Big East Background Checks: The Origin of Every Team's Nickname and Mascot

J FCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2011

Big East Background Checks: The Origin of Every Team's Nickname and Mascot

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 17:  The Pittsburgh Panthers mascot cheers during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Verizon Center on March 17, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Orange? Friars? Hoyas?

    The average fan has no idea where these nicknames came from, or even what they could possibly mean.

    The Big East Conference is home to 16 NCAA basketball teams, and a majority of their nicknames and mascots are quite odd.

    However, each team has a reasonable explanation behind their name and why they chose to represent their team with the mascot they selected.

     Note: If you are interested in NCAA, NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA nicknames, check out my profile for other articles.

Cincinnati Bearcats

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: The Cincinnati Bearcats mascot gestures while on the court during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters  at
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The Bearcat nickname was inspired by star fullback Leonard Baehr.

    During a football game against Kentucky, a cheerleader created the chant, "They may be Wildcats, but we have a Baehr-cat on our side." The crowd took up the cheer, and the name eventually stuck.

Connecticut Huskies

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: The Connecticut Huskies mascot looks on from the sideline during the game against the Syracuse Orange during the semifinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    UConn sounds the same as Yukon, the native home of huskies. However, the nickname was used before the college changed its name to the University of Connecticut in 1939.

    Jonathan the Husky is the school's mascot, named after the last colonial governor of Connecticut, Jonathan Trumbull.

DePaul Blue Demons

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    CHICAGO - JANUARY 26:  Dibs, the Demons? mascot entertains the crowd during the NCAA basketball game between the DePaul Blue Demons and the Florida Gators at the United Center on January 26, 2000 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Blue Demons defeated the Gators
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    DePaul's athletic teams were first known as the D-men, which eventually evolved into Demons.

    Blue was added to the nickname because it represents loyalty.

    DIBS, Demon in a Blue Suit, is the school's mascot.

Georgetown Hoyas

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: The mascot for the Georgetown Hoyas performs during the game the Connecticut Huskies during the second round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square Garden on March
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    A common cheer at the college was, "Hoya Saxa!"—a Greek and Latin chant meaning "What Rocks." The school's nickname grew out of the popular saying.

    Dogs were a common mascot since the beginning of collegiate athletics, and in 1962 a committee chose the bulldog because of its tenacity.

    The committee bought a show dog that responded to the name "Jack," and most bulldogs used since  have gone by the same name.

    In addition to the live Jack the Bulldog, there is also a costumed character.

Louisville Cardinals

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  The mascot of the Louisville Cardinals performs prior to taking on the Morehead State Eagles in the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    The nickname and mascot were chosen because the cardinal is Kentucky's state bird.

Marquette Golden Eagles

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10:  The Marquette Golden Eagles mascot walks on the court during the game against the Louisville Cardinals during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters  at Madison S
    Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    Formerly known as the Warriors, Blue and Gold, Hilltoppers and Golden Avalanche, the team's name was changed to Golden Eagles in 1994.

    Golden eagles are one of the most famous birds of prey in North America.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: The leprechaun mascot for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish performs during a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium on September 11, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Michigan defeated Notre Dame 28-24. (Photo by
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Notre Dame's nickname originated from Irish immigrants that fought in the Civil War for the Union Army in the Irish Brigade.

    The team uses a student dressed as a leprechaun for its mascot as a tribute to Irish folklore. Tryouts for the part last a month during the spring.

Pittsburgh Panthers

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    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04:  The Pittsburg mascot is pictured covered in snow during the Big East Conference game between the the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    In 1909, the panther nickname and mascot were chosen because it was a noble and powerful animal that once roamed western Pennsylvania.

    Pittsburgh's costumed mascot is Roc the Panther.

Providence Friars

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    NEW YORK - MARCH 09: The Providence Friars mascot walks on the court against the Seton Hall Pirates during the first round game of the Big East Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 9, 2010 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/G
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The college is run by a Dominican Catholic order so the religious nickname is fitting.

    friar is similar to a monk.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09:  The mascot for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights performs during the game against the St.Johns Red Storm during the second round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Rutger's first mascot was a fighting rooster named Chanticleer from a medieval fable in the Canterbury Tales.

    In 1955, a poll was held and Scarlet Knights was chosen as the new nickname and mascot. The school's color was scarlet.

St. John's Red Storm

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: The mascot for the St.Johns Red Storm performs during the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the second round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square G
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The university's original nickname was the Redmen because its teams wore red. The name was thought to be a reference to Native Americans, and to avoid controversy it was changed to the Red Storm in 1994.

    The team's mascot was a person in a Native American costume until a student vote changed it to Johnny the Thunderbird in 2009.

Seton Hall Pirates

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    NEW YORK - MARCH 10:  The Seton Hall Pirates mascot walks on the court against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second round of 2010 NCAA Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 10, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Seton Hall selected the pirate as its mascot and nickname in 1931.

    If you could find a good reason why, I'd love to be enlightened. 

South Florida Bulls

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09:  The South Florida Bulls mascot gestures on the court against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the second round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square Garden on Marc
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Due to a contest in 1956, USF's teams were originally called the Golden Brahman, a type of Indian cattle, until the name was simplified to the Bulls.

    Rocky the Bull, or Rocky D. Bull, is the school's costumed mascot.

Syracuse Orange

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    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 21:  The Syracuse Orange mascot performs during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at HSBC Arena at HSBC Arena on March 21, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Orange has been the school color since 1890.

    Students selected Otto the Orange as Syracuse's official mascot in 1995.

Villanova Wildcats

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    NEW YORK - MARCH 13:  Villanova Wildcats mascot Will D. Cat cheers during the semifinal round of the Big East Tournament against the Louisville Cardinals at Madison Square Garden on March 13, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The nickname the Wildcats is common in college athletics.

    There are twenty-seven colleges that use it including Kentucky, Arizona, Davidson and Northwestern.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    MINNEAPOLIS - MARCH 20:  The mascot for the West Virginia Moutaineers stands on the court against the Dayton Flyers during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on March 20, 2009 in Minneapo
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Mountaineer began appearing at sporting events in the 1930s, but it had been the official mascot since 1890.

    West Virginia is known for its mountains.