Hello, college football fans!
What's in a name?
When you choose a college, the name is important. It will be written on your diploma. It will be what you say when people ask you where you are from. You want a name you can be proud of. So this slideshow discusses what are good names for schools and what are bad names and lists what I think are the five worst names for BCS schools.
University of "Illinois" and "Ohio" State University
To me, the best choice for a college name is after the state the school is in.
The most popular choice is "University of (Name of State)" or "(Name of State) University." In many cases, this is the unofficial college of the state. If you live in Illinois, you want to go to the University of Illinois. If you live in Wisconsin, you want to go to the University of Wisconsin.
The name represents the state. If you are proud of the state you live in, this is the school you want to go to.
The second most popular choice is "(Name of State) University."
In some states, this serves as the unofficial college of the state.
Penn State University is the dream school for quite a few Pennsylvanians (the University of Pennsylvania is a private school). In Ohio, Ohio State is far more popular than Ohio University. In Louisiana, Louisiana State (LSU) is the big one.
In some states, these schools are pretty close to the University of (Name of State).
Michigan State proved at least on the gridiron they are equal to or better than the University of Michigan (and they are clearly better in basketball). Arizona State can rival Arizona (they are in the Phoenix area, while Arizona is in Tucson). Florida State is probably second in Florida to UF, but being second in Florida is not a bad thing.
But in many states, "(Name of State) State University" means it is clearly the second best university in the state.
Kansas State is no Kansas. Oklahoma State is no Oklahoma. Oregon State is no Oregon. In many states, this is the case.
Farther down the list is a school with the state name but a direction (examples include Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois or Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Central Michigan). None of these schools are even close to the top school(s) in the state. You go to Southern Illinois if you can't get into the University of Illinois.
One exception I would say is Southern California. First, it is a private school. Second, "Southern California" implies the Los Angeles area. I'm sure many LA residents have no problem saying they are from "Southern California." How many people in the southern part of Illinois brag about being in "Southern Illinois?"
A separate category would be schools like "(Name of State) Tech" or "(Name of State) A&M" or any other variation. Georgia Tech is a well respected engineering school. I don't, however, associate Texas Tech with being an engineering school. I know the A&M in Texas A&M is agricultural and mechanical, but that is just a historical reference.
University of "Pittsburgh"
Many schools are listed in terms of the city instead of the state.
It is perfectly reasonable to have more pride in your home city than in your home state.
If you live in Pittsburgh, Penn., would you rather go to your city's "school" (Pittsburgh) or your state's "school" (Penn State)? If you live in or near Syracuse, you would probably have pride in going to Syracuse University. And contrary to what John Calipari thinks, I think there are folks in Louisville who grow up Louisville fans and not University of Kentucky fans.
Of course, your city has to be big enough to mean something. There is a University of Scranton, which is in Scranton, but unless you live in or near the same state, you have no idea what state Scranton is in.
The University of Illinois is not named "Urbana University" because no one outside of Illinois would have any idea what state Urbana is in.
If no one outside of your local area knows where your city is, it's not a good idea to name your school after that city (there are a few schools that fit that description which I will discuss later).
To me, the best name for a college in the United States is UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).
It takes the state and the city of the university in the title. Even if you're not from Los Angeles, it has to be cool telling your friends you go to college in Los Angeles, Calif. Last year, more freshmen applied to UCLA than any other college (over 60,000 freshmen applicants applied there). If more students want to go to your school, the better your school will be.
For several private schools, the school is named after the founder.
The names Duke, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, etc., may not have any meaning to some people, but you can't argue with a school named after a founder. If I founded a university, I would name it Schmolik University. Do you have a problem with that?
This, however, only works for a private school (as you will see later). Duke serves the Raleigh/Durham area, but they recruit a national audience. So do Harvard, Yale and Stanford. It is a bad idea for a public university to be named after a person (as you will see later).
So now we've seen "good" names. Let's look at IMHO the five "worst" names for BCS schools.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a Big Ten fan and I like Purdue as a school. I'm not exactly sure about their name.
If you're going to name your school after a chicken, shouldn't you spell it correctly? I'm kidding; of course Purdue isn't named after a chicken.
I believe Indiana University does not have engineering majors, so Purdue is the No. 1 choice for future engineers. Still, I'm not sure how people would want to go to a school called "Purdue" over a school named after their home state.
This will show my age. Back when I went to college, I remember Purdue being referred to as "Pur-don't" by the basketball coach at Northwestern. You know it's not a good name when Northwestern's coach makes fun of it. I've never heard a Northwestern coach laugh at the University of Illinois's or Indiana University's name.
Speaking of Northwestern...
Northwestern is the private school in a conference full of state universities. They are the only BCS football school never to have made the NCAA Basketball Tournament.They are traditionally considered the doormat of the Big Ten. For you SEC fans, they are our version of Vanderbilt.
As I said, if the school was named after its founder, I can't argue too much. But Northwestern isn't named after its founder. It's named after the "Northwest Territory."
After the US won the Revolutionary War and our independence from England, the western boundary was the Mississippi River. So back then, Northwestern was in the northwestern part of the US.
Well, Evanston, Ill. is not in the Northwest anymore and hasn't been for over 100 years. If I told you there was a Northwestern University today, you'd think it was in Oregon or Washington.
It doesn't help that Northwestern's main color is purple. How many teams have purple as a main color?
Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney
Yes, Clemson is named after its city like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. But how many of you even know what state Clemson is in? Clemson has a population of 11,939.
Unless you live in or near Clemson, for what reason do you want to go there for?
If you live in South Carolina, wouldn't the University of South Carolina appeal to you more?
If you live outside of South Carolina, why would you want to go there for? I've never heard an out of state student brag to his friends at home he goes to college in South Carolina. South Carolina to me is like West Virginia. We know who the real "Carolina" is.
As an ACC fan, I would be embarrassed to lose to a school named Clemson. I personally hope the SEC can take Clemson off the ACC's hands so the ACC can bring in Connecticut.
Even worse, who is Clemson's head football coach? A guy named Dabo Swinney. How is this school 7-0 right now? I'm amazed people who live more than 20 miles away want to go to a school called Clemson and play for a coach named Dabo.
Shouldn't these guys be painted red?
If it weren't for its football team, who exactly would even know what state Auburn University is in?
According to Webster's:
"noun 1. a reddish-brown or golden-brown color."
The school is named after a shade of red/brown. So what are the official colors of Auburn? Blue and orange!
Just like Clemson, I don't see why Auburn would be anyone in Alabama's first choice unless they live close to Auburn. Of course, South Carolina isn't exactly the greatest athletic school, but Alabama I would think has a pretty good football history.
Being the second choice school in Texas, California or Florida is still pretty good. Being the second choice school in Alabama? Not so much.
The only reason a football player would want to play for Auburn when they could've gone to Alabama is probably if they paid your dad.
He plays in New Jersey... I think
Finally the worst name for a BCS school: Rutgers!
Rutgers gets the prize for the worst name of any BCS school.
Clemson and Auburn are named for the tiny cities they are in. Rutgers is in Piscataway.
Clemson can't name their school "University of South Carolina" or even "South Carolina State University." Auburn can't be "Alabama" or "Alabama State."
Last time I checked, there is no "University of New Jersey" or "New Jersey University" or even "New Jersey State." There is a "College of New Jersey," though, but it only has about 6,200 students, and 95 percent are from New Jersey. I believe New Jersey is the only state who doesn't have a "major" university named after its state.
I guess Rutgers has an advantage since people in New Jersey doesn't have a "New Jersey" school to go to.
But if you are trying to attract out of state students to New Jersey, it's hard to get them there if your name is "Rutgers." If you don't go to Rutgers but live in New Jersey, it's a lot harder to be a fan of "Rutgers" than if you live in Illinois but didn't go to or graduate from the University of Illinois.
Rutgers would probably like to join the Big Ten or ACC. But how do you convince either league when people in Illinois or Florida have no idea what state your school is in?
If you are a private school and you aren't trying to serve an audience in New Jersey, it would be a great name. But if you want to be the official school of New Jersey, having New Jersey in your name could help.
Think about how much more popular Rutgers would be if it was a "New Jersey" school? Maybe Rutgers would be more relevant on a national scale instead of its history of athletic underachievement. That's why they get the title of the worst name among BCS schools.