With college football season starting up, we thought it might be interesting to take a look back at a few colleges who have changed their nicknames or mascots. Here are a few squads that have changed mascots, either because of controversy or the emergence of a better alternative.
1. Dartmouth College
The Ivy League school abandoned its unofficial Indian mascot in the 1970s in favor of going by the longtime nickname “the Big Green.” Students missed having a real mascot, though, so in 2003 members of the humor magazine Dartmouth Jack-o-Lantern created a new one: Keggy the Keg. As you might imagine, he’s an anthropomorphic beer keg.
2. University of Evansville
Until the 1924-25 basketball season, the University of Evansville’s teams went by the bland nickname “the Pioneers.” During a game in which Evansville routed Louisville, though, the Cardinals’ coach remarked to the Pioneers that “You didn’t have four aces up your sleeve, you had five!” A sports editor at the Evansville Courier heard the story and thought it was so funny he started referring to the school’s teams by their current nickname, the Purple Aces.
3. Carthage College
Like St. John’s and UMass, the small Wisconsin liberal arts school used to be known as “the Redmen.” But while St. John’s became the Red Storm in 1994 and UMass has been the Minutemen since 1972, Carthage got creative to avoid offending Native Americans while still paying homage to the school’s red jerseys. The teams went from being the Redmen to the Red Men while removing any Native American imagery from their logo, and the NCAA gave the revamped name the thumbs-up.
4. Miami University
Ben Roethlisberger’s alma mater went by the nickname “the Redskins” until 1997, when the school switched to the RedHawks for obvious reasons.
5. University of Hawaii at Manoa
Until 2000 all of Hawaii’s teams were known as the Rainbow Warriors, but not all athletes loved being affiliated with the rainbow. Athletic Director Hugh Yoshida said, “It’s part of the gay community, their flags and so forth. Some of the student athletes had some feelings in regard to that.”
In response to these homophobic “feelings,” the school revamped its logo into a rainbow-less block letter “H” and let each team select its own mascot. As a result, the football team is now just the “Warriors,” while the basketball team is the “Rainbow Warriors” and the apparently progressive baseball team is simply the “Rainbows.”
6. Eastern Washington University
In 1973 the student body decided that its mascot, the Savages, had to go. Since then the school’s teams have been known as the Eagles.
7. St. Bonaventure University
Prior to 1979, St. Bonaventure’s men’s teams were known as the Brown Indians. Believe it or not, that wasn’t even the most offensive name on campus; the women’s squads went by “the Brown Squaws” until 1979. In 2001 one former female athlete at St. Bonaventure told Indian Country Today, “[A] Seneca chief and clan mothers came over from the reservation and asked us to stop using the name because it meant ‘vagina.’ We almost died of embarrassment.” Since then the teams have been known as the Bonnies.
8. Elon University
Until 1999 the North Carolina school’s teams went by the less-than-intimidating moniker “the Fighting Christians.” However, as the school started to transition to Division I competition it needed a new mascot, which ended up being the Phoenix.
9. Stanford University
The Pac-10 power’s teams were known as the Indians until 1972, when the school dropped the nickname in favor of the Cardinals. The new nickname was supposed to refer to the school’s red color rather than the bird, but the plural form threw people off. Thus, in 1981 the school changed its nickname again, this time to the singular Cardinal.
10. Wright State University
Sometimes a school’s nickname stays the same while the mascot changes. The Wright State Raiders rallied behind Rowdy Raider, a red-bearded Viking from 1986 to 1997, when the pillaging sailor found himself replaced by a wolf. The school’s teams still call themselves the Raiders, though.
11. The College of William & Mary
William & Mary was another school that called its teams the Indians until the 1990s, when it changed to the Tribe. The nickname placated the NCAA, but the team’s new logo, a “W” and an “M” adorned with two tribal feathers, seemed to still suggest a Native American element. NCAA regulation eventually forced the school to drop the feathers, but the Tribe nickname remains.
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