What college teams used to be known as the Fighting Christians, Rough Riders, Silver Foxes and more?
It was either this list, or my very detailed and nuanced write-up on how I’d realistically fix the BCS. And that post would alienate more people than, say, watching the sixth episode of the fourth season of Lost with no prior context.
So we’re going with this list instead. Here are 11 college sports teams that used to have cooler nicknames and/or mascots, then changed them to something much less cool. Like every good list, it’s filled with puns and a bit of gentle racial humor.
1 | Kent State University (Ohio)
Old nickname: Silver Foxes
New nickname: Golden Flashes
When you juxtapose those two nicknames, it seems they transitioned from evoking the image of suave, handsome, Rat Pack-ish older men to retired menopausal women.
2x | Ball State University (Indiana)
Old nickname: Hoosieroons
New nickname: Cardinals
Love that word. Hoosieroons. When I hear it, I picture Hoosieroons as younger, hipper, better-tasting Hoosiers. Now, according to the Internet and its liberal bias, there’s a chance that a Hoosieroon is a pejorative term for a mixed race person living in Indiana. But that seems like such a specific thing to create a term for that I find it hard to believe. And regardless, it’s better than an ultra-generic nickname like Cardinals. (Kidding! My on-the-record stance is that boring birds are better than esoteric racism.)
3 | Hofstra University (New York)
Old nickname: Flying Dutchmen
New nickname: Pride
Man, if only Urban Dictionary had been around when they picked Flying Dutchmen. It’s got like 15 possible dirty meanings.
4 | University of Nebraska
Old nickname: Bugeaters
New nickname: Cornhuskers
You know what’s not intimidating? Husking corn. You know what is intimidating? Eating bugs. Proof: Weird, undersized 3rd graders protect themselves by eating bugs to convince bullies they’re unstable, dangerous and capable of anything. Shuckin’ corn in front of bullies does not accomplish that same result.
5 | Elon University (North Carolina)
Old nickname: Fighting Christians
New nickname: Phoenix
It’s not just the Irish and the Sioux who can be fightin’ mascots. Christians can fight too. (Especially with me, over my list of 11 Things the Bible Bans, But You Do Anyway.)
Now Elon University is the Phoenix. If you’ve never heard of Elon University, you assume it’s (1) in Phoenix and doesn’t have a mascot or (2) a branch of the University of Phoenix.
6 | University of Oregon
Old nickname: Webfoots
New nickname: Ducks
I include this partially because I think Webfoots is such a cooler way to say Ducks… and partially because I hope this brings the old nickname to the attention of someone in Oregon’s athletic department and next year they make 800 new football uniforms celebrating the Webfoots. Each will be as hideous than the last! Perhaps even more hideous. No, as hideous.
7 | University of Massachusetts
Old nickname: Redmen
New nickname: Minutemen
Are you kidding? What could be cooler than naming your college after an adjunct member of the Wu-Tang family? That would show people that UMass ain’t nothin’ to fuck with.
But if this was a horrible term for Native Americans then, yeah, maybe changing it was the right call. Then there was a Method to their madness.
8 | Oklahoma University
Old nickname: Rough Riders
New nickname: Sooners
They would’ve been able to fit so seamlessly into the CFL if they’d just kept their old nickname.
9 | Syracuse University (New York)
Old nickname: Saltine Warriors
New nickname: Orangemen (and eventually, just Orange)
Saltine Warriors! That’s so much more hardcore than a generic orange.
As the story goes, in the 1930s, an archeological dig turned up some Native American artifacts in the salt deposits in Syracuse, New York. So the school adopted the nickname Saltine Warriors. It stuck until the late 1970s (even after the archaeological dig turned out to be a hoax.) By then, the no-more-Native-American-nicknames push began… and all the NCAA crackers ruled that Saltine Warriors was offensive.
10 | Texas Tech University
Old nickname: Matadors
New nickname: Red Raiders
“Matadors” evokes such a different picture than “Red Raiders.” Perhaps because a matador is a real thing.
(And a red raider is a term that was coined by a sportswriter back in the day when they all used maddening, flowery prose to try to turn every game writeup into a mix of Casey at the Bat and Ode on a Grecian Urn.)
11 | Virginia Tech University
Old nickname: Fighting Gobblers
New nickname: Hokies
[12:10 am] Fighting the urge to make a pun.
[12:12 am] Fighting the urge to make a pun.
[12:23 am] Ate an apple. Still have the urge.
[10:15 am] Putting finishing touches on list. Still fighting urge.
[10:25 am] Talking it over with the dog.
[10:45 am] Gonna publish without it.
[10:50 am] Changing my mind. Going with the pun!
[10:51 am] I can’t believe they changed and found a name that was hokier than Fighting Gobblers! HI-YO!
[10:52 am] That might be anti-climactic.