Ah the power of a nickname. It is a rare scene indeed, a random onlooker would say, if he were to peer into Ohio Stadium and hear chants of "Buckeyes! Buckeyes! Buckeyes! Buckeyes!" I can only imagine the confusion on his face, assuming he actually knew what a buckeye was, as he looked at the field and saw a bunch of men hitting each other on the field ... instead of a grove of buckeye trees, or even a pile of buckeyes in the middle of the field being urged to grow by the crazy seance of the tens of thousands of people surrounding him.
Perhaps mascots were meant to strike fear into the opposing team, like the Spartans did in ancient Greece before they went to battle. Nobody messed with Sparta, and that included their women. I suppose this makes sense when you look at some mascots, like the Tigers or Gators, or even the Wolverines. But then you hear of nicknames like the Anteaters and the Lambkins, and you have to wonder, what was the athletic department thinking.
No, these nicknames were created for one simple reason: marketing. Not many things can galvanize a community better than a sports team. However, cheering for a team needs to be marketable. That's where the mascots come in to play, I suppose. Now, I'm not saying that there isn't thought that went into mascots, and I for one am a sucker for huskies. I plan on buying one in a few years, and every time I see one I find myself staring. But hey, it's one of the best marketing tools out there.
The Huskies play 13 teams this year, with 13 different nicknames ... luckily. I mean, they could be playing BYU and WSU in the same year. Heck they could play Northwestern, Weber State and Arizona in the same year. That being said, before I give you my three finalists, I want to eliminate a few nicknames, simply because they aren't all that unique, or cool.
First off, I'm taking off any team that duplicates another team. That means Cal is out, since there's 3 other school called the golden bears, and 30 other teams called the Bears. It also means that the Eastern Washington Eagles (76), the Georgia State Panthers (33), the Washington State Cougars (27), the Arizona Wildcats (27) and the Hawai'i Warriors (27). That's basically every university that has the same nickname as at least 20 other schools.
The next test was to shoot the mascot with a pellet gun and see if it would still live. I hypothetically shot the remaining 7 nicknames and killed the duck and the beaver. The buffalo didn't notice that I hit him, the bruin chased me for a while, till I got into my jeep and drove off, the Illini shot an arrow back at me, and it didn't shoot the Sun Devil (for obvious reasons) or the Cardinal, because shooting a color doesn't make any sense.
Before the next test, I simply eliminated Stanford from the equation. It's a color, 'nuff said.
The last test was simple: If the government likes the nickname, it's staying put. The government protects buffaloes, so they're in; the government can't punish a man for his beliefs, so that means the Sun Devils are in; since the Washington Redskins can no longer be called the Redskins, I'll just assume that Uncle Sam doesn't agree with tribal nicknames, Illinois is out; oh, and since the government doesn't say anything about bears, well let them tag along.
Option #1 UCLA Bruins
Bruin is really just another name for brown bear. Heck, it was even said to mean pregnant bear ... that being said, here's how the name came to be:
Originally, the Bruins were the cubs, since they were really just considered the baby brother to the big university to the north in Berkeley. The students didn't like the name, so in 1926 they opted for a more ferocious name. They tried to get "grizzlies," but the University of Montana already had that name, and they were already in the Pacific Coast Conference, something UCLA was attempting to join. When that didn't work the tried names like the Buccaneers and the Gorillas ... it all came to a head when UC Berkeley, who used both the Bears and the Bruins, voted to let its little sister use the name Bruins ... and the rest is history.
Reasons it should be: UCLA wanted to use a bear as a mascot, but they refused to use a generic name, granted they didn't have much of a choice ... at least they're not the "Bears."
Reasons is shouldn't be: Bruins are still bears.
Option #2 Colorado Buffaloes
Have you ever seen a buffalo? They're big, and, unlike their African counterparts, are very aggressive. They use their sharp horns for defense ... etc... Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about the American Bison. Here's how the name came to be:
In 1934 the school decided to get an official name, so it held a contest. Prior to this time the team had various nicknames like the Silver and Gold, the Yellowjackets, the Arapahoes, the Hornets, the Bighorns, the Grizzlies and the Frontiersmen. But that wasn't enough ... no the school wanted a nickname that would stand the test of time. CU even offered a $5 prize to the winner of the contest! The prize was claimed by two students who each chose Buffalo ... the rest is history.
Reasons it should be: The buffalo is a big, aggressive animal, suiting for a school nickname. It is also a regional name, as there is a herd in northern Colorado. Not only that, but a bison can outrun a horse in the quarter mile, and can jump 6 feet from a standing position ... not bad for a 2000 pound beast.
Reasons it shouldn't be: The buffalo isn't the smartest animal alive, and, if you take pride in the academics of your institution, perhaps another animal would be a better choice???
Option #3 Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State was once known as the mighty Owls; they went on to be the bulldogs for a short time, and then the awesome "Sun Devils" were adopted. The only problem is that the no one really know who came up with the nickname. Somebody used it in the summer of 1946, and then it picked up steam. Eventually the student newspaper called for the name to be used instead of the Bulldogs ... the rest is history.
Reasons it should be: It is a fitting name for a team in the middle of the desert. Not only that, there's intrigue around the name's origin. Plus, who wouldn't be scared of facing an actual devil?
Reasons it shouldn't be: I used GoogleFight, and it lost to Buffalo by a landslide ...
Arizona State Sun Devils
The Sun Devil has everything you want in a mascot. It's a scary, it's smart, it embodies the area. Granted there's not a whole lot of backstory to the name, at least not like the other two in this piece, I had to choose this one. Honestly, of all the other possible nicknames, none of them do as good a job as ASU in capturing the area.