clock menu more-arrow no yes

Why don’t more of these mascots exist in college sports?

New, 7 comments

A few team nicknames that should be far more prevalent than they are.

‘UFO’ Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Consumers crave the unique and reward the innovative. This theory is embraced within capitalistic societies, as competition is supposed to naturally reward the masses with the best options. It ostensibly gives us the safest cars, the best-tasting (and reasonably priced) food, and an iPhone that has three giant cameras on its backside.

Unfortunately, a lot of college teams don’t follow this principle when it comes to team branding.

Being someone who grew up around Kentucky basketball, I witnessed this truth firsthand. While the Kentucky Wildcats are arguably the best-known team sporting that feline moniker, it’s one they share with Arizona, Kansas State, Davidson, Bethune-Cookman, and Abilene Christian. Tragically, the only way to differentiate their mascots is by examining their color schemes and the overall level of terror they want the cat in their logo to inflict.

However, much attention is paid to those schools willing to attach themselves to a distinctive brand. Everyone’s familiar with the eldritch horror that is the Saint Louis Billiken and the Fighting Okra that represents Delta State’s baseball team.

That being said, there’s a few mascot/nickname selections that are severely underrepresented in the collegiate ranks, and it’s time for some schools to take the initiative and break free of their self-imposed creative constraints. I’ve gone ahead and done the legwork for them, so if any school is looking to make a real name for themselves, they need only look below at the suggestions offered.


Aliens

Admittedly, this was the very first mascot I thought of when the idea for this article popped into my head while zoning out during one of my morning classes. I had the Las Vegas 51s, a minor league baseball team, on my mind, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how neat it is to have an extraterrestrial as the team’s mascot and nickname.

Unfortunately, they’ve since changed to the Aviators, but this does leave room for a college to grab the distinction of being the only alien-themed team in American sports.

Plus, the beauty of being the aliens is that, since there is no documented evidence of their existence, you can make them look however you want. Grey? Green? Go for it! Scary fangs? Bulbous heads? Big frightening claws? Think of it like an intergalactic Mr. Potato Head—the choice is yours.

Potential team(s) to rebrand: New Mexico State (there’s like 17 Aggies in college sports)

Robots

Even though the Borg Queen is my favorite Star Trek character from any iteration of the show, I’m the first to admit that I absolutely hate robots as both a concept and creation. I suppose most of this stems from a hesitancy to bring about both the singularity and that scene from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (you know the one).

Patrick Stewar In ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

However, robots have sometimes been of a more genial nature in popular media (think of that really weird and altogether dull Robin Williams flick or Wall-e if you’re so inclined), so perhaps it’d be best to think of those in this situation. Either way, it’d be a really cool mascot concept solely for the fact that robots can be made to look incredibly high-tech and futuristic, unless of course they’re the modern ones that are made by weird labs and university researchers that just look like boxes with spider legs.

Potential team(s) to rebrand: Any tech school, really (looking at you, Louisiana Tech—Bulldogs are so overused).

Ghouls/Ghosts/Phantoms/Specters/Spirits

Okay, maybe I lied when I said aliens would be the most incredible mascot choice listed here. Anything that’s related to hauntings would be a good choice for a mascot, and I can’t think of anything more terrifying than the potential for creatures that occupy the spirit realm to torment those of us in the real world.

Double exposure of a man on a chair, ca. 1900. Photo by Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images

Honestly, the most fun I have when playing NBA 2K is when I search through the created teams. So every time I create a new dynasty, I first go to the team-builder feature and search for “Phantoms” because someone always uploads an NBA version of the Pittsburgh roller hockey team. Needless to say, it’s phenomenal.

Potential team(s) to rebrand: Central Connecticut State (Blue Devils will always belong to Duke, and there was that one Haunting in Connecticut), Hofstra (kind of close to Amityville).

Scary Snake Species

I think one of the greatest ironies about my personal character is that I am very into bugs, spiders, and other assorted creepy crawlies, yet snakes freak me out to no end. There’s just something about their general vibe that disturbs me, but maybe that’s because I watched a giant one consume Jon Voight at too young an age.

Yellow Anaconda (Eunectes notaeus) Pantanal Photo by: Hal Beral /VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Still, snakes are an untapped market in the mascot game, and there are plenty of fearsome options that teams could select to represent them. Asps, anacondas, vipers, pythons, cobras, etc. Of all the options I’ve presented, this could be the most viable one just because it’s not as “out there,” and the potential for combining it with cool color schemes is clearly present; just take a look at Florida A&M.

Potential team(s) to rebrand: Utah Valley (“Wolverines” is a fairly common nickname, and they’ve barely even had a presence in the state; in 2014 the first one was spotted there in three decades), Texas Southern (there are no tigers native to the State of Texas)

Dinosaurs

just kidding haha dinosaurs are boring and for babies.

Cryptids

If you’re not familiar with what a cryptid is, it’s defined as “an animal (such as Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster) that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist.” Of course, cryptids aren’t always animals — they can be any sort of fabled creature.

Swapping out your staid nickname in favor of a cryptid is particularly enticing because it allows a school to really dig deep into the folklore and general culture of their affiliated region. It’s a fantastic way to show off local pride, and the best-known example of this in sports is the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, based on the myth of the Jersey Devil, an ancient beast that supposedly roams the Pine Barrens.

Illustration of the Mythological Jersey Devil

Currently, the Southern Utah Thunderbirds give a nod to cryptids, as the Thunderbird is a large winged creature of Native American lore.

Potential team(s) to rebrand: West Virginia (Mothman has come to town, and he brought Richard Gere with him!), any Florida school (ever heard of the Skunk Ape??), Seattle (call yourselves the Kraken).

Soldiers that aren’t Spartans

In the entire pantheon of human history, there has existed scores of great, conquering armies led by soldiers possessing various levels ferocity. Unfortunately American sports only seem to think that Spartans (and the occasional Trojan) were the only military units to ever do battle.

In actuality, there are plenty of other names attributed to soldiers of various nations throughout time, and many of them would suffice as novel team names. Take for instance the Voltigeur, French military units created at the turn of the 19th century.

Voltigeur of Imperial guard Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

Then there’s the Berserkers, a vicious group of Viking warriors who “went into battle wearing bear and wolf pelts or even bare-chested,” leading, “some Norse sagas [to claim] they could physically transform into ferocious beasts.”

Matrix used in the manufacture of helmet plaques Photo by Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Potential team(s) to rebrand: I suppose any team near the Canadian border could pick the Voltigeur, but the beauty of this category of nicknames/mascots is that it literally doesn’t matter where you are in the country. After all, San Jose and East Lansing both have teams named after those Peloponnesians with painted-on abs.