March Madness is nearing it’s apex. Sports news channels have been talking about some very strange team names. Most sports teams tend to take on names of powerful animals like the Wildcats or the Eagles. However, some schools have some of the weirdest mascots conceivable.
If you are a fan of college sports, you have more than likely found yourself at the local bar asking your buddies “why are they the…” or “who thought of calling them the…” It is sometimes even more amazing how thousands of people are proud to call themselves a (insert strange name here). Believe it or not, a lot of these wackier team mascots are rooted deep into their school’s history and even go back to when their states or even the country was first being formed. Of course, some creatures that have become famous team names are completely imaginary.
To compile a list of the craziest team names is not an easy feat. There are so many hilarious ones that had to be left off the list. If you find these amazing, it is highly suggested to try to find some other good ones and figure out how those names came to be adopted as team mascots. If nothing else, it will be a good way to burn some time at work.
10. South Carolina Gamecocks
Despite common belief, the name “Gamecocks” does not refer to fighting chickens. Originally, the University of South Carolina’s sports teams were known as the Fighting Gamecocks, however the beginning adjective was dropped because of complaints of promoting animal blood sports. The name comes from a Revolutionary War hero named Thomas Sutter. His bravery in battle earned him the nickname “The Carolina Gamecock”. Traditionally, the women’s teams were called the Lady Gamecocks. This has also been changed in order to steer the school’s athletic department away from gender biases.
9. Penn State Nittany Lions
A Nittany Lion is not a real animal. In 1907, Penn State senior Joe Mason went on a trip to other colleges around the area. He noticed all the schools’ athletic teams had some sort of mascot. He became embarrassed that Penn State did not. He decided to make up his own creature, the Nittany Lion. Mount Nittany is located just outside of the Penn State campus and is a popular tourist destination for many of the students. During the 1880s, mountain lions lived in the area surrounding Mount Nittany. However, there is no specific breed of large cat known as a Nittany Lion. Today there are no more mountain lions in the area. The idea of naming the school’s sports team after a made up animal gained acceptance after Mason claimed a Nittany Lion would easily be able to defeat a Bengal Tiger, the mascot for Princeton.
8. Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue is known for their academic excellence in the field of engineering. A boilermaker was a name for engineers during the 1890s. People would refer to anybody with an engineering degree as either a boilermaker or a blacksmith. The term was first used to describe the school in a Crawfordsville newspaper article titled Slaughter of Innocents: Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers of Purdue. It was believed at the time that Purdue was going up and down the Wabash River hiring railroad workers to play football for them. This is why their logo is a locomotive steam engine.
7. Manhattan College Jaspers
The Manhattan College Jaspers definitely have one of the more strange team names. The women’s sports teams are referred to as the Lady Jaspers, which is even weirder. However, the history behind the name is probably one of the most interesting in all of college sports. Manhattan College was founded by the Christian Brothers, a group of Catholic monks dedicated to education. Brother Jasper was a monk who worked at the school. According to the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame, he is responsible for creating the seventh inning stretch. One very hot day, Manhattan College was playing a very close game against the New York Metropolitans. At this time, the Mets were a semi-professional team and would play some games against colleges. Brother Jasper noticed the Manhattan College students in the stands were growing very restless during the middle of the seventh inning and called time out in order for the fans to stretch and grab some water. The team has no official mascot.
6. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the most famous schools in college athletics. A buckeye is the state tree of Ohio. It is also a term used in reference for people who are from the state. This Big Ten School adopted the Buckeye Tree as is its mascot in 1950.
5. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Prior to becoming the Cornhuskers, the University of Nebraska went through many different names and mascots. Team names include the Hawkeyes, Antelopes, Old Gold Knights, Bug Eaters, and the Mankilling Mastodons. The term Cornhusker first appeared in Nebraska’s school newspaper in reference to the University of Iowa. The 1893 article was titled We Have Met the Cornhuskers and They are Ours. A bit later Iowa adopted Nebraska’s mascot, the Hawkeye. Around this time, Nebraska began referring to themselves as the Cornhuskers. It became their official school mascot in 1900.
4. St. Louis University Billikens
Though the St. Louis University Billikens are members of the Atlantic-10 Conference, there is a lot of speculation they will soon be joining the Big East. A Billiken was a very popular charm to wear around the neck during the early 1900s. It was first used in relation to St. Louis University in a 1911 newspaper article that claimed the football team’s head coach, John R. Bender, looked like a Billiken. People began referring to the football team as “Bender’s Billikens”. The name stuck and was soon adopted as the school’s mascot.
3. Presbyterian College Blue Hose
Presbyterian College probably has the most interesting mascot of any school on this list. However, the story behind is also the least exciting. No, the school is not referring to a tool used to water one’s garden or wash a car. The name Blue Hose comes from the color socks the football team wore in the early 1900s.
2. Delaware Blue Hens
Unlike the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Delaware Blue Hens are a reference to chicken fighting. The Blue Hen is the state bird of Delaware because of a military regime during the Revolutionary War. In the early days of the United States, cock fighting was an extremely popular way to pass time. Blue hens were considered to be the best fighters. Capt. John Caldwell’s unit was stationed in the colony of Delaware during the war. His unit became known as “Caldwell’s Gamecocks” because of their extremely violent fighting prowess. The school adopted the mascot for the same reason. Today, the school’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resource continue to breeds thoroughbred blue hens.
1. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Do not lie; you know you love the name. The Minnesota Golden Gophers take their name from the state’s nickname from the 1800s. In 1857, a satirical newspaper comic portrayed three Minnesota politicians pulling a locomotive steam engine in response to a proposal for a railroad passing through the state. The railroad would end up costing tax payers an estimated $5 million, a very hefty sum of money at the time. The cartoonist decided to portray the politicians with gopher heads. The state then became The Gopher State. The school then adopted this animal as their mascot. It was not until the 1930s that they would become the Golden Gophers. A radio DJ for KSTP referred to the team as the Golden Gophers because their uniforms were entirely gold at the time. This addition to the name would quickly be adopted and is still with us to this very day.