Saturday, September 10, 2011

College Football: Nicknames and mascots

What a college teams' names say about their squad.

Posted By on Sat, Sep 10, 2011 at 1:00 PM

The college pigskin season started this past week and with it time to once again examine team nicknames and the current trend to wild uniforms. There are nicknames and uniforms that are truly fearsome and some that are, well, not destined to strike fear into the hearts of anyone, much less the opposition.

First to team nicknames. From the Bulldogs (Yale, Georgia) to the Bears (Cal golden, Maine black), Wildcats (Arizona, Kentucky, Northwestern) and the Golden Gophers (Minnesota), animal nicknames are the most popular. But there are way too many teams sporting the “Tiger” nickname. LSU (sorry Oregon fans) Missouri, Princeton, Auburn, Memphis, among others. Too many tigers have diminished the name’s overall ferocity.

As for Ducks and Beavers, neither is as scary as Cougars (Washington State and BYU), Wolverines (Michigan), or Badgers (Wisconsin). The latter are truly fierce creatures, the former not so scary but very Oregon-centric, of course.


So what are some of college pigskin’s more fearsome names?  Give it up for Alabama for their “Crimson Tide” name that makes ‘Bama seem overwhelming and ominous. Staying with a color theme, Texas Tech’s “Red Raiders” nom de football has an aggressive ring to it.

Then there are the big bad weather event related Hurricanes (Canes) of the “U” (Miami—the Florida, not the Ohio, one) and the Iowa State Cyclones.

Weathering any storm are the Florida Gators. Gators are dangerous and chomp with impunity on anything that gets in their way. You have to get way deep into history books to know why Amherst College’s football team is called the “Lord Jeffs” or why Oklahoma’s powerhouse eleven is called the “Sooners.”

Spartans (Mich. State and San Jose State) might have worked up some fear a few centuries ago but not now. Ditto the Aztecs of San Diego State. The North Dakota “Fighting Sioux” moniker has been the subject of much debate and looks like it will be dropped in favor of something more contemporary.

Not about to drop their feisty nickname, Notre Dame retains “The Fighting Irish”, a name that frankly works better now as the team has a coach with the surname of Kelly.

But when it comes to an imposing nickname, I’ll take the Grizzlies of the University of Montana. A grizzly is one impressive animal and Montana has been a 1-AA powerhouse for years. Go Griz.

Now to the current rage of uniforms designed to scare. College football uniforms have gone from basic red and white, blue and gold, orange and black, etc to designer creations.

West Virginia started it all a few years ago with flashy electric yellow pants and jerseys. But Oregon raised the uniform to an art form and I have to say their Darth Vader inspired unis for the LSU game would have scared the wits out of me if I had been a Tiger (there’s that feline name again) player.

Then along came Maryland** this past Monday night with a new uniform featuring a jersey, helmet and pants that replicate parts of Maryland’s very cool, and way old school, state flag.

All I can say is the new Maryland getups made me dizzy and I suspect did the same thing to the Miami players who lost the game.

Face it, the fear of an opponent in today’s college football lies in the uniforms and helmets not in the team  nickname. Dress wild or macabre and you’ve got them just where you want them-scared and jealous that their uniforms aren’t as cool.

**Turns out that Maryland may have stolen their new helmet graphic directly from a women’s roller derby team. Check it out.

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