The 20 Oddest Team Names in Division I Sports

Michael Desjardins@TheMDesjardinsCorrespondent IIMarch 15, 2012

The 20 Oddest Team Names in Division I Sports

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    Bulldogs. Wildcats. Eagles. These are but a few common team names in the world of collegiate sports.

    However, there are some out there that are just outright strange. Ones that, at first glance, make you wonder, "How the heck did they come up with that?"

    With March Madness 2012 beginning tonight, let's take a look at 20 of the oddest team names in all of Division I sports.

Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens

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    Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

    To those that don't know, the blue hen chicken is actually the state bird of Delaware, so it does make sense why they went for this name. Although, then again, a blue hen chicken is probably not the first thing you think of if someone asked you, "What is the state bird of Delaware?"

    Here's some interesting facts for you:

    1. They have one of the most consistent football programs in the FCS. They average more than 20,000 people at their home games. They've also won six national titles, their last in 2003.

    2. Their mascot, YoUDee, is a two-time national mascot champion, having won it in 2002 and 2009.

    3. Despite the fact that nearby Delaware State has played college football since 1924, these two teams didn't play each other until 2007, in the first round of the Subdivision playoffs.

Evansville Purple Aces

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    Apparantly, this univesity in Indiana thought that just being called the Aces wasn't enough, they had to incorporate a color with it. But why purple of all colors?

    Up until the 1920s, they used to be called the Pioneers, until they changed it to Aces. Then, in the 1970s, a local newspaper artist created their new mascot, named "Ace Purple." Speaking of which, their mascot is a riverboat gambler; that's pretty awesome.

    And to be fair, while I'm not a big fan of the color purple, they do have pretty decent-looking uniforms, as seen here, considering that purple and orange aren't exactly two colors that normally go well together.

Fairfield Stags

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    As a Quinnipiac student and sports journalist, I get to see Fairfield in a variety of sports over the course of the school year.

    Let me give credit where credit is due. When we play Fairfield, they can be a tough opponent to beat, even though we are not considered to be rivals (despite the fact that we are in-state here in Connecticut; roughly 45-50 minutes away from each other).

    They also boast the best student-athlete graduation rates on a consistent basis, which is definitely something they should be commended for.

    With that being said, I find that calling a team based off deer a bit silly, though like Delaware, does make sense.

    You see, the university is part of the Diocese of Hartford, and the word "hart" according to Webster's Dictionary, means "a male of the European red deer, stag."

    Also, no disrespect to any Stag students and alumni, but that must be the cuddliest-looking college mascot I've ever seen. It looks like one of those giant stuffed animals you win in a bingo game at the county fair.

Georgetown Hoyas

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    I had absolutely no idea what a Hoya was until I asked one of my roommates, whose brother goes to Georgetown.

    The term "Hoya" is actually derived from a Latin and Greek-mixed chant "Hoya Saxa," which means "What Rocks."

    Since then, rivals of Georgetown have mocked its unique team name by chanting, "What's a Hoya?"

    However, don't let it's odd team name fool you; Georgetown has done very well as a member of the Big East Conference.

    Most people know about its men's basketball team, a perennial Big East contender and has been in either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT since 2005. They also won the NCAA Championship in 1984.

    However, that's not the only sport Georgetown has done well in.

    Over the past two decades, the university has done well in both men's and women's lacrosse, ice hockey, rowing, track and field and cross country.

Indiana State Sycamores

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    Originally, this team was called the "Fighting Teachers," as Indiana State was once just called Indiana State Teachers College.

    Eventually, the students got to vote on the new team name. They went with the name "Sycamores" due to the large abundance of sycamore trees in Indiana and around the university.

    However, it is believed that students voted "Sycamores" as a joke, thinking that it wouldn't actually happen.

    I wonder if any of those alumni that took part in that vote regret the name change.

Iona/Saint Mary's Gaels

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    Just what are Gaels, you ask?

    Well, Gaels, or Goidels, are speakers of the Goidelic Celtic Languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx.

    It was highly used in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, and then diminished from use sometime in the 15th Century. It is still widely used in some areas today and roughly two million people are able to speak the language, to some degree.

    While I'm not certain as to why it should be used as a team name, it does nonetheless come from two colleges: Iona College (located in New York) and Saint Mary's College of California, both of which have Catholic religious affiliations.

    As for athletic performances, Iona has been a top men's cross country team in the nation over the last decade. Their men's basketball has also had success; in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, they possess more wins than any other team, have won a league record seven titles, and have made nine NCAA Tournament appearances since their inception in 1940.

    Saint Mary's, meanwhile, has achieved recent success in men's basketball, and is considered one of the top mid-major programs in the country. They have made appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 2005, 2008 and 2010 (including a victory over No. 2 seed Villanova and advanced into the Sweet Sixteen), and have been in both ESPN and the Associated Press' Top 25 polls.

    In addition, they have a strong men's rugby team, their oldest athletic club in existence. They've ranked in the top ten in the nation for three consecutive years and have faced the likes of teams such as Ohio State and California in recent years.

Kent State Golden Flashes

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    Golden Flashes? That name sounds a bit risque, don't you think?

    Oddly enough, their mascot is named Flash the Golden Eagle.

    So wait, why don't they just call themselves the Golden Eagles?

    Though Kent State has yet to win anything at the national level, they've done very well in the Mid-American Conference since joining it in 1951.

    Their most successful program, historically, is wrestling. They won MAC regular-season and tournament titles throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and have made appearances in the NCAA Tournament as far back as 1939. Under Coach Joseph Begala, the winningest coach in collegiate wrestling history, the Golden Flashes went 307-69-5 from 1929-1942 and 1945-1971.

    Over the past three decades, they've had plenty of success in men's and women's golf, women's gymnastics, field hockey, baseball and softball.

    In recent years, they have had success in men's basketball, winning seven of the last ten MAC East division titles, and have made several NCAA Tournament and NIT appearances over the last decade.

    Kent State also has some notable alumni including Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Chicago Cubs pitcher Andy Sonnanstine, former New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, and San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (though he didn't play football there; instead, he played basketball).

Niagara Purple Eagles

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    Another team that likes to add purple to its name. Why? What's the reason for it?

    Anyway, as for its athletic department, it's been decent over the past decade.

    Their men's hockey team makes it to the postseason every four years, with appearances in 2000, 2004 and 2008 (maybe 2012 is their year again?).

    However, their most recent athletic success comes from their women's volleyball program, which has made NCAA Tournament appearances in 2009 and 2010.

North Carolina Tar Heels

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    The North Carolina Tar Heels have one of the most successful programs in all of college basketball, and the state of North Carolina itself is nicknamed the "Tar Heel State."

    But where the heck did the name came from?

    I remember from years ago when I went to a college recruitment fair at my high school. One of the recruiters was from the University of North Carolina, and I asked this question.

    This is the story he gave me, which I will remember for a long time:

    "Thousands of years ago, there was a tired, old ram, roaming what is now North Carolina, in search of food.

    "One day, he found a large field, filled with food for him to eat, but he had to cross a huge tar pit in order to get there. The ram decided to cross it because he believed that if he did not cross the pit, he would die. Halfway through, though, he sunk to the bottom of the pit, and it seemed like he was dead.

    "However, through sheer will and determination, he continued to trudge through and escaped out of the tar. He never went hungry again.

    "As a result of his actions, his feet were covered in tar and he could not get it off of him. As he continued to walk through the state, he left tar footprints in his wake, and that's where the name 'Tar Heel' comes from."

    Now, I have no idea if this story is true or if he was just pulling my leg, but if it is true, that is one of the silliest, yet most awesome stories I have ever heard.

North Dakota Fighting Sioux?

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    The reasons I have a question mark to this is because North Dakota University is in a mess right now.

    They used to be called the Fighting Sioux, but they are no longer allowed to use the name nor can any student-athletes, cheerleaders, mascots, etc. use its namesake nor its logo. Otherwise, the university risks forfeiting postseason games.

    It's been a battle this university has faced for years. School alumni, administrators and fans support the use, while faculty and Native American tribes and student organizations believe both the name and logo are racist stereotypes.

    The biggest supporter of the name was Ralph Englestad, a North Dakota alumni who independently owed casinos in Las Vegas. He donated $110 million back in the late 1990s to build an arena for the university, but only on the condition that the name was kept indefinitely.

    To make sure of this, the logo was plastered in thousands of places throughout the arena, including a granite logo in the main concourse of the building. For them to remove the logos would be very costly as a result.

    Though the university has received more than enough support to continue use, the NCAA sent a letter last week reiterating its current policies.

    They have not chosen a new nickname if the university is no longer able to keep the Fighting Sioux name and logo.

Northern Arizona/Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

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    Arizona and Texas aren't the first states that come to mind, when you hear the word "Lumberjacks." But somehow, Northern Arizona and Stephen F. Austin were able to incorporate that.

    Northern Arizona boasts a huge timber dome, the Walkup Skydome that's used for football and basketball. In addition, the Arizona Cardinals use the facility during summer training camp when the weather outside is unbearable.

    As for Stephen F. Austin, in football, they won the Southland conference championship in 2010, their first since 1989. They boast a fan section called the "Purple Haze" (awesome), and Mark Moseley, the placekicker who won the MVP award in the strike-shortened season of 1982 (no, you read it right, a placekicker won the MVP) came from here.

Presbyterian Blue Hose

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    No, the Blue Hose is not based off a tube like a garden or fire hose, but rather the article of clothing

    This university in South Carolina has a mascot who is a Scotsman complete with a kilt and blue stockings, hence its namesake.

    Um.... ok?

    They are a more recent addition to Division I sports. In fact, in men's basketball, during their 2007-2008 season, they played in 25 away games, including game against Ohio State, Clemson and Wake Forest.

    However, what's most known about this university is not its athletics, but its commitment to service. Presbyterian's motto is "Dum Vivimus Servimus," which means  "While We Live We Serve." Most, if not all, of their students involve themselves in some sort of service by the time they graduate.

Purdue Boilermakers

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    The origins of the name "Boilermakers" goes as far back as 1891. After shutting out rival Wabash College 44-0, the local paper headline the game, "Slaughter of Innocents: Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue."

    Other early names include grangers, blacksmiths, railsplitters, cornfield sailors and pumpkin-shuckers, but ultimately, the Boilermaker name stuck.

    Another interesting thing about this team is that Purdue Pete is not the official mascot of the university, even though he has existed since the 1940s.

    Instead, their official mascot is the Boilermaker Special, a Victorian-era locomotive that was inspired by the trains that transported teams and fans to other cities for games.

    That's awesome.

Saint Louis Billikens

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    Like me, you're probably wondering what a billiken is?

    A billiken was a charm doll used in the early 20th century used to give luck to anyone who purchased one. They look like elves, with pointed ears, short arms and sat with its legs stretched out in front of it. They were a fad at the time, and like most fads, faded into obscurity after a few years.

    Now, you're probably wondering why the university went with that name.

    Well, back in the 1910s, the university's football coach, John R. Bender (who not only coached at Washington State, Kansas State and Tennessee, but also coached multiple sports; football, basketball, and baseball) was said by local sportswriters to look like a billiken. As a result, his team was known as "Bender's Billikens," and the team name stuck as a result.

    Sanit Louis' most successful athletic program is men's soccer. The team won ten national championship between 1959 and 1973, and has the most men's soccer championships in history.

    An interesting addition, their football team (which no longer exists) is known for throwing the first legal forward pass in college football history, back in 1906.

St. Bonaventure Bonnies

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    Well, it's not the most creative name, but at least they can say it's original.

    Their current mascot is a wolf, but I guess the "St. Bonaventure Wolves" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

    As for their athletics, they did make a Final Four appearance in men's basketball back in 1970, and won the NIT Championship in 1977. They're also in this year's NCAA Tournament.

    In the 1990s, they also had a lot of success in men's and women's swimming and diving.

Stetson Hatters

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    Ha! Get it?

    Because Stetsons were a type of hat that people wore in the Old West, and their name is called the Hatters. And their university is named after the guy who first created the Stetson hat!

    Funny, right?

    No, it isn't.

    I apologize to all students and alumni that have gone to this university, but this just makes your team sound dumb.

    P.S. The fact that this university is located in Florida makes it even worse.

Stony Brook Seawolves

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    Ah, the Stony Brook Seawolves. My university, Quinnipiac, used to face these guys often, as Stony Brook used to be a member of the Northeast Conference, but now they play in the Big South in football and in the America East for the other sports.

    It's certainly an interesting team name to say the least. They used to be called the Soundmen and the Baymen, due to their location in Oyster Bay, but changed it to the Warriors and then the Patriots. The official switch to the Seawolves happened in 1994

    As for their athletics, they've enjoyed plenty of success over the last decade in a variety of sports, including football, baseball, men's lacrosse, men's soccer and men's basketball, who have made two NIT appearances in the past three years.

    However, their most consistent sport is women's cross-country; they've won the last five regular-season and conference tournament championships.

    Fun fact: Their baseball stadium is named after Stony Brook alumni and current Texas Ranger pitcher Joe Nathan, who donated $500,000 to renovate the field.

TCU Horned Frogs

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    When you think of Texas and football, I don't think "horned frogs" are the first team name that comes to mind. Then again, neither does the color purple...

    Also, that mascot kind of freaks me out. It looks like he's ready to swallow a person or something.

    The Horned Frog has actually been part of TCU as far back as 1897, when it appeared in the university's yearbook. By 1915, it made it onto the seal, but it wasn't until after World War II, when the Texas horned lizard popped up everywhere.

    Most of you know its recent success in football, but did you know that TCU won two national championships, in 1935 and 1938?

    But football is not the only thing this university has been successful at. Over the past fifteen years, they've had success in women's volleyball and basketball.

    As one of the few universities with an equestrian program, they won a women's equestrian championship in 2008.

    And in 2010, they won an NCAA rifling championship, as well. Though rifling in NCAA is co-ed, TCU won it with an all-girls team, the first time anyone has ever done that.

VMI Keydets

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    Talk about pushing it with team names.

    At Virginia Military Institute, they're called the "Keydets." It's basically cadets but with a southern drawl to it.

    Interestingly, they're a part of three conferences in Division I: the Southern Conference (for wrestling), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (lacrosse, water polo), and the Big South (everything else).

    VMI is best known for their two years in men's basketball, in 1976 and 1977. In 1976, they reached the NCAA Tournament, beating Tennessee and DePaul, before losing to Rutgers in the Elite Eight. In 1977, the Keydets went 26-4, and reached the NCAA Tournament again. They beat Duquesne in the first round, but lost to National Champion runner-up Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen.

Wichita State Shockers

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    Wichita State got its name due to its early days, when students earned money by shocking, or harvesting in wheat fields near the university, henceforth its name.

    It may also have one of the most freaky, yet most intimidating mascots in Division 1, with WuShock. For something that's supposed to be a big stalk of wheat, that's pretty impressive.

    Their basketball program has enjoyed success over the years, including winning the NIT Championship just last season.

    In baseball, they're the most winning baseball team over the last 31 years. They won the National Championship in 1989, and have earned runner-up honors in 1982, 1991, and 1993.

    Fun Fact: Legendary NFL coach Bill Parcells was a linebacker and later a graduate assistant at Wichita State in the early 1960s.