Pac-10 Background Checks: The Meaning Behind Each Team's Nickname and Mascot

J FCorrespondent IMay 12, 2011

Pac-10 Background Checks: The Meaning Behind Each Team's Nickname and Mascot

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    EUGENE, OR - JANUARY 13:  Puddles, the mascot, takes part in the opening ceremony beofre the Oregon Ducks versus the USC Trojans game at the grand opening of the Matthew Knight Arena on January 13, 2011 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo b
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Previously the Big Five, Big Six, and the Pacific-8, the Pacific-10 Conference will soon become the Pac-12 as two new teams will become members during the summer: the Colorado Buffaloes and Utah Utes.

    It calls itself the "Conference of Champions" because it is home to the three teams with the most NCAA championships in the nation: UCLA, Stanford and USC.

    Maybe they aren't as strange as the team names in other leagues, but there are definitely a few odd mascots and nicknames in the Pac-12 Conference.

    Thankfully, there are answers for those who may not know the origins of each school's traditions and are curious to learn.

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

Arizona Wildcats

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    TULSA, OK - MARCH 18:  The Arizona Wildcats mascot performs during the second round game against the Memphis Tigers in the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at BOK Center on March 18, 2011 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    The "Wildcats," a common nickname in collegiate sports, was taken from an Los Angeles Times article which said the football team showed "the fight of wildcats" in a 1914 matchup with the California champions, Occidental College.

    Arizona's first mascot was a live desert bobcat name Rufus Arizona in 1915. However, the live mascot tradition was discontinued in the 1960s and now Wilbur and his spouse Wilma are the school's two costumed wildcat mascots.

Arizona State Sun Devils

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09:  Sparky, the mascot for the Arizona State Sun Devils, performs on the court during a break in the game between the Sun Devils and the Oregon Ducks in the first round of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament a
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    First known as the Owls, Normals and Bulldogs, ASU's teams were nicknamed the Sun Devils in 1946 after a poll of students voted for the change.

    Sparky the Sun Devil,the school's mascot, was created by Disney illustrator and ASU alumnus Bert Anthony in 1949.

California Golden Bears

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12:  Oski the California Golden Bears mascot during their game against the USC Trojans in the Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at the Staples Center on March 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/
    Harry How/Getty Images

    The grizzly bear is California's official state animal, but they are now extinct in the area due to overhunting.

    Oski the Bear, named after the school's "Oski Wow-Wow" spirit yell, became Cal's costumed mascot in 1941 when the use of live bears was discontinued.

Oregon Ducks

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    EUGENE, OR - JANUARY 13: 'Puddles', the Oregon Ducks mascot walks on the court during the pre-game ceremonies before the first game between the USC Trojans and the Oregon Ducks basketball teams at Matt Court on January 13, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. The aren
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Oregon originally nicknamed their teams the "Webfoots" after fishermen who had come to settle in the state from the coast of Massachusetts. By the early 1900s, sportswriters managed to change the name to the "Ducks".

    Walt Disney realized that the school's first costumed mascot, Puddles, resembled Donald Duck and a formal agreement was reached to allow the university to use Donald's likeness. The mascot is now also known as the Fighting Duck, Donald Duck or simply The Duck.

Oregon State Beavers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10:  The Oregon State Beavers mascot performs on the court during a break in the game against the Arizona Wildcats in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 10, 2011
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The school's yearbook staff popularized the "Beavers" nickname in the early 1900s, probably because the state was prominent during the fur trade and known for its beaver trapping.

    Benny Beaver, Oregon State's official mascot, won the Capitol One Mascot of the Year Award in 2010.

Stanford Cardinal

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    21 Oct 2000:  The Mascot for the Stanford Cardinal performs during the game against the USC Trojans at the Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California.  The Cardinals defeated the Trojans 32-30.Mandatory Credit: Tom Hauck  /Allsport
    Tom Hauck/Getty Images

    The "Cardinal" nickname derived from Stanford's school colors, not the bird.

    In the 1970s, the name was made plural, the "Cardinals," but it was changed back to singular form in 1981 to emphasize its representation of the cardinal color.

    The university has no official mascot, but the band used the Stanford Tree during one of its halftime shows and it became the band's official mascot because it was so popular.

    It is now often associated with Stanford's sports teams and it is thought of as one of the worst mascots in college athletics.

UCLA Bruins

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 17:  The mascot for the UCLA Bruins performs against the Michigan State Spartans during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 17, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Ge
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The University of California, Los Angeles was first represented by live bears with various names, the most popular being Joe Bruin.

    In 1926, the University of California, Berkley (also known as California or Cal) began calling itself the Bears and offered the Bruins nickname to UCLA.

    Bruin is another name for a bear and is a reference to the grizzlies that once lived in the state. The costumed Joe and Josephine Bruin are the school's current mascots.

USC Trojans

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 03:  The USC Trojans mascot 'Traveler' walks the end zone during the college football game against the Oregon State Beavers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 3, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated Oregon
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Newspapers articles claimed the University of Southern California's football team fought like Trojans. The nickname is a reference to the fierce warriors of the ancient city of Troy and it became official after gaining popularity through the media.

    Traveler, a horse ridden by a Trojan warrior, is USC's official mascot and is present at every home football game.

Washington Huskies

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 18:  A Washington Huskies cheerleader performs while the Huskies take on the Georgia Bulldogs during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 18, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carol
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    In 1922, a group of students selected the Huskies to replace the Sun Dodgers as the nickname for Washington's teams.

    The school originally used live sled dogs, Siberian Huskies, as mascots, but a costumed husky named Harry was later voted into service in 1995.

Washington State Cougars

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    PULLMAN - NOVEMBER 09:   'Butch' the Washington State Cougars mascot has the Oregon Ducks mascot by the neck during the game on November 09, 2002 at Martin Stadium in Pullman Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    After a match up with California in 1919, a local cartoonist depicted the football team as cougars chasing golden bears. The student's at WSU took a liking to the nickname and made it official almost immediately.

    Butch T. Cougar, the school's costumed mascot, was originally a live cougar cub up until 1978. Butch won the Capitol One Mascot of the Year Award in 2006.

Colorado Buffaloes

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    BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 13:  Chip, the Colorado Buffaloes mascot, does a stunt with the cheerleaders during a break in the action against the Iowa State Cyclones at Folsom Field on November 13, 2010 in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado defeated Iowa State 34-14.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    A contest was held in Colorado's campus newspaper in 1934 and decided on the Buffaloes as the school's nickname.

    Ralphie V, a live bison, is one of the university's official mascots along with Chip, the costumed buffalo.

Utah Utes

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10:  Utah Utes mascot Swoop appears on the court during a quarterfinal game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament against the San Diego State Aztecs at the Thomas & Mack Center March 10, 2011 in Las Vegas, Neva
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The Ute tribe was the group of Native Americans that gave the state and the university its name.

    Prior to 1972, the nickname "Redskins" was commonly used as well. However, it was discontinued because it was considered offensive to Native Americans.

    The school also dropped its Indian mascot around the same time and began using Swoop, the red-tailed hawk, instead.