Many Big East Mascots have Animal Instincts


The question what’s in a name has many different answers and when it comes to collegiate sports, the names can be exceptional or at the very least questionable. Some of the mascots and their names can seemingly be self-explanatory, but a few of them can raise more questions than they answer. Consider the Syracuse Orange; why would a school consider a large paper mache orange as a mascot? Since the school’s color has been orange since 1890, it appears they squeezed the citrusy mascot out of it naturally.

Be that as it may, many of the Big East teams are represented by nature…animals to be more exact and why those animals were chosen have little to do with nature. Take the Cincinnati Bearcats for example. The team had a star fullback in Leonard Baehr. The schools was playing a football game against the Kentucky Wildcats when an unknown cheerleader came up with the chant that Kentucky may be Wildcats, “but we have a Baehr-cat on our side.” Apparently the crowd,all dressed up in their fan gear, liked the chant so much, they took up with the cheerleader and the name stuck.

Jonathan Trumbull was the last colonial governor of Connecticut and it is for him the school’s mascot, Jonathan the Husky was named. The Husky part? The University of Connecticut, usually shortened to UConn sounded so much like Alaska’s Yukon, which is the native home of the Husky, thereby becoming the UConn Huskies.

Pittsburgh Panther
Pittsburgh Panther | Source

The panther is considered a powerful animal that used to roam western Pennsylvania and when Pittsburgh University was looking for a nickname and a mascot it selected the panther. The Pittsburgh Panthers have a student costumed as a panther but its official name is Roc the Panther. Villanova Wildcats join at least 27 colleges with that nickname, making it one of the most often used nicknames with an animal reference in college sports. Among those that use the Wildcats are Kentucky, Northwestern and Arizona.

Animals however, are not the only wildlife used as nicknames and mascots as birds also have their place in college sports. The state bird of Kentucky seemed a natural fit for the Louisville Cardinals and the Marquette Golden Eagles fly around with one of the most popular birds of prey that live in North America. The Golden Eagles is the most recent name change at Marquette, adopting it in 1994. Previously the school had been called the Warriors, Hilltoppers and Golden Avalanche. Even Blue and Gold was used for a short period of time.

South Florida Bulls shortened the nickname in 1956 when they had originally been known as the Golden Brahman, a species of bulls raised by Indians. Its costumed mascot is a bull named Rocky the Bull, or in some instances, Rocky D. Bull.

But enough about animals and college sports, especially in the Big East Conference. Some of the colleges have more unconventional names like the Georgetown Hoyas. The college’s most popular cheer early on was “Hoya Saxa” which translated into “What Rocks” and eventually the name stuck, but with no creatures called a Hoya, a bulldog was selected in 1962 due to its attack tenacity. In addition to Jack, a name used for the canine, a costumed character is also present at sporting events.

Fun Mascot Dance Off

The DePaul Blue Demons were initially known as the D-men, evolving into Demons, adding the color blue to symbolize loyalty. The mascot is known as DIBS…Demon in a Blue Suit. Notre Dame Fighting Irish came from the Irish immigrants that made up the Irish Brigade of the north during the Civil War. Using Irish lore, a leprechaun became its mascot. The Providence Friars uses this religious nickname, which is fitting since the school is operated by an order of the Dominican Catholic.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights used a fighting rooster as its mascot, based on the rooster Chanticleer from Canterbury Tales. A poll conducted in 1955 resulted in the name being changed, adding the school colors, becoming known then as the Scarlet Knights. St. John’s Red Storm, were once called simply the Redmen due to them wearing the school’s color red. Fearful of offending Native Americans, the name was changed to the Red Storm in 1994.

West Virginia has one of the more obvious nicknames and the West Virginia Mountaineers first showed up in 1930. Although the mountain man had been the school’s official mascot since 1890, possibly from the group of men that fought from West Virginia during the Civil War, but the state is also known for its mountains. One college however, the Seton Hall Pirates adopted its nickname in 1931, but how that came about for the South Orange, New Jersey school remains a mystery.

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Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

I love the video... so funny.. great information.. thank you for researching and putting all of this together..voted up

Better Yourself profile image

Better Yourself 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thank you Deborah, so glad you enjoyed it!

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