Welcome to Part 1 of my collection of distinctive and unusual mascots of United States college teams. This portion includes schools starting with the letter A through the letter E. New and updated information is denoted by animated images.
Akron Zips (OH) -- A shortened form of "Zippers," which was chosen as the winner from a 1925 student contest. The name was inspired by a brand name of rubber overshoes. It was officially shortened to "Zips" in 1950. The college selected Zippy the kangaroo 1953 as the representation of "Zips."
Alabama Crimson Tide (Tuscaloosa, AL) -- The name "Crimson Tide" is supposed to have first been used by Hugh Roberts, former sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald in describing an Alabama-Auburn game played in Birmingham in 1907. The "Thin Red Line" of Alabama played a great game on a very muddy field and held favored Auburn to a 6-6 tie, thus gaining the name "Crimson Tide." The story of how Alabama became associated with the elephant as a university symbol goes back to the 1930 season when Coach Wallace Wade had assembled a great football team. Sports writer Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal wrote a story about the Alabama varsity team's arrival on the field to play Mississippi: "... the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, 'Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,' and out stamped this Alabama varsity." Strupper and other writers referred to the Alabama line as "Red Elephants," and the elephant's link to Alabama was solidified.
Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks (Fairbanks, AK) -- The name comes from the Inupiaq for "polar bear," a large white bear of Arctic regions suitable to all conditions, especially cold climates, ice and snow. A "nanook" is a vicious, daring creature that commands dominance wherever it finds itself, according to the UAF website.
Albany Great Danes (NY) -- The Great Dane was first chosen by the student body in 1965 to replace “Pedwin,” a penguin fitted with glasses, a professor's hat, and a book. which had been the mascot of the New York State College for Teachers, the former name of the school. The current mascot is named Damien and was chosen for its qualities of strength, courage, speed and stamina.
Albion Britons (MI) -- "Albion" is the earliest known name for the island of Britain. It means "white land," likely for the white cliffs of southeastern Britain.
Alderson-Broaddus Battlers (Philippi, WV) -- The college is built on the site of the first land battle of Civil War between organized troops.
Alverno Inferno (Milwaukee, WI) -- This name was adopted when the athletic program was revived in 2000. Perhaps the fact that it rhymed with the school's name led to its adoption.
Amherst Mammoths (MA) -- This mascot was adopted after a 2017 vote of Amherst students, faculty, staff, and alums to replace "Lord Jeffs," which was derived from
town namesake Lord Jeffrey Amherst. The school's Beneski Museum of Natural History houses a skeleton of a Columbian mammoth discovered
by Amherst professor Frederick Brewster Loomis and brought to the College in 1925.
Anna Maria Amcats (Paxton, MA) -- This is an acronym of Anna Maria College Athletic Teams.
Arizona Christian Firestorm (Phoenix, AZ) -- This nickname was adopted in 2011, when the school changed its name from the
Southwestern College Eagles to Arizona Christian University. The name is symbolized by the mythical Phoenix to recognize the school's re-birth
as an institution and the re-birth of its students as Christians.
Arkansas Razorbacks (Fayetteville, AR) -- A "razorback" is a long-legged hog with a ridged back common in the southeastern United States. The teams are often dubbed the "Hogs." The mascot was inspired by former football coach Hugo Bezdek, who referred to his players as "a wild team of razorback hogs" in 1909-10.
Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils (Monticello, AR) -- The insect is notorious for destroying cotton crops in the South. The women's teams are known as "Cotton Blossoms."
Arkansas Tech Wonderboys (Russellville, AR) -- In the 1920s, the school's football team became a powerhouse. A local sportswriter dubbed the team "Wonderboys," which was later adopted by the school. The women's teams are known as the "Golden Suns."
Augsburg Auggies (Minneapolis, MN) -- The nickname is an extension of the school's name and has been used since the 1920s.
Austin Riverbats (TX) -- As the college puts it, "The 'River' component speaks to the many rivers that run throughout our region, and bats are synonymous
with Central Texas. They're intelligent and resourceful; bats also provide important services to the community and have the ability to
soar high, just like our students and graduates."
Austin Peay State Governors (Clarksville, TN) -- Tennessee Governor Austin Peay was a favorite son of Clarksville. He signed a law establishing Austin Peay Normal School on April 26, 1927.
Ave Maria Gyrenes (FL) -- A "Gyrene" is an old slang term for a U.S. Marine. The school is represented by a bulldog, the official mascot of the Corps.
Bennett Belles (Greensboro, NC) -- A term for women, particularly women from the southern United States. Bennett College is an all-women's college. Symbolized by a pair of bells.
Bethany Swedes (Lindsborg, KS) -- Located in Lindsborg, a.k.a. Little Sweden, USA. The community of Lindsborg was settled in 1869 by nearly one hundred Swedish immigrant pioneers.
Bethel Threshers (North Newton, KS) -- The farmworkers who remove grain from husks.
Bismarck State Mystics (Bismarck, ND) -- Symbolized by a wizard holding a crystal ball.
Blackfeet Piikani Thunder (Browning, MT) -- The Piikani Nation is one of the members of the Blackfoot Confederacy.
Boston Terriers (MA) -- During the 1917-18 academic year, students voted to make the Boston terrier the official school mascot. Ironically, the Boston terrier was first bred in 1869, the year Boston University was incorporated.
Brandeis Judges (Waltham, MA) -- Honors the school's namesake, the late Louis Brandeis, who served as a Justice on the United States Supreme Court.
Brigham Young-Hawaii Seasiders (Laie, HI) -- This name was adopted to reflect the school's location.
Brookdale Jersey Blues (Lincroft, NJ) -- Named for the Jersey Blues, the oldest uniformed militia regiment continually operating in the Western Hemisphere, founded in 1673 in Monmouth County.
California Golden Bears (Berkeley, CA) -- This mascot, the state symbol of California, was first used by Cal teams in 1895. The Cal track & field team took a blue banner emblazoned with the golden grizzly bear on a successful national tour. The song “The Golden Bear” was written soon after to commemorate the team's performance, and the mascot was adopted by all Cal teams soon thereafter. The costumed bear mascot is named "Oski," after the popular "Oski Wow-Wow" yell.
California-Irvine Anteaters (Irvine, CA) -- Two water polo players suggested an the anteater as an outrageous alternative to the bear that had been adopted by schools in the University of California system. The choice was inspired by an anteater character in the Johnny Hart cartoon "B.C."
Based on its "originality, uniqueness and relevance to UC" (the anteater is actually an antbear), the unusual beast won 56 percent of the vote in an election held in November 1965.
California Lutheran Kingsmen (Thousand Oaks, CA) -- This name was selected in 1961 to show that the students were "King's Men," in other words, children of Christ. The women's teams are called "Regals."
California Maritime Keelhaulers (Vallejo, CA) -- "Keelhauling" is the maritime punishment where an offender is dragged along the bottom, also known as the keel, of a ship. This name was adopted in 1973-74.
California-Santa Barbara Gauchos (Santa Barbara, CA) -- The University has used the Argentine cowboy as a macot since 1936 when, inspired by Douglas Fairbanks’s performance in the film "The Gaucho,"
the female student population led a vote to change the mascot from the original "Roadrunners."
California-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs (Santa Cruz, CA) -- The Banana Slug, a bright yellow, slimy, shell-less mollusk found in the campus's redwood forest, has been the mascot for UC Santa Cruz's coed teams since the university opened in 1965. The students' adoption of such a lowly creature for a team mascot was their reaction to the fierce athletic competition fostered at most American universities. Though the school's then-chancellor favored "Sea Lions" as the school's mascot and tried to have that name adopted, the students preferred the Banana Slug. The slug was officially adopted in 1986 after a student vote.
Campbell Camels (Buies Creek, NC) -- This name was adopted for the alliterative effect.
Canisius Golden Griffins (Buffalo, NY) -- The Griffin became the symbol for Canisius athletics in the mid-1930s. The Griffin is a mythical creature of supposed gigantic size that has the head, forelegs and wings of an eagle and the hindquarters, tail and ears of a lion. They are well known for their speed, ability to fly and having eyes like an eagle as well as the strength and courage of a lion.
Cape Cod Helmsmen (MA) -- A "Helmsman" is responsible for steering a ship.
Carnegie Mellon Tartans (Pittsburgh, PA) -- Refers to the patterns worn in kilts of clans of the Scottish Highlands.
Centenary Gentlemen (Shreveport, LA) -- The "Gentlemen" nickname was first established in the fall of 1921 by
then-Centenary President George Sexton, after the football team had been in a fight. Sexton sat the team down before the next game and told the
players, "...from now on, you will all act like Gentlemen." This name is shortened to "Gents" at times. The women's teams are "Ladies."
Central Dutch (Pella, IA) -- The town of Pella is noted for its Dutch heritage, including its architecture, its 1850s windmill, and its famed Tulip Festival.
Centre Praying Colonels (Danville, KY) -- This nickname stemmed from 1917, when football Coach Charlie Moran dispensed with his usual rip-roaring pre-game talk and asked players to pray prior to a 3-0 win over Kentucky.
Century Wood Ducks (White Bear Lake, MN) -- This name was adopted in 2000-01 to remember the family of wood ducks that used
to live on a campus pond.
Chaminade Silverswords (Honolulu, HI) -- Refers to the rare silversword plant, indigenous to Hawaii and found on Haleakala, a dormant volcano on the Island of Maui.
Chesapeake Skipjacks (Wye Mills, MD) -- A "skipjack" is a type of sailboat. Sometimes this name is shortened to "Jacks."
Cincinnati State Surge (OH) -- Represented by a bolt of lightning.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (Conway, SC) -- The Chanticleer was made famous in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. As the college puts it, "The Chanticleer is a
proud and fierce rooster who dominates the barnyard. For the best description of Chanticleer, we turn to Chaucer's words. 'For crowing there was not his equal in all the land. His
voice was merrier than the merry organ that plays in church, and his crowing from his resting place was more trustworthy than a clock. His comb was redder than fine coral and
turreted like a castle wall, his bill was black and shone like a jet, and his legs and toes were like azure. His nails were whiter than the lily and his feathers were like burnished gold.'
With all of his splendor and great looks, Chanticleer is also greatly feared and mightily respected by all." The name was selected in the 1960s to replace "Trojans" and give the school
a mascot related to then-parent institution University of South Carolina's Gamecock.
Coe Kohawks (Cedar Rapids, IA) -- The word "Kohawk" was derived from a local Indian language where "ko-" means "like" or "similar to." Since the University of Iowa Hawkeyes were nearby and commonly known as the "hawks," Coe College teams were called by the "like hawks" name, or "Kohawk." The fact that "Coe" and "ko-" are homonyms is a bonus.
Coffeyville Red Ravens (KS) -- Legend has it that Melvin Drake, a sports reporter for The Coffeyville Journal in 1925, called the football team the “Ravens” because they were so lean in their winnings. Later, Shorty Crone, Journal sports editor, said "the Ravens were red faced over their losses." There's another legend that the artist who created the logo colored the raven red, having never seen one before. In any case, the "Red Ravens" stuck.
Colby White Mules (Waterville, ME) -- This mascot was adopted in 1923, when Joseph Coburn Smith published an editorial in the school newspaper suggesting that the Colby football team be symbolized by a "white mule." They were to no longer appear as the "dark horse" of college athletics, since they so often upset predictions made by local sports writers. After reading the article, a group of students located a white mule on a farm and borrowed the animal for the Bates game on Armistice Day in 1923. The mule was placed at the head of the band and student body as they marched onto the field. Colby defeated Bates 9-6, and the win was enough to make Joe Smith's suggestion permanent.
College of the Atlantic Black Flies (Bar Harbor, ME) -- The college has an annual celebration of arrival of the black fly in the area.
Colorado Mines Orediggers (Golden, CO) -- A tribute to the school's historical focus on mining.
Colorado State-Pueblo ThunderWolves (Pueblo, CO) -- Selected in 1995. One athletic motto at this school is "Shake, Rattle and Howl!"
Columbia Claim Jumpers (Sonora, CA) -- A term for prospectors who intruded on another's claimed territory. The school is built on land that a miner had a valid claim on. The school was given the site in exchange for building the man a house because they jumped his claim.
Columbia Koalas (SC) -- Officially known as the "Fighting Koalas."
Concordia Cobbers (Moorhead, MN) -- The history on how this name originated is a little muddled. Some say that the term "Cobbers" to identify Concordia-Moorhead students
grew out of a taunt early in the 20th century. In the early 1900s the Concordia campus was, unlike today, not quite in the city of Moorhead.
Moorhead State University students, in obvious reference to the many fields of corn then surrounding the campus, apparently used to taunt Concordia students
as country hicks by calling them "Corncobbers," which was shortened to "Cobbers."
Cornell Big Red (Ithaca, NY) -- Cornell has no official mascot, but the color red and the bear have long been associated with the school.
Cuyahoga Challengers (Highland Hills, OH) -- The mascot was adopted in 1989 to reflect the belief that students and athletes at Cuyahoga would meet challenges of competition, in classroom, and in life.
Dartmouth Big Green (Hanover, NH) -- This nickname has never been officially adopted, but it has been attached to Dartmouth teams since the 1920s. The color itself has been associated with Dartmouth since 1866.
Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens (Newark, DE) -- Came from a Delaware Revolutionary War regiment that took its name from a favorite breed of gamecock. The blue hen is the state bird of Delaware. The mascot at this school is named "YoUDee."
Delta State Fighting Okra (Cleveland, MS) -- The teams are officially known as "Statesmen," or "Lady Statesmen," but the okra mascot is popular among the students. One story of how this hairy vegetable was adopted as a mascot begins in 1988, when a group of baseball players saw the Statesman mascot walk by and commented that the DSU mascot was not very intimidating. When going over options for a better idea, okra was suggested because it was green (a school color), Southern, and ugly. The baseball players began to chant "Okra, O-K-R-A," at basketball games along with "We're mean, we're green, we're the Okra Team!!" The idea took off after student newspaper reporters picked up on the idea and began to refer to the the DSU arena as the "Okra Dome." The mascot is a tough looking okra with a scowl on his face, boxing gloves and exaggerated shoes. I've heard another story that the mascot was inspired by a reserve quarterback and resident assistant (RA) in student housing who led the football team to a comeback victory in the 1970s. At the next game, signs were displayed stating "O.K., R.A." Opponents who didn't understand the signs asked what Okra had to do with football.
Earlham Hustling Quakers (Richmond, IN) -- They were once known as the Fighting Quakers, but the board of regents decided that it was inappropriate for Quakers to fight.
Eastern Arizona Gila Monsters (Thatcher, AZ) -- Represented by "Gila Hank the Gila Monster."
Edmonds Tritons (WA) -- In Greek mythology, Triton is a god of the sea, the son of Poseidon (Neptune); usually portrayed as having the head and trunk of a man and the tail of a fish.
Elmira Soaring Eagles (NY) -- Elmira has been called the "Soaring Capital of the World" for its manufacture of sailplanes.
El Paso Tejanos (TX) -- "Tejano" is Spanish for "Texan," and is used to describe a person of Hispanic descent born and living in the state of Texas. The women are known by the feminine form of the word, "Tejanas."
Emory & Henry Wasps (Emory, VA) -- Legend has it that upon seeing the school's blue and gold-striped baseball uniforms, a fan exclaimed, "Why, they look like a bunch of wasps!"
Erskine Flying Fleet (Due West, SC) -- The early Erskine teams were known as "Seceders," not because of the state of South Carolina's famous decision to secede from the Union, but
because the name acknowledged Erskine's relationship to the Associate "Seceder" Presbyterian Church in Scotland. In 1929, Coach Jake Todd's football team employed a wide-open
passing attack that led the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association in scoring. During that season, in a game at Furman, Todd's passing attack so impressed Greenville News
sportswriter Carter "Scoop" Latimer that he labeled Erskine teams "The Flying Fleet." The name struck a chord with the Erskine student body and that fall they voted to have the nickname replace "Seceders" as the team name.
Evansville Aces (IN) -- The school's nickname was acquired after an opposing coached cracked a joke after losing a game to Evansville. Dan Scism, the sportswriter credited with first using the name 'Aces' in headlines, said he did so at the suggestion of basketball coach John Harmon in 1926. "Prior to that the Aces had been called Pioneers," Scism said, "but Coach Harmon suggested I call them the Aces because he was told by Louisville's coach that he didn't have four aces up his sleeve, he had five!"
The Evergreen State Geoducks (Olympia, WA) -- Pronounced "gooey-duck," this mascot is a large clam found burrowed into the state's beaches. The school's
motto translated from Latin is "Let it all hang out."