Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster
The 2021 college football play-off teams have mascots, ranging from “The Crimson Tide” to “Wolverines” to “Bulldogs” and “Bearcats”.
Would it surprise you to know that the top 5 college sports mascots are, in order, “Bulldogs”, “Tigers”, “Eagles”, “Wildcats” and “Bears”?
Just a small side note regarding “Tigers”.
In my home town of Mansfield, Ohio, the Mansfield Senior High school mascot is a “Tyger”.
I’m not certain about this but I think that evolved from the fact that Massillon, Ohio’s mascot is “Tiger” and Mansfielders didn’t want to spell their mascot the same way.
“TY” for Tyger” made a neat, little fight song of sorts, too.
When I started to research college mascots, I found that some are “official” while others are not.
I think one of the stranger stories involves Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
From 1930 until 1972 they were the Stanford Indians.
But a group thought that was demeaning, so, from 1972 until 1981, the teams were known as The Cardinal.
Not the bright red, sunflower seed-eating critter we love to see at our bird-feeders, but the actual vivid red color “cardinal”.
But, in 1972, a student referendum sought to restore the “Indian” as school mascot but another student referendum in 1975 voted for “Robber Barrons”.
That was directed at Stanford’s founder, railroad tycoon Leland Stanford.
At that same time, nicknames like “The Sequoias”, The Trees”, “The Cardinals”, “The Spikes”, “The Huns” and “The Railroaders” also received votes.
The Stanford Administration did not allow the results of the vote.
Then, in 1978, 225 varsity athletes petitioned to have the school’s mascot be “Griffin” but that was scuttled.
Finally, the Stanford President said it would be “Cardinal”.
That wrapped it up, right?
Starting in 1975, Stanford University halftime shows started doing halftime shows with tongue-in-cheek themes suggesting mascot names like “The Steaming Manholes”, The French Fry” and “The Tree”.
The latter won the hearts of the crowds.
But, in 1987, an editorial column in the Stanford Daily said “The Tree” was lame.
That resulted in “Tree tryouts” and thanks to free-flowing kegs of beer, the first true Stanford Tree resulted, complete with surf shorts and white tails.
Now there’s “Tree Week” during which candidates must impress a panel of judges as to their tree-worthiness.
The “Tree” costume is created anew each year by the incumbent tree.
Starting in 1975 with Chris Hutson, the Stanford tree portrayers have been handled by male and female students with last names of Whipple, Strange, Funk and Fortune for example.
“Cardinal” and “Tree” are definitely not the norm for mascots, official or otherwise.
There’s “Wu Shock” who has been the Wichita State University mascot since 1948.
They used to be the “Wheatshockers”.
U-S Satna Cruz lays claim to “Sammy the Slug” in honor of the yellow Banana Slug indigenous to the dark, moist redwood forests of the region.
Since 1980, the Syracuse mascot has been “Otto the Orange” which morphed from the 1890 Orioles, Hillmen, Bill Orange’s Men and the Orangemen.
U-c Irvine rallied behind “Peter the Anteater”.
In Grand Prairie, Texas, Delta State’s official mascot is “the Statesmen” but bored students thought “Fighting Okra” would be better and it’s been that way for about a quarter of a century.
Scottsdale Community College in Scottsdale, Arizona has “Artie the Artichoke” as its’ official mascot.
Then there’s the Rhode Island School of Design with an unofficial mascot called “Scrotie”.
You figure it out.
There are also “Blue Blobs” and “Fighting Pickles” as well as “Keggy the Keg”, “Speedy the Geoduck and “the Billiken”.
One of the most familiar college mascots is Brutus Buckeye, the official mascot of THE Ohio State University since 1965.
So, what is a buckeye, you ask?
It’s what most refer to the nut from as buckeye, or horse chestnut tree. They grow along rivers and streams and in flood plains in that part of the Midwest.
The not resembles the shape and color of a deer’s eye.
The nuts are “moderately toxic” to humans and all animals.
The University of Arkansas @ Monticello has “Weezy” the boll weevil.
There’s “YoUDee” (Cool!) for the University of Delaware Blue Hens and that dates back to Revolutionary War times.
The University of Oklahoma has the “Sooner Schooner”, a replica of a Conestoga Wagon pulled by 2 white ponies named “Boomer and Sooner”.
The University of Georgia’s bulldog, named “Uga” followed by appropriate Roman numeral has an air conditioned dog house while spending Saturday afternoons on the sidelines in steamy Athens, Georgia.
Of course, there’s Auburn University. Their mascot is a tiger but they have a “War Eagle” greeting and chant as a golden eagle flies through the air before Auburn football games.
Seems as though folks are pretty serious about their mascots.