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