Now that Bradley has introduced Kaboom, every Missouri Valley team now has a mascot. While the new gargoyle was described as "horrid," and even drew the ire of Keith Olbermann, I believe it is a fine addition to the stable of truly unique and entertaining mascots in the conference.
Therefore, I did what all sports fans do and make a list. Now that every single team in the MVC has a mascot for the first time since before the 1990s (when Bradley ceased the use of any Native American imagery), I am going to rank the mascots of the Missouri Valley.
Of course, I can’t be arbitrary or biased, so I actually ranked each of the mascots by three different categories: Uniqueness, Similarity to Nickname, and Community Support.
Uniqueness is considered based on a combination of the team’s nickname and the mascot itself, but the ranking will be determined entirely by the number of identical or similar nicknames that exist in NCAA D-I.
A mascot's similarity to its team's nickname is important, as the the two parts of the school’s identity should match up. Some mascots don’t make sense at all, others kinda do, and then some are some that reflect the team’s nickname entirely.
The amount of support a mascot receives from its fans is essential to the purpose of the mascot. Simply, if the community identifies with the mascot then it’s going to be more effective. To gauge this, I used either the number of followers the mascot has on twitter, or the number of likes he has on Facebook, whichever is higher. It may not be a perfect metric, but it's an objective number.
Each score is weighted, with uniqueness standing as the most important at 50 percent of the score. Nickname and Community Support will both be worth 25 percent each. Every team score will be out of 10, with the lowest score winning.
Please note that these are not my personal rankings for my favorite mascots, more of a ranking of how good of representatives the mascots are for their respective universities and how much they stand out. For example, I think Boomer the Bear from Missouri State is the most lovable, entertaining, and dynamic mascot in the nation. That doesn't mean he is high up in these rankings (Spoiler: he's not).
Click the mascots' names to see what they look like.
Wichita St. Shockers – WuShock – Tied for 1st with a score of 3.25
The only Shockers there are. With a name based on someone who "shocks" wheat, WSU has an entirely unique nickname. However, I am going to rank the Shockers just a bit below the Purple Aces and Sycamores simply because the Nebraska Cornhuskers describe a similar action – just with a different grain.
Similar to Nickname: 6
WuShock literally is a bundle of wheat in a sweatshirt. WuShock is a man who shocked so much he BECAME the wheat, which is true dedication to the craft. Plus, WSU’s main athletics logo is actually of WuShock, even if the logo shows the bundle of wheat chewing on wheat. That sounds like cannibalism. I have to put him lower than some mascots simply because animals are much easier to represent.
Community Support: 1
7,008 followers on twitter, although the recent success of the team couldn't have hurt this number.
Indiana St. Sycamores – Sycamore Sam – Tied for 1st with a score of 3.25
There truly is no other team with a name like the Sycamores. There isn't even another D-I school that sports a tree based nickname unless you consider the two Lumberjacks – Stephen F. Austin and Northern Arizona – to be close. A tree is not quite the same as someone who cuts one down, though, so I’m not going to penalize Indiana State for that.
Similar to Nickname: 9
Indiana State may be unique for being trees, but then they decided to not have a tree as a mascot. Sycamore Sam is described by Wikipedia as a "happy forest animal costume of no particular species but looks like a blue fox or dog." Unfortunately, a blue fox-dog lovechild is not the same thing as a sycamore tree, no matter how happy he is.
Community Support: 2
5,757 likes on facebook.
Illinois St. Redbirds – Reggie Redbird – 3rd with a score of 4
Here’s a fun fact: Illinois State is the only college to name their team the Redbirds. That is enough to make them unique, but they have to be penalized due to the fact that a "redbird" is just another name for a cardinal. There just happen to be four other D-I schools that go by "Cardinals."
I can hear the protests from Illinois State fans, but the fact is that ISU-red used to be called the Cardinals. You cannot escape the connection.
Similar to Nickname: 1
Reggie the Redbird represents the Redbirds! Glad we could clear that up.
Community Support: 3
3,355 followers on twitter
Southern Illinois Salukis – Grey Dawg – 4th with a score of 4.25
There’s a community college in Memphis, TN that’s named Southwest Tennessee Community College, and they happen to be the Saluqis. I don’t think that quite counts, though. SIU falls just a little bit because the Saluki is a dog, and there are plenty of other dog teams out there.
Similar to Nickname: 3
Grey Dawg isn’t just a Saluki, he looks just like the logo as well. Just like TC Panther below, Grey Dawg wears clothes. That makes him a little less representative than Reggie Redbird.
Community Support: 6
For whatever reason, Grey Dawg has neither a twitter nor a facebook page. In this one exception, I decided to use the number for the amount of followers the men’s basketball twitter has. I don’t like it, but oh well. That number happens to be 1,424.
Evansville Purple Aces – Ace Purple – 5th with a score of 5.25
The only team named the Purple Aces and the only mascot that endorses riverboat gambling. Ranked just below Sycamores in this category just because a tree is much rarer in the world of college sports than a person.
Similar to Nickname: 7
No, Ace Purple is not the literal embodiment of the team’s nickname unlike some other mascots. I also realize that Ace Purple is a riverboat gambler and the team’s name doesn’t necessarily imply gambling. However, his name is the team’s nickname in reverse, which is pretty good.
Community Support: 10
344 likes on facebook.
UNI Panthers – TC Panther – 6th with a score of 5.75
Seven other D-I Panthers are out there, and 16 Panthers at other levels of the NCAA.
Similar to Nickname: 2
TC Panther is a Panther through and through, but he’s just slightly ranked below Reggie Redbird because, unlike real Panthers, TC Panther wears clothes. Reggie doesn’t. It’s silly, but I’ve gotta have something.
Community Support: 5
2,020 likes on facebook
Loyola Ramblers – LU Wolf – 7th with a score of 6.25
While "Ramblers" is a truly unique nickname, Loyola uses a wolf in its logo. Nevada and North Carolina State are both called the Wolfpack, and there’s the Arkansas State Redwolves. There’s the also the New Mexico State Lobos. Not quite the same, but enough to bump Loyola down on this ranking a little bit.
Similar to Nickname: 8
As good as the wolf identity is for Loyola, a Rambler and a wolf just aren’t quite the same. Sure, I can imagine a rambling wolf. I also understand that the wolf is taken from St. Ignatius of Loyola’s coat-of-arms, which makes it appropriate for the school. However, I can’t help but feel like the old hobo mascot that used to, uh, ramble around the Rambler sidelines was a bit more appropriate, even if it isn’t PC.
Community Support: 7
1,153 followers on twitter.
Missouri St. Bears – Boomer the Bear – 8th with a score of 6.5
There are seven other D-I schools nicknamed just the "Bears," and ten more that compete at other NCAA levels. However, there’s also the California Golden Bears, the Maine Black Bears, and the UCLA and Belmont Bruins (which is a Bear). Ultimately, not a very unique nickname.
Similar to Nickname: 4
While Boomer the Bear fits the "Bear" name perfectly, he’s a bit chubbier and friendlier than your average bear, so that bumps him down the rankings when some others match even closer. Now, students have actually asked for a live bear to appear at football games in the past, but administration has rejected the idea every time.
Community Support: 4
2,068 likes on facebook.
Bradley Braves – Kaboom – tied for 9th with a score of 8.25
Alcorn State is the one other D-I school named the Braves, but there are four other NCAA schools that also have the same nickname. While that may seem to deserve a higher ranking than 7, every other team above Bradley in this regard shares its nickname with nobody. Admittedly, if this category was ranked according to the number of gargoyle mascots then Bradley would be first in this category.
Similar to Nickname: 10
Bradley’s reasoning for a gargoyle mascot is understandable. For one, there are a number of gargoyles on campus, so it makes sense for the school. Bradley’s announcer also yells "Kaboom" after every dunk, so the name is also a nice tribute. However, the name "Braves" and a gargoyle don’t go together at all, so that will garner a last place ranking in this category.
Community Support: 9
672 followers on the official twitter. Sure, it’s not quite fair considering he’s new to the scene, but I think of it as him just not having as much time to build a following yet.
Drake Bulldogs – Spike – tied for 9th with a score of 8.25
There are 14 other D-I schools nicknamed the "Bulldogs," and also a slew of D-II and D-III schools with the same moniker.
Similar to Nickname: 5
Well, they are the Bulldogs and Spike is a Bulldog. Not only that, but "Spike" is an incredibly stereotypical nickname for a bulldog. However, many other schools that call themselves Bulldogs actually have a live bulldog that serves as their mascot, whereas Drake goes with the typical costumed cheerleader. The fact that Drake could have been more literal and then didn’t disappoints me.
Community Support: 8
An unofficial account has 918 followers on twitter.