Did You Ever Wonder Where Sports Team Mascots Got Their Names?

While many professional sports teams select a mascot that is tightly connected with the name of the team, there are some teams both in professional sports and college sports that have mascots that really don’t seem to match the team name very well. At the same time, these mascots are often wildly popular and once they have become closely associated with a team there is no chance that the fans will approve of the mascot being changed. For instance, it makes sense that the Miami Dolphins would use T.D. who is a dolphin as a mascot, but why do the Texas A&M Aggies have a mascot that is a collie? Once you understand the story behind some of these interesting mascots, you will appreciate the ties they have to their teams.

Collie – Texas A&M University

Reveille Tamu
Photo by Patrick Boyd, available under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

The official mascot of Texas A&M University is Reveille, a full-bred collie. The first Reveille joined the team in 1931. Some cadets on their way back to the university accidentally hit a little black and white dog with their car and brought her with them so they could take care of her. She began barking the next morning when “Reveille” was sounded and thus earned her name. She led the band onto the field for football season and was named the official mascot. She served as the mascot for 13 years until she passed away. Several other unofficial mascots were named before Reveille II came along, and then the tradition stuck. Currently, Reveille VIII is a full-blooded Collie and has been with the team since 2008. She is addressed by cadets as “Miss Ref, ma’am” and is well taken care of.

Duck – Miami Hurricanes

One of the main reasons that the Miami Hurricanes team uses a duck for its mascot is the fact that a hurricane is somewhat difficult to embody in a mascot. The duck, or more accurately a marsh bird called an ibis, is a bird of folklore. It is said that the ibis is the last creature to seek shelter before a hurricane hits and is the first one to leave the shelter when the hurricane begins to pass. Sebastian the Duck, or the Ibis was actually an entry for a homecoming competition in 1957. His signature cheer is when he uses his body to spell the word CANES while pumping up the Miami Hurricanes fans.

Ram – North Carolina Tar Heels

Rameses the Ram
Photo by Ramses the Ram, available under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

The origins of the term “Tar Heel” is hard to trace but was popularized during the civil war and became the team name for the University of North Carolina. The real question is, how did Rameses, a bighorn ram become the mascot for this school? Jack Merritt was the star fullback on the team in 1922 and was nicknamed the “battering ram” for the way he performed on the field. The head cheerleader talked to the business manager about using a ram for the mascot. The idea was approved and a live ram was purchased and appeared in 1924 before a game. Legend has it that the field goal kicker rubbed the ram’s head just before kicking the winning field goal in the game, and Rameses has been the North Carolina Tar Heels mascot from that time forward.

Bird – Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech got the nickname “Hokies” from the winning spirit yell created in 1896 when the name of the college was changed and a new yell contest was conducted. In the early years, the Virginia Tech teams were called Fighting Gobblers, possible because the athletes had minimal time to eat and thus gobbled their food, and a large turkey was brought to the games in 1913 where it would perform stunts. This was the Gobbler. Because of the poor impression that the athletes gobbled their food, a campaign to find a new name and look for the mascot was headed by Bill Dooley, who was the coach in 1981. The new mascot was called the “Hokie Bird” or “the Hokie” based on the old cheer. The gobbler still shows up on the scoreboard, but the HokieBird is here to stay. The HokieBird has become very popular and there has even been a series of children’s books published that include its likeness.

Brutus – Ohio State Buckeyes

Brutus Buckeye
Photo by Brett.t.burch, available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Ohio State University has taken the name of Buckeyes because that has been the nickname for residents of the state for many years. The buckeye is a variety of tree species that grow abundantly in Ohio and are the official state tree. The dark brown nut has a light tan patch that many say resembles a deer’s eye. Originally, since many schools were using animals, the Ohio State Buckeyes thought about using a buck deer, but realized it really wouldn’t work. Since it would not be very exciting to have a tree for a mascot, the Ohio State Buckeyes decided to try the buckeye nut. The first costume was worn over the head and upper body with only the legs sticking out. Later, the mascot evolved into a student wearing a headpiece that looks quite a bit like a buckeye nut with a face on the light area. A cap with an “O” is placed on the head. In 1965 the name Brutus Buckeye was accepted for the mascot after a naming contest held on campus.

Learning more about how sports mascot’s names came to be can help a person connect better with both the mascots and the sports teams. Understanding the connection can even add to the excitement of the game.

Check out our other favorite mascots from their respective sports:
These Football Mascot Are Fan Favorites
These Basketball Mascots are a Slam Dunk
These Baseball Mascots are A Hit

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