storm, formerly Redmen (St. John’s-NY); Tulane Green Wave, Evansville Purple Aces, Central Connecticut Blue Devils, etc.

Odd nicknames:

• The Banana Slugs (U-Cal Santa Cruz)

• Billikins (St. Louis U.)

• Ephs (Williams College)

• Lord Jeffs (Amherst College)

• Zips (Akron)

• Wonder Boys (Arkansas Tech)

• Terrapins (Maryland)

• Anteaters (U-Cal Irvine)

• Etc.

Unmentioned in the article was the category of politically incorrect nicknames and mascots, usually associated with Native Americans, such as Indians, Chiefs, Red Raiders and Braves. Also unmentioned was the infamous mascot Chief Illiniweik of the University of Illinois.

There are other nicknames that are potentially incorrect politically:

• Notre Dame Fighting Irish (some Irish-Americans might be opposed to such a pugilistic portrayal of their ethnicity).

• Michigan Spartans (some Greek-Americans might be unhappy with the war-like portrayal of Spartans).

What’s in a name indeed.

More later . . .

(this 317 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary--was distilled from a 2531 word article from the NCAA News of 9-13-04)