How College Fan Gear, Coaches and Complaints influenced Team Mascots

Buzz, the mascot for Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Buzz, the mascot for Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets | Source

College nicknames and mascots can run the gambit from the natural to the questionable and how many of the schools made those decisions can make it difficult to remember these are institutions of higher learning. In some instances, it may be that the learning hadn’t gotten that high when the choices were made. In many however, the names and mascots came about through an obvious association.

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets for example, had several of their fans showing up at sporting events wearing yellow jackets. Apparently the fashion choice made an impression and the school adopted the fan gear Yellow Jacket name. Its mascot appears regularly in a bee costume.

The colors of maroon and gold may not inspire thoughts of eagles, unless you are rooting for one of the sports teams of the Boston College Eagles. This Catholic university was founded in 1863 and is one of 12 members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson University may have the only mascot in college sports that roots against the home team. As punishment for rooting against the Clemson Tigers, every time the football team scores, he has to do push-ups. The Tiger did a record 465 of them in 1981 when the school shellacked Wake Forest.

In Durham, North Carolina the Duke University Blue Devils may seem odd for a college in the Bible belt, originally called Trinity College. However, its sports teams took the moniker from the regiment of the French Army that gained fame during the First World War. Another college with a questionable nickname could be the Florida State University Seminoles. When some questioned the use of the tribal name for college sports, the Seminole Tribal Council gave its blessing to the school to use the name, as well as the head logo, with full support.

When it comes to mascots, the origins may not always appear to have been well thought out. Consider the University of Maryland Diamondbacks. It was the Maryland’s football coach, who had some experiences with the Diamondback Turtle, suggested the name and the turtle mascot came out of its shell.

The University of North Carolina Tar Heels simply adds to the confusion of college mascots, when it picked the Rameses, which is a big horn ram. The mascot does make sense when it is considered it took the name due to the 1922 star football player, Jack “The Battering Ram” Merritt. But the name Tar Heels refers to residents of North Carolina, increasing in popularity during the Civil War due to the amount of pitch, tar and turpentine produced by the pine forests.

The North Carolina State University Wolfpack earned its name due to a complaint by an unhappy student. They complained that the football players acted like a pack of wolves, and the name stuck with the teams wearing that moniker with pride. The University of Virginia Cavaliers is called by other names as well, such as the Wahoos or simply the Hoos, but the school has 20 national championships under its belt, with 15 earned after 1980.

The eating habits of the all-male student body is said to have earned the Virginia Tech Gobblers their first nickname in the 1900’s, soon to be called turkeys but after a while the school adopted the name and mascot the Hokie Bird. Wake Forest University Demon Deacons were not always known as such. In its early days the school’s nickname was the Fighting Baptists, due to its Baptist Convention affiliation. The school separated from the convention and after a particularly difficult game against Duke University, a reporter commented that the Deacons fought like Demons and the name stuck.

The University of Miami Hurricanes may be hard pressed to have a windy mascot stay in one place so the university uses an ibis bird as its mascot. This large, colorful wading bird is native to south Florida, appearing since 1926. Named Sebastian, the ibis mascot leads the cheerleading squad and leads the Hurricanes onto the field during football games.

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