How the Top 25 Got Their Nicknames

By DJ Byrnes on August 30, 2013 at 6:47p

Nicknames are some of the coolest things about college sports. While pro football teams are mostly reduced to cloying, run-of-the-mill nicknames that are the equivalent of Microsoft Word clip art. People in these parts should need no refresher on the Buckeyes history, but for the visitors:

Ohio State borrows the state nickname for its athletic teams. A buckeye is a tree prevalent in the Ohio River Valley that produces shiny brown nuts with tan patches that resemble the eye of a deer, or buck. By 1800, Buckeye was being used as a term to refer to residents of the area. William Henry Harrison popularized the nickname by using the buckeye tree as a campaign symbol during the election of 1840.

Mental Floss runs down the whole preseason Top 25 for a great article to use as late-minute tinder to keep the fires blazing in your soul until the Buckeyes return at noon tomorrow.

Some interesting notes:

Stanford adopted Indians as its official nickname in 1930, but the moniker was dropped in 1972 after meetings between Stanford’s Native American students and school president Richard Lyman. The student body held an election to decide on a new nickname, and while Robber Barons garnered the most support, new president Donald Kennedy expressed his concern that the moniker was disrespectful to school founder and railroad magnate Leland Stanford. Cardinals, or Cardinal, a reference to the school color, not the bird, was eventually adopted as Stanford’s official nickname. The Tree, symbolic of El Palo Alto (tall tree) that appears on the university’s seal, is a member of the Stanford Band and not recognized as an official mascot of the school.

There are at least two accounts of how TCU's athletic teams became the Horned Frogs, but both of them trace the nickname to the late 19th century, when the school was still known as AddRan College. According to one story, the school’s football team practiced on a field that was teeming with horned frogs. The players shared some attributes with the fierce reptiles, not including their ability to shoot a stream of blood through their eyes, and reportedly began referring to themselves as horned frogs. According to another story, a four-student committee chose the nickname in 1897 for the football team and school yearbook.

As someone who COMPLETELY ISN'T BIASED AT ALL towards Ohio Sate, I still think the Buckeyes are not only the most unique name in college football, but in all of sports.


Comments Show All Comments

Unky Buck's picture

As someone who COMPLETELY ISN'T BIASED AT ALL towards Ohio Sate

Don't see anyone else like that around here either! Haha
This was interesting though. Definitely a nice thing to see and for someone that loves history, it's up my alley. I also like how Oregon embraced the hate from California and their name still kind of sticks with it.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

MN Buckeye's picture

I prefer the Nebraska Bugeaters.

Brutus's picture

Holy sh--, I had no idea that a wolverine was actually a part of the weasel family. I figured that was just something we said to piss them off.  But sure enough, wolverines are just large weasels. Fitting.

pjtobin's picture

I tried to upload the link it isn't letting me. Maybe because I'm using my phone and I have one bar? I will look this up as soon as I get home Tuesday. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

Brutus's picture

Good to know.  Thanks for keeping us in the loop.  I was just wondering when you in particular were going to get around to looking at this.  It can wait until Tuesday.
(Apologies for being a dick.  I couldn't resist.  This seemed like one of those Bucksfan changing icon moments)

Orlando Pancakes's picture

^ Now that's funny.

Geraffi's picture

"Michiganders". Teeheeehee.