Ferocious, tenacious, aggressive, fierce, proud. These are the qualities we usually associate with our sports teams.
As coaches, we want the very mention of our team’s name to strike fear into the hearts of opponents. We want them sitting in their locker rooms the day before they play us, stomachs knotted in fear, thinking, “My gosh, tomorrow we play the Screaming Scarlet Eviscerators. Maybe my mom can write me a note so I don’t have to go.”
That’s why we give our teams nicknames that embody these traits: Lions, Hawks, Vikings, Wolves, Red-Eyed Panthers.
Keeping this in mind, it’s surprising how many teams are named for less than frightening things. A quick scan through a university directory reveals some interesting monikers.
For example, some team nicknames seem downright nice. I can’t imagine a friendlier contest than one between the Gentlemen of Centenary College and the Monks of Saint Joseph’s College. Or the Poets of Whittier College and the Missionaries of Whitman College. Heck, they probably don’t even hire referees for their games.
In contrast, one of the yuckiest matchups would have to be the Banana Slugs of U. of Cal at Santa Cruz versus the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian. How’d you like to mop the gym floor after that one?
And another messy contest in which the feathers are sure to fly: the Fightin’ Blue Hens of Delaware against the Power Gulls of Endicott College.
Some nicknames conjure up powerful images: The Austin College Kangaroos slam-dunking the basketball. The Fighting Parsons of NYACK College telling their opponents, “Don’t elbow me again, or I’ll give you a good blessing.” The Florida Southern Moccasins getting stepped all over by their opponents. The Rhode Island College Anchormen doing their own play-by-play TV coverage. The Retrievers of U. of Maryland-Baltimore County going for the long ball. And the Vandals of Idaho U. spraying graffiti on locker room walls wherever they play.
And then there are the totally uncoachable Mules of Central Missouri, in contrast to the Diplomats of Franklin and Marshall College, who’ll do anything you ask. And, of course, the Chokers of Grays Harbor College, who, for some reason, always seem to miss that game-winning shot.
Some schools, realizing their men’s team nickname may not be popular with their female athletes, have a separate women’s nickname. The Weevils of U. of Arkansas-Monticello mercifully become the women’s Cotton Blossoms. The Student Princes of Heidelburg College become the Student Princesses. However, some teams are not so sensitive to the image of their women’s teams. Surely the Jumbos can’t be a popular nickname among women athletes at Tufts. Ditto for the Pittsburgh State Gorillas or the Trolls of Trinity Christian College.
Finally, there are some team nicknames that just leave you wondering what they are—a great strategy for keeping the opposition confused and unprepared. How do you match up against a Gee Gee from the U. of Ottawa, or an Ook from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology? And what exactly is an Washurn U. Icabod, or a St. Louis U. Billiken?
If nothing else, the research I’ve done for this article has given me some great words to use in my next Scrabble game. For example, do you know what a Saluki is? Or a Catamount? Let’s break out that Scrabble board!
Dick Moss, Editor,
Saluki: A hunting dog native to Asia and North Africa. Team nickname for Southern Illinois U.
Catamount: A wild cat such as a cougar or lynx. Team nickname for Vermont U.
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[tags]physical education,team nicknames