Anthrocide is the official website for D.L. Hamilton, author of several Christian novels and essays.

More Team Name Stuff–Just for Fun!

College Team Names

Okay, since my sons (Paul and Scott) and I are on the good/bad/marginal team name kick, I thought I’d take a shot at College team names. The rules for quality team names still apply the same as for the NFL/MLB/NHL/NBA names except that these are of course not sport-specific. Here we will just have to use the idea of ferocity, speed, agility, courage, or, if all else fails, something with a valid local connection as long as it does not run directly counter to the above attributes, is not offensive, and is not hopelessly lame—local connection notwithstanding.

I’d like to suggest that we each choose various regional conferences’ teams to examine. Since I’m located in the middle of the country I’ll start off with some middle of the country colleges: the Big 12 and the Big 10. Since the teams making up these conferences might not come readily to mind, here is a list of them for starters:

Big 12:
Baylor Bears
Colorado Buffaloes
Iowa State Cyclones
Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas State Wildcats
Missouri Tigers
Nebraska Cornhuskers
Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Texas Longhorns
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas Tech Red Raiders

Big 10:
Illinois Illini
Indiana Hoosiers
Iowa Hawkeyes
Michigan Wolverines
Michigan State Spartans
Minnesota Gophers
Northwestern Wildcats
Ohio State Buckeyes
Wisconsin Badgers
Purdue Boilermakers
Penn State Nittany Lions

(Note: Yes, I realize that the Big 10 list has 11 teams in it. So, the conference itself already merits a “Bad” rating just for stupidity in not being able to count!)

Anyway, alphabetically within the groupings of good names, marginal names, and awful names here goes.

Good Names:

Baylor Bears: “Bears” is pretty much always a good choice, invocative of power and ferocity. Of course, in Baylor’s case the name is the only aspect of their sports teams that reflect those attributes.
Colorado Buffaloes: Ignore the whole semantic issue regarding that the American Buffalo is technically a Bison; the point is that these beasts look incredibly ferocious. When the Colorado mascot—a huge live buffalo—comes running down the field with four guys each holding a tether and being pulled along by this powerful animal, it is simply magnificent.
Iowa State Cyclones: Although a cyclone (a.k.a. tornado) meets the criteria for a team name in both categories: (1) powerful and fear-inducing and (2) locally appropriate (since they do occur in Iowa), this one almost fell into the next list. Why? Because their logo/mascot is an angry, red, sort of cardinal bird-looking thing with a yellow beak which in no way has anything to do with a cyclone despite that where its feet and body would be has been drawn as a whirlwind. It’s just plain weird. But since this is technically a team name discussion, I’m forced to call it a good one.
Kansas State Wildcats: “Wildcats” is pretty common among the collegiate ranks. Indeed my alma mater, California State University, Chico used this as their team name. A wildcat is defined as a general term referring to various undomesticated predatory felines such as the bobcat, the lynx, and so on. So, technically there is nothing really wrong with it. However, a name like “wildcat” strikes me as so generic that it ends up being pretty unimaginative. Anyway, I’ll give it a reluctant “good” rating.
Michigan Wolverines: Michigan is unofficially referred to sometimes as “The Wolverine State.” Interestingly, wolverines are Arctic creatures and have possibly never inhabited Michigan. The explanation for the nickname’s use there is one of those, “No one is really sure but some theories are…” stories that aren’t much help. Anyway, though they usually stay out of sight, wolverines are quite feisty and have no problem attacking much larger animals. Thus, it works. Given the focus of this list I will resist the temptation to delve into how hideous the Michigan Wolverines’ football helmets are…
Michigan State Spartans: Sparta was a civilization which focused on military and war. Every male was in the military at least from age 20 to age 30. The idea of rigid dedication to duty one associates with a militaristic civilization has resulted in the term “Spartan” representing any purely functional, no-frills environment, situation, or lifestyle. Thus Spartan suggests a no-nonsense army. Sparta enjoyed much military success but eventually was utterly destroyed. Nonetheless, the imagery it evokes works well as a team name.
Missouri Tigers: Tigers is also a very common college team name (perhaps the most common?), and a good one. I give kudos to MU for resisting the all-too-common notion of using a state nickname or something the state is known for despite its inappropriateness for an athletic team. In this case it would have been the Missouri Mules. Although powerful and notoriously stubborn the name would also suggest slowness and dim-wittedness (not to mention sterility, which does not help overall prowess). Mercifully they went with the much better option of Tiger, although given how frustratingly dumb they play sometimes perhaps a more dimwitted animal might be more appropriate.
Northwestern Wildcats: Same as Kansas State above.
Texas Longhorns: Longhorn bulls are pretty mean-looking and certainly the longhorn breed fits well with Texas.
Wisconsin Badgers: Although not a large animal the badger has a cantankerous disposition and will take on much larger animals. The only drawback is that whenever I hear the name I cannot get the line from the Weird Al Yankovic movie, UHF out of my head: “Badgers? Badgers? We don’ need no steenking Badgers!”

Marginal Names:

Iowa Hawkeyes: This name creates a great deal of confusion. At first glance it suggests (as does the hawk’s head logo) that it has something to do with a hawk, which would make it an okay name. However, the name is not “Hawks” but “Hawkeyes.” Given the bird-head logo it sounds like one is referring to one part of a bird of prey’s anatomy. This makes it tantamount to “the Auburn Tiger Fangs.” How lame is that? It turns out this state nickname has no direct connection to a bird. It evolved from a character dubbed “Hawkeye” in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans and also a friend of one of the state’s early VIP’s, an Indian chief named Black Hawk. If one thinks of the moniker “hawkeye” as akin to calling someone with precise eyesight and/or shooting ability “eagle eye” then it at least has some redeeming qualities, but anything that takes this much explanation just doesn’t work, state nickname notwithstanding.
Kansas Jayhawks: This is admitted to be a mythical bird. Now, if it were a phoenix that rose from the ashes, or the giant roc of Sinbad fame it might be worthy of greater consideration. However, whatever myth “jayhawk” is from must not be well-known. In any case, it is not really the bird that caused Kansas to associate with the name, but that historically there were various bands of guerilla fighters in Kansas during the pre-Civil War days called jayhawkers. In what information I found on them they were primarily pro-abolitionists who ambushed pro-slave “bushwhackers” (mostly from Missouri) but oddly there were bands of them who were exactly the opposite. Maybe modern-day terrorism has had too great an effect on me but knowing that these jayhawkers burned down entire towns where innocent women and children lived I cannot fathom this being something to cheer for, no matter the cause. Whether the 19th century or today, my attitude is this: I have the utmost admiration for those willing to die for what they believe, but only utter contempt for those willing to murder for it. All that said, that the team image is of the mythical bird and not some ruffian torching an orphanage allows this to remain in the marginal category as opposed to the awful.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: As with the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL, a cowboy in and of itself does not evoke any image of sports prowess. Given that this was an area of cattle-raising and cattle-drives historically it’s not a terrible name but just really unimpressive.
Penn State Nittany Lions: The name “lions” is fine. But this whole thing about Nittany Lions leaves most people scratching their heads. The common question is: So, exactly what species of lion is a Nittany Lion? The deal is this: These are not African lions but North American mountain lions (a.k.a. cougars). Penn State is located near the foot of the Nittany Mountains. Hence, the Nittany Lions are mountain lions from the Nittany Mountains. It would be like if the University of California called themselves not just the Golden Bears but the “Berkeley Hills Golden Bears.” Yes, you’re right, that would be really lame. Are there any mountain lions in the Nittany Mountains? I’m not sure anyone knows, but the fact that it takes this much explanation for the name to make sense to anyone outside of State College, PA, earns it a marginal designation. Besides, don’t get me started on those pathetically generic-looking uniforms…
Texas Tech Red Raiders: This one almost made it to the good category. Indeed if the name had originated from a historically famous company of soldiers from the area called the “Red Raiders” or something I’d probably have done so. But no, there is no history. Some sports writer from way back referred to the team in their red uniforms this way and it stuck. Ignoring the color designation, the term raider is simply too generic. It’s sort of like calling a team the “sneaky ambushers” or the “thieves” or something. What, exactly, does a raider do? A term like “pirate” at least evokes a specific type of ruffian. But, as noted in my assessment of the Oakland Raiders, a raider could technically be some fraternity doofus involved in a panty-raid on a sorority. Does that evoke an image of strength or ferocity to you? I didn’t think so. Now you know why they’re in this category.

Awful Names:

Illinois Illini: The state of Illinois is named for a group of Native American Indian tribes collectively known as the Illini, the French for which is Illinois. So, strictly speaking Illinois Illini is a redundancy. Sort of like the Los Gatos Cats would be, only stupider. It would be hard to find something less creative than this. ‘Nuff said.
Indiana Hoosiers: Once again the explanation for the term Hoosier begins with “No one really knows the origin or exact meaning of the term Hoosier but some of the theories are…” Okay, shut up. If it’s that obscure it has no business being a team name. Besides, whatever its origin or meaning, the bottom line is that Hoosier indicates a person from Indiana. Thus, “The Indiana Hoosiers” literally refers to “The Indiana people from Indiana.” How dumb is that?
Minnesota Golden Gophers: I think the following tells you pretty much all you need to know: “The name comes from a nickname for the state of Minnesota, ‘The Gopher State,’ which came from a political cartoon published in 1858.” As if that weren’t bad enough, a gopher is just a really pathetic animal to name a team after. Instead of visions of a bear or lion ravaging its enemies when cornered, the gopher evokes an image of it scurrying into a hole and eating the roots off a tulip. And trying to dress it up with “golden” accomplishes nothing.
Nebraska Cornhuskers: Do I really need to explain why this is dippy? How about the “Nebraska Bean-snappers” or the “Nebraska Pea-shellers”? The name is as apt to evoke the image of an Auntie-Em-type sitting on the front porch shucking corn as that moronic mascot with the huge hat and red suspenders. Come to think of it, even Auntie Em might suggest a more fearsome athletic competitor than that doofus. This is simply one of the dumbest team names ever.
Ohio State Buckeyes: A buckeye is a tree or shrub that produces an inedible nut. Mind you, we’re not talking about a mighty oak or a towering sequoia here. As in so many other cases, I don’t care if the state nickname is the buckeye state, this is an idiotic team name. Period.
Oklahoma Sooners: Yeah, yeah, I know Oklahoma is the sooner state, which refers to those who cheated and slipped-in early during the Oklahoma land rush. It’s still a lame team name. One could argue that it suggests speed (one gets there “sooner”) or cleverness but it’s just too much of a reach. And the cute little rhyme created by that little covered wagon called the “Sooner Schooner” is insufficient to make up for the overall dorkiness of the name.
Purdue Boilermakers: The term “boiler makers” was a slam aimed at Purdue back in the 19th century by a humiliated opponent’s hometown newspaper. It was intended to berate them as lower-class blue-collar riffraff, sort of like referring to a team as a bunch of rednecks. A steam locomotive engine (in essence a big boiler) was coincidentally brought to the campus and the name was entrenched. Interesting history notwithstanding, this is just a really dippy name, especially since, unlike the NFL’s Packers and Steelers where the names relate directly to the teams’ places of origin, Purdue really has no specific connection to the making of boilers. But truthfully, even if it did this would still be a stupid name.
Texas A&M Aggies: Okay, the “A” in A&M stands for Agriculture so ostensibly those studying agriculture are referred to by the shortened nickname “aggies.” (Sidebar: I never figured out what the “M” stands for.) So, using that logic, Texas Tech should be the “techies.” And Texas Christian should be the “Christies” (although, given that their team name is the horned frogs, maybe that wouldn’t be too much worse). Anyway, cut me some slack. A team name of Aggies is just plain idiotic.

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