How the Top 25 Got Their Nicknames

By D.J. Byrnes on August 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm

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.

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