March Madness 2011: Power Ranking the Mascots of the Sweet Sixteen
Brutus Buckeye? Albert the Alligator? Cosmo the Cougar? Bucky Badger? Jonathan the Huskey?
The Blue Devil?
The NCAA Tournament is fun for many reasons and not last of all, well maybe last of all, are the antics and exuberance of the morale-boosting and fan-frenzy-feeding fuzzy mascots.
Some are cuddly soft. A few have the capability of mauling you. Two will spear you. One, even, worships Satan.
Some are just figments of the creative imagination, not an atom of reality to them.
Let's take a look at these nuts (well, one of them is a nut) and rank them from lamest to famest...
16. the Wildcat (Kentucky Wildcats)
"Wildcats" is a pretty run-of-the-mill team nickname, let's be honest. There are hundreds of teams on all levels in all sports across the country named "Wildcats." It's not even a specific animal, like a leopard or a lynx or a puma. How many teams are named the lynxes, huh? Now that would be cooler.
There are movies and earth-moving equipment, even football plays named "Wildcat," so due to its ubiquity, Wildcats is low in the rankings. We've seen it all before. You even have to double-check which Wildcats you're playing in the Sweet Sixteen. It could be Arizona.
To make it worse, the Kentucky Wildcat has no name; He's "The Wildcat."
"The Wildcat" of Kentucky has been cleaning out the cat box since 1976.
As with many college sports nicknames,"Wildcats" originated with the football team. After a victory over Illinois in 1909, the head of the military department (Commandant Corbusier) said the team had "fought like Wildcats." The name stuck like a lodged hairball.
15. the Golden Eagle (Marquette Golden Eagles)
Meh, another nameless mascot. But that's George Costanza in there, draped in velvet. It does look kind of comfortable...except for the sweltering 150-degree mask with the 20-pound beak.
Marquette was originally the "Warriors," and had one of those un-PC Native American mascots, so they went with a wholesale name change to Golden Eagles in 1994. No-name made the scene soon after.
14. Jonathan the Husky (Connecticut Huskies)
When Jonathan isn't busy with the Albino Support Society (ASS), he prowls the court supporting the UConn Huskies.
"Huskies" is another fairly common team nickname, so we'll get them out of the way here at the bottom of the list.
The first state governor of Connecticut was Jonathan Trumbull and all UConn Huskies are traditionally called Jonathan. Um, even the girls?
The "Huskies" name was adopted in 1934 and the costumed fellow made his first appearance in 1963.
13. the Aztec Warrior (San Diego State Aztecs)
You know, San Diego State has a really cool nickname: They're the bad-ass Aztecs. But their mascot um, the Aztec-American Part-Time Job Warrior...well...uh.
The Aztec Warrior, though, thankfully, has taken the place of Monty-Montezuma. Looks like the telegraph has finally gotten out West.
San Diego State got their nickname in 1924 by school committee. After 60 years Monty exited through door No. 3 and The Aztec Warrior claimed grabbed the golden mascot throne in 2001.
12. Rodney the Ram (Virginia Commonwealth Rams)
This isn't a ram. It looks like some celebrity dressed her little chihuahua puppy in a Halloween costume. And this the result of a recent makeover, too. Rodney the Ram, he gets no respect.
The original Rodney rammed onto the scene for the first time in 1963.
11. Chief Osceola (Florida State Seminoles)
I'm not going to make fun of Chief Osceola for fear of something like Poltergeist happening to me.
Chief Osceola was a Seminole resistance fighter pissed off that the white man was pushing the Seminoles off their land. What's interesting is Osceola was part white himself, descended from a friend of Native Americans, the Scot James McQueen. It is said that Osceola's father was English, too. More interesting history here.
And before your bleeding liberal heart starts crying, "Why don't they change the name? Why don't they change the name??!!" the name Seminoles was picked by students in 1947 and is officially sanctioned by the official sounding Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc.
10. Big Jay (Kansas Jayhawks)
I don't want to get all existential on you, but Big Jay doesn't really exist. He's a Jayhawk and there's no such thing in the animal kingdom. But in-between popping Prozac in an effort to get past his identity crisis, Big Jay manages to cheer on Kansas.
Actually, a Jayhawk is a made up cross between the blue jay and sparrow hawk. It's a study in contrasts, further adding to Big Jay's dilemma. A blue jay is loud, but a sparrow hawk is quiet, put them together and it's time to see the shrink.
The history is more than that, and it points to a group with noble yet misdirected methods, "The Jayhawkers," who were militant abolitionists in Kansas before war broke out. When Kansas entered the union in 1861 as a free state, it's citizens were known as Jayhawks.
Big Jay made his first appearance in the late 1940's.
9. Rameses the Ram (North Carolina Tar Heels)
Look out for those horns! Wait, that's not a horn!
Similar to Indiana's "Hoosier," North Carolina residents refer to themselves as "Tar Heels." NC is also known as the "Tar Heel State." There's a long history why, including the fact that North Carolina was a big producer of tar in the 18th century—find out more here.
UNC was founded in 1795, right on the "heels" of NC's reputation as the biggest producer of tar.
In 1924, UNC's football coach began bringing a live ram to games against the Virginia Military Institute for good luck. One of the Tar Heels' players, and the inspiration for the trick, was Jack "The Battering Ram" Merrit.
The origin of the costumed Rameses the Ram is...unknown. Oooooo-eeeeee--oooooo.
8. Cosmo the Cougar (Brigham Young Cougars)
At 722 years old, wise Cosmo the Cougar is the oldest of the mascots. He predates America itself, and is no longer able to procreate, so that isn't a worry.
Seriously, though, he's only 57. In 1953, as with (truthfully) many a mascot origin tale, one college roommate said to another: "I dare you to wear this ridiculous costume to the game" or something like that. Cosmo was born.
Eugene Roberts, who was head of BYU's phys. ed. department, coined the name "Rams" for the team in the 1920's.
7. the Blue Devil (Duke Blue Devils)
Devil with the blue 'tard, blue 'tard, blue 'tard / Devil with the blue 'tard on.
I thought devils were red. What is The Blue Devil?
Blue Devils are dainty little flowering plants native to Australia that sport pretty blue and white flowers.
Kidding. Well, that is true, but that's not where Duke got its nickname. The "Blue Devils" or "les Diables Bleus" were a famous-at-the-time World War I French battalion that bravely fought in the Alps. They wore blue berets and capes to...uh...strike the fear of sexual ambiguity into the hearts of the Germans.
Hmm. The perenially victorious Duke Blue Devils named after a French battalion? That doesn't make any sense.
The team got its nickname back in 1924 when the school newspaper selected "Blue Devils" a year after a poorly-organized vote failed to come up with a winner.
6. Albert and Alberta (Florida Gators)
Paaaarty, alligator dude.
Really, it's a cry for help. Co-dependent Albert just doesn't feel whole without Alberta around. He attends the men's games solo. Here you see him trying to fill the gaping emotional chasm in his heart with a couple of cheerleaders.
Perhaps he needs a shorter leash.
6. Albert and Alberta (Florida Gators)
Ah, that's better. All is right again.
Back in 1908, the University of Florida chose "Gators" to be their mascot because DUH there are boatloads of alligators in the panhandle state.
Costumed Albert slithered onto the scene in 1970 and was joined by Alberta in 1986. Extra points to Florida for representing the fairer sex.
5. Wilbur the Wildcat (Arizona Wildcats)
Oh boy, another Wildcat. At least this one has a name.
Actually, Arizona gets credit for having two mascots - a gentleman (Wilbur) and a lady (Wilma). Nice.
Wilbur made his first appearance in 1951 as a cartoon in Kitty Kat, a university newspaper. The costumed cat leaped onto the court in 1959.
Again, after a football game, this time in 1914 the LA Times said Arizona "showed the fight of Wildcats!" Plagiarists!!
5. Wilma the Wildcat (Arizona Wildcats)
Awwww. Isn't that cute.
Wilma entered Wilbur's and Arizona's life in 1980. Wilbur and Wilma were married in 1986.
Don't forget it's your 25th anniversary, Wilbur! Get your hairy cat ass down to ye Silver Shoppe before you're in the, er, um, cathouse.
4. Brutus Buckeye (Ohio State Buckeyes)
Ohio State teams are named after the state tree, the Aesculus glabra, but the Ohio State Aesculus Glabras was a bit unwieldy, so administrators went with Buckeyes instead in 1950.
Brutus (in case you didn't know his name) is the personification of a Buckeye nut - that's what his head is; He's not a lumberjack with an odd beard.
That crazy nut showed up in 1965.
3. Bucky Badger (Wisconsin Badgers)
Look, Bucky Badger is just plain hip daddy-o.
After working at Arnold's and hanging out with Ralph Mouth and Potsie, Buckingham U. Badger scoots over to the Kohl Center to boost some morale. He doesn't even change his clothes, dirty badger.
Wisconsin is the "Badger State." Back in the early 1800's, lead miners out there dug tunnels into the hillsides in the winter for shelter and warmth, so they wouldn't freeze any of their man-parts off.
The university adopted the name waaay back in 1889 and costumed Bucky made his appearance 60 years later, in 1949.
2. Hink (Butler Bulldogs)
Yo, B, Hink is in the hizzouse.
There are a lot of bulldog mascots out there, but few as fly as Hink. I mean, he's taken some stylin' cues from Flavor Flav and listens to cool music. Just needs to tip that cap a bit.
"Hink" was designed by the Walt Disney Co. back in the late 1980's.
As for the team name Bulldogs, that originated in a 1919 Butler newspaper cartoon of a bulldog taking a bite out of the competition.
1. Spidey (Richmond Spiders)
I like to mock those who jump at the sight of insects or spiders, but if I saw this thing crawling around my apartment in the wee hours of the morning, I'd probably empty my bowels faster than I could say, "There's a creepy giant red moon-faced Eddie Munster-do'ed spider with fangs wearing my baseball cap...and my cape...in here! Aaaaahhhh!!"
Here we have the rare case of a popular college basketball team nickname originating with the school's baseball team. In 1894, a local baseball team composed primarily of Richmond students called themselves the Spiders, referring to their star pitcher's spindly arms and legs.
Richmond gets high marks for an oddly unique and uniquely odd mascot. In fact, Richmond is the only university that has the nickname "Spiders."
For those reasons, and for fear of winding up in a cocoon, Spidey is the No. 1 mascot of the Sweet Sixteen.
* * * * *
Follow me on Twitter @VinGetz
Want more College Basketball Mascot and Nickname Origins? Check out the popular:
And check out friend of Bleacher Report, Brett Singer's Should Student Athletes Be Paid?