12 Weirdest Team Names In The 2012 NCAA Tournament
I don’t know about you, but I’ve given up trying to be scientific when filling out my March Madness bracket. I used to study all the teams’ records, see who they beat and who they didn’t, analyze the RPI rankings—all that stuff. But I’d still lose the office pool to someone who doesn’t know a Duke Blue Devil from a Davidson Wildcat.
So a few years ago I just decided that, when a particular game was too hard to call, I’d just pick the team with the better mascot. And not only did this method prove to be just as effective as studying the state, but it also turned out to be way more fun.
Today, I thought I’d bring some of that fun to you by listing the 12 weirdest team names in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Because for every team of Bull Dogs and Wildcats, there’s also a team of Jackrabbits and Hillstoppers. And if I had to choose between two similarly ranked teams—one with a normal name, the other a goofy name—I’d go with the goofy one every time.
But if you don’t want to adopt my bracketology, that’s fine. You can still enjoy making fun of these weird team names.
If you’re like me, you were under the impression that “Crimson Tide” was some reference to some characteristic or historical event pertaining to the state of Alabama. But no. It turns out, it’s just a nickname some reporter gave to the football team in 1907, explaining that their offensive line was like a “crimson tide” slowing flowing up the field.
Now, that’s fantastic poetry, but the ocean tide—crimson or otherwise—is not a good nickname for a sports team. Crimson Tsunami? Now that’s a good sports name.
12. Alabama Crimson Tide
I know zoology geeks are going to be all up in my grill for this, but a jackrabbit (or hare) is basically a slightly larger wild rabbit. Sure, there are biological and behavioral differences between the animals, but they’re from the same family, they both have long ears, and they both go hippity hop. So, yeah, South Dakota State might as well have called themselves the SDSU Fighting Bunnies. (That’s what their mascot is, anyway: a bunny.)
11. South Dakota State Jackrabbits
I know what you’re thinking: Crimson what? Crimson Marauders? Crimson Tigers? No, just Crimson. Not the Crimsons, plural (like the Cincinnati Reds), but Crimson singular.
Basically, they are either a concept (the color red) or an adjective. Either way, it’s kind of weird.
10. Harvard Crimson
Schools like New Mexico State were founded as land-grant schools, which means the U.S. Government gave land to the states to start up universities specializing in agriculture, science, and engineering. Many of these universities became known as “Aggies”—i.e., agricultural schools.
Obviously, this is where New Mexico State sports teams got their name—which is cool from a historical perspective, but dumb from a sports perspective. Because whether or not they try make it look like an Aggie is some kind of rough and tumble cowboy gunslinger, they’re still basically the New Mexico State Farmers. Which is not intimidating at all.
9. New Mexico State Aggies
Sadly, the Western Kentucky University sports teams got their name from a topographical reality and nothing more. There’s no cool story about how the school’s founder ran to the top of a hill to fight off Union soldiers, or how some student once wrestled a bear on the top of a hill, or anything like that. No, they are the Hilltoppers because the school sits on top of a hill.
Creative, right? And how about their mascot, Big Red?
8. WKU Hilltoppers
A Gael is someone from Ireland or Scotland who speaks Gaelic. It’s an old-fashioned term and nobody uses it anymore—probably because it sounds so stupid. At least Notre Dame had the sense to add Fighting before Irish because they knew there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about just being Irish. Nevertheless, there are two teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament that call themselves the Gaels: St. Mary’s College (California) and Iona College (New York).
7. The Gaels
Anyone ever stop and wonder, what the hell is a “Hoosier”? Well, the short answer is that a Hoosier is someone from the state of Indiana. But the thing is, no one is really sure how or when the word came about.
One theory holds that the term was derived from the old English word “hoozer” and was commonly used in the South to refer to burly woodsmen or rough hill people. Another theory is that the term originated among traders on the Ohio River as a derogatory term describing Indiana farmers. Meanwhile, in St. Louis to this day, the term “hoosier” is a pejorative term similar to “white trash” or “redneck.”
So apparently, any way you cut it, the word “hoosier” seems to have a negative history. And yet, somehow, the term eventually came to mean “anyone from Indiana.”
6. Indiana Hoosiers
Like “Hoosier,” the term “Tar Heels” seems to have started as a pejorative term for “people from North Carolina.”
The state was the world’s leading producer of—yeah, you guessed it—tar in the 18th and 19th centuries. I guess the idea was that people in North Carolina were hicks who just walked around barefoot all the time, getting tar on their feet. But at some point the term evolved, and people took pride in being a Tar Heel.
Of course, none of this makes Tar Heels a good name for a college sports team. In fact, pretty much any term that requires historical research to understand is a bad name for a sports team.
5. UNC Tar Heels
No, a “hoya” is not some obscure name for a bull dog. It’s just an Ancient Greek word that means “what.” So the Georgetown basketball team are, literally, the Georgetown Whats.
They got this nickname after their famous cheer—Hoya Saxa—caught on in the 1890s. Back then, the Georgetown football team were known as the Stonewalls, so some clever student came up with the cheer that is a combination of Ancient Greek (hoya) and Latin (saxa). It literally means “What Rocks!”
Thus, this is probably the nerdiest nickname in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
4. Georgetown Hoyas
Back in the olden days, students at Wichita State used to make extra money by working in the nearby wheat fields, shocking (i.e. harvesting) wheat. At first, the school’s sports teams were called the Wheatshockers, but this was eventually shortened to Shockers.
Today, “shocker” obviously means something way different. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just type “shocker” into Google and click on the first result for a very thorough and scientific explanation.
3. Wichita State Shockers
Here’s another team mascot that causes one to ask, “what the hell is it?”
The Billiken was fad toy (like the pet rock, or Cabbage Patch Dolls) that was hugely popular for a few years in the early 20th century. It was created by an American art teacher and illustrator and patented in 1908. The idea was that buying a Billiken—which looks like a cross between Buddha and an elf—was supposed to be good luck, and getting one as a gift was even better luck.
The fad spread all over the world, and a number of sports teams adopted the Billiken as their mascot. The St. Louis University basketball team adopted it was their mascot because the team’s coach, John Bender, was said to look like one.
So, yeah, the St. Louis University basketball team is named after a creepy fad toy. They could just as easily be known as the St. Louis University Furbies.
2. SLU Billikens
St. Bonaventure sports teams used to be called the St. Bonaventure Brown Indians, which is just a teansie little bit racist. Sure, it took them until 1992, but better late than never, right?
Unfortunately, the best alternative the school could come up with was the St. Bonaventure Bonnies...which as uncreative as it is foppish.
How’d you like to be a coach trying to recruit players with that name? “Come play for us, son. You’ll love being a Bonnie.”