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

Marquette Golden Eagles

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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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.