March Madness technically started on Tuesday with the first two play-in games. But come on, everybody knows those games don’t really count. The Big Dance really gets underway today. And that means it’s once again time to take a look at the NCAA Tournament mascots and savor their weirdness.
Unfortunately, we don’t have weird mascot stalwarts like St. Louis University (Billikens) or Western Kentucky (Hilltoppers) to make fun of this year. Neither of them made Tourney. But there are still plenty of bizarre NCAA Tournament mascots to choose from. To sit back, grab a cup of coffee (or a beer, because it’s five o’clock somewhere), and take a look.
Before we get to the nine finalists, we have to mention the weird NCAA Tournament mascots that are not quite weird enough to make the cut:
New Mexico State Aggies—because "Aggie" is short for Agricultural.
Indiana Hoosiers—because what the hell is a Hoosier?
Georgetown Hoyas—because "Hoya" is an ancient Greek work that means "what?"
We should also give a shoutout to the NCAA Tournament All-Politically Incorrect Team:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish—because everybody knows the Irish are a bunch of belligerent drunks.
San Diego State Aztecs—because nothing says "sorry for wiping out your civilization with smallpox" like a middle class white kid dancing around in a tribal headdress.
Ole Miss Rebels—because the Civil War was awesome, what with all the death.
Valparaiso Crusaders—because who doesn't love a good Holy War?
Now, on with the weird March Madness mascots...
Honrable & Dishonorable Mentions
Ospreys are actually pretty badass predatory birds. The problem is this: Ospreys are also known fish eagles, sea hawks, river hawks, or fish hawks. And predatory birds are called raptors. Like the vicious, flesh-eating dinosaurs. So basically, of all the names for this bird, North Florida University picked the dumbest one—the ons so bad they used it for the ugliest military aircraft in the history of military aircrafts.
North Florida Ospreys
Let's forget for a moment that people usually just call these guys the Terps, which sounds like a venereal disease. ("I'm sorry to tell you this son, but you've got the terps.") Instead, let's just focus on the official name. Because a terrapin, lest you didn't know, is a f--king turtle.
Now, I don't have a problem with turtles. They're cute. They have sells. I like that. But your mascot really should have some of the characteristics you want your team to have—like ferocity, or swiftness, or loyalty. Something.
What does a turtle say about you? We're slow as sh*t, and when the going gets touch we retreat inside our shells and wait it out?
The "Boilermakers" nickname actually started out as an insult. After Wabash College suffered a particularly humiliating loss to Purdue in football, their town's local newspaper called Purdue the "Boiler Makers," implying that the famed engineering university was nothing more than a trade school.
Epic burn, I know.
Today, Boilermakers sounds odd, but not bizarre. What makes things weird enough for this list is Purdue Pete. He is just creepy as hell.
We get so used to some team nicknames that they start to sound normal after a while, and we forget that they're actually really stupid.
Tar Heels is one of those nicknames. As this ugly-ass hat reminds us, the name literally means "people with tar on the bottom of their feet." And while I don't mean to disparage the people from the great state of North Carolina, who are known collectively as tar heels, this nickname is not flattering. It implies everyone in North Carolina is a shoeless hick who wanders through the forest and never takes a bath.
Let me repeat, I'm not saying the people of North Carolina are barefooted hicks. (I'm from Missouri. I'm in no position to cast aspersions.) That's just what the nickname implies. Which is unfortunate.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Anteaters are weird and creepy. Especially in statue form. With a dude riding it like a bucking bronco.
Anteaters are also what you get when you ask a bunch of hippies what their school mascot should be.
Seriously, in 1965 UC Irvine asked their students to vote on a new school mascot, and since everybody was high on various psychotropic substances, they choose the anteater, with its bushy tail and weird ant-eating dong-nose.
UC Irvine Anteaters
Here we have another team name to file under "so used to it we forget how effing weird it is." Because remember, the Ohio buckeye is a kind of tree.
Now, personally I wouldn't mind the idea of naming a sports team after a type of tree. Trees are strong and resilient and useful. Those are good qualities. But the Buckeyes go and ruin it with Brutus, their mascot who is basically an anthropomorphic tree nut, and thus creepy as hell.
Again, trees good. Anthropomorphic tree nuts bad.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Manhattan has already been elimiated from the Big Dance, but we still have to talk about that name. You see, a Jasper isn't some kind of majestic bird, or noble warrior. Jasper is just the name of the priest who use to coach the school's baseball team. And as you can see, they didn't rename the team after he died as some sort of tribute to the guy after he kicked the bucket. He was alive and well when they started calling themselves the Jaspers.
That's like the Cowboys calling themselves the Landrys in the 1970s.
In the 1960s, Coastal Carolina University became part of the University of South Carolina system. To commemorate the merger, they wanted come up with a new mascot that was "more in line" with the mascot of the state's flagship school, the South Carolina Gamecocks. So they decided to name their sports teams after a character from a 14th century Middle English poem.
That's right. Chanticleer is the name of a rooster in The Nun's Priest's Tale, one of Geoffrey Chaucer's Caterbury Tales.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
The weirdest team name and mascot in the NCAA Tournament? The Wichita State Shockers.
Obviously, the university had no idea what "The Shocker" would come to mean when they chose the name. They thought they were just naming their sports teams after people who harvest (or shock) wheat.
But as you can see, even the team's mascot knows what "The Shocker" is these days. And it's incredibly disturbing.
Wichita State Shockers
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