Monthly Archives: December 2012

Now that Sport Change has thoroughly examined each NCAA Division I moniker, it’s time to finish this study off by ranking the Top 100.


NCAA: Nickname Curiosities Are Allowed

In the Moniker Monitor Ground Rules,  the factors for what make a great collegiate or semipro team nickname have been spelled out.  As a refresher, here are some of those criteria and how they apply to this study:


-Fun or Serious?  The NCAA is an interesting blend of novelty nicknames and efforts toward respectability.  In a minor league or semipro setting, goofy monikers are king and serious nicknames often seem out of place.  In the NCAA, both can be good–it’s all about context.  The fun ones are celebrated and the intimidating ones are respected.  Additionally, many schools have historical ties that rival or exceed most pro teams, and plenty had their nicknames well before synonymous pro team monikers popped up.  In fact, we can make that a criterion….

-History.  Schools will not slip in the rankings due to a lack of history themselves, but there are bound to be a few historic skaters.  The Kansas Jayhawks, for instance, have a terrible moniker at face value, but they’ll certainly crack the Top 100–mainly due to history and consistency.

-Regional Relevance.  Whereas pro sports can get away with more universal/regionally irrelevant nicknames, semipro levels have much more liberty to pick uber-specific regionally relevant handles.  Nicknames that remain ubiquitous but not specific will not slip in rank, but those with appropriate regional relevance will stand out.

-Alliteration.  It helps at any level.  At collegiate levels, there is much, much more leeway for riding alliteration as a leading nickname attribute.  Monikers almost always sound better when the place name and the nickname begin with the same letters.

-Sound of Moniker.  Often the actual sound of a word being pronounced can have an effect on the overall name.  A hard ‘K’ sound (Buckeyes, Jayhawks) within a word can give bonus points to a nickname that doesn’t measure up at face value.  It can also make a good name become great.  Additionally, the way the place name meshes with the nickname certainly helps, such as in Houston Cougars or Valparaiso Crusaders.  You almost need to say it aloud to appreciate it.

Those will be our main criteria for selection.  Now, let’s talk about the selection process.  For these rankings, Sport Change selected a total of 150 Division I monikers from which to draw the Top 100.  There are about 350 nicknames in D-I, so where did the other 200 go?



Part 1 of this study focused on monikers that are shared by pro sports teams in the Big Four.  From these, Sport Change selected only 25 of a little over 100.  Each moniker was limited to only one representative at maximum.  For example, eight D-I schools use ‘Panthers,’ but only Pittsburgh was selected to be eligible for the Top 100.

Part 2 of this study focused on monikers that are not seen in pro sports, but are replicated throughout D-I.  Again, only one representative of each moniker was considered eligible, and 25 of a little over 100 were selected.  For example, of the fourteen ‘Bulldogs,’ Georgia is the only one available for ranking.

Part 3 of this study focused on the 115 unique monikers in D-I.  This list was narrowed down to an even 100 by eliminating 15 monikers that had no shot of cracking the Top 100.  The entire ‘color’ category was eliminated.  You will not see the Stanford Cardinal or Syracuse Orange on this list.

So added all up, that gives us 150 of approximately 350.  From here, all 150 monikers of each category are lumped together and weighed against each other using the criteria listed above.


So…without further ado, here is a countdown of the Sport Change Top 100 NCAA Division I sports team nicknames:


Eastern Kentucky carries on the tradition of Colonels in Kentucky. There was the ABA and there is fried chicken.

100. Eastern Kentucky Colonels.  ‘Colonels’ is a decent nickname, and the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels wore it well.  EKU carries on the crispy-fried tradition.

99. NCState Wolfpack.   I’m generallly not a fan of nicknames that do not end in the letter S, but NC-State makes Wolfpack respectable and palatable.

98. UCLA Bruins.  Bruins is a bizarre moniker since it’s a word almost nobody uses in normal language.  As such, it’s much better served on the collegiate level than in the pros.

97. Valparaiso Crusaders.  The sound of these two words together is what pushes Valpo onto the list.  At face value, the moniker isn’t so great.

96. UTEP Miners.  Blunt and simple.  A blue-collar moniker that says something about the El Paso area, as depressing as that might be.


UTEP dug up a nice nickname.

95. Utah Utes.  It’s the best of the Native American monikers.  The alliteration is almost comical.

94. Bucknell Bison.  What’s better: Bison or Bisons?  Bison is grammatically correct, but it makes for tricky pluralization.  Bucknell gets the nod for alliteration.  Why is it that an overgrown cow can seem so intimidating?

93. Texas Longhorns.  Speaking of overgrown cows, UT gets points for regional relevance and for wearing their identity well.

92. Kansas Jayhawks.  History certainly nudges KU along here.  At face value, what is a Jayhawk?  There are conflicting stories about the name’s origin.

91. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.  It’s a reference to the rooster from Canterbury Tales.  Bonus points for digging deep and coming up with something unique–there is plenty of leeway for this on the collegiate level.  Go Chants!


CCU opened up the book of nursery rhymes to find their moniker.

90. Rutgers Scarlet Knights.  ‘Knights’ is a very good sports moniker that is rarely used.  The variant of Scarlet Knights is interesting if nothing else.  Pretty nice nickname.

89. San Francisco Dons.  A reference to Spanish noblemen.  The mascot used to greatly resemble Zorro, but it became a cease-and-desist copyright situation.  The moniker?  Simple, unique, good.

88. Wichita State Shockers.  This is an antiquated reference to the practice of bundling wheat, or making ‘shocks.’  Regionally relevant and certainly one-of-a-kind.

87. UCSB Gauchos.  The nomadic cowboys of South America.  Respectable and fun.  Sombreros off to the Gauchos.


UCSB looked south of the border for their nickname. South of the Panama Canal, that is.

86. UMBC Retrievers.  Here’s one of many domesticated dog nicknames in Division I.  This one is a very regionally relevant reference to the Chesapeake Bay retriever.  Fear the ferocious fetchers of Baltimore County!

85. Loyola Maryland Greyhounds.  This is a more respectable pooch nickname in that greyhounds are synonymous with speed.  Terrific for basketball.  This Baltimore based school is only a tennis ball’s throw from UMBC.

84. Albany Great Danes.  This doggy gets credit for originality and respectability.  It works well as a collegiate sports moniker and can be shortened to just ‘Danes.’


Albany has a great dog-based moniker.

83. Southern Utah Thunderbirds.  A very respectable reference to Native American folklore in the Southwestern United States.  The T-Birds have a unique and powerful nickname.

82. Northwestern State Demons.  I appreciate the diminutive quality here.  Where ‘Devils’ works on the pro level, ‘Demons’ holds it’s own on the amateur level.  DePaul wears ‘Blue Demons’ very well, but the blue is holding them back.  It’s a shame, because the alliteration would be perfect.

81. Furman Paladins.  Paladin is a brave knight of ancient European folklore.  Furman adds a little more fun to Division I with this moniker.

80. Idaho Vandals.  I imagine that when this nickname was picked, it had a similar connotation as ‘Raiders.’  Nowadays, it’s impossible to extricate the name from the non-PC act of vandalism.  I appreciate the scrappy outlaw nature here, and commend Idaho for sticking to their guns.  Or spray paint cans.


Think ancient European warriors, not graffiti artists.

79. Denver Pioneers.  It’s a shame that ‘Pioneers’ is not represented in the Big Four.  Portland nearly picked it, but chose Trailblazers instead.  Too bad, because that would’ve been one of the best monikers in all pro sports.  At least Denver can don the coonskin cap and wear it well.

78. Pennsylvania Quakers.  It may not be the most intimidating nickname you’ve ever heard, but Pennsylvania pays homage to the Quaker State every time they suit up for a game.

77. Florida A&M Rattlers.  Representing the reptiles in good fashion, the Rattlers have some teeth in their name.


The Rattlers are the lone snake in the grass of D-I

76. Marist Red Foxes.  I’m not sure that the ‘Red’ is totally necessary, but since a red fox is a legit creature, I’ll accept.  Foxes make terrific mascots on the amateur levels, and are underutilized.

75. USC Trojans.  ‘Trojans’ is less intimidating than ‘Spartans,’ but is a nice history-based nickname with history of it’s own.

74. IPFW Mastadons.  More clever and obscure than most monikers–Mastodons was a solid choice for Fort Wayne.

73. UTSA Roadrunners.  A very nice regionally-relevant collegiate nickname.  Arizona U should change their name from Wildcats to Roadrunners.  For now, the name is San Antonio’s.


Roadrunner, roadrunner.

72. Clemson Tigers.  Just simply the best use of ‘Tigers’ in Division I.

71. Southern Jaguars.  Southern edged out the other few Jaguars in D-I, and the name is probably more appropriate for a college than an NFL team.

70. Duquesne Dukes.  ‘Dukes’ is a very solid moniker, especially for a college or semipro team.  Duquesne takes alliteration to an extreme, but the name doesn’t overly rely on it.


Duquesne takes alliteration to a new level.

69. Houston Cougars.  This has to be the best use of Cougars, especially the way the words ‘Houston’ and ‘Cougars’ mesh together so well.

68. Iowa State Cyclones.  I’m generally not a big fan of weather nicknames, but Cyclones is solid.  Iowa State wears it well.

67. Saint Peter’s Peacocks.  A unique and fun bird moniker that is masculine, I guess.  The sound of the place name and moniker work well together.


The Peacocks strut their stuff in the MACC.

66. Alabama Crimson Tide.  At face value, it’s really not much better than say, the Green Wave of Tulane.  ‘Bama makes our list with a boost from history and the effective use of color scheme and “Roll Tide.”

65. Austin Peay Governors.  The school is named after a former governor of Tennessee, so the moniker is a literal reflection of that.  Pretty funny.

64. UAB Blazers.  I like the term ‘Blazers’ for a sports team, but it’s important to note that Birmingham took a different path than the Portland Trailblazers by using a dragon as a mascot.


Alabama-Birmingham took a more literal definition of ‘Blazers.’

63. Kent State Golden Flashes.  There are other similar nicknames (like the St. Francis Red Flash) that are terrible, but for some reason Golden Flashes works.  Those two words sound great together, and it lends itself well to flashy gold uniforms.

62. Cal Golden Bears.  Generally speaking, I don’t like over-specific variants.  That said, I’m a sucker for ‘golden’ anything.  Cal also gets credit for the golden-colored bear on the California state flag.  

61. Kentucky Wildcats.  Arguably the best use of ‘Wildcats’–a terrific nickname.  It’s almost a shame that there are so many colleges with the name, because it would be workable at the pro level; certainly better than Bengals or Bobcats.

60. Wake Forest Demon Deacons.  This is a very strange nickname that’s hard to say without feeling a little uncertain.  Maybe that’s what makes it so good!  That, and history.

59. South Dakota State Jackrabbits.  Like ‘Greyhounds,’ this nickname sounds speedy.  It’s also fun and regionally relevant.


South Dakota state sets bar for how respectable a bunny can be.

58. South Carolina Gamecocks.  It’s tough and thoroughly Southern.  The hard ‘k’ sound in the middle of the word packs a peck.

57. Virginia Cavaliers.  Classy and respectable.  Virginia wears this nickname better than Cleveland, in my opinion.

56. Tennessee Volunteers.  The Volunteer State is represented literally, and Tennessee gets boosts from history and a maddening level of consistency and simplicity.  Two colors and a T for a logo.

55. UMKC Kangaroos.  One of three schools on this list that have a logo that was once designed or inspired by Walt Disney.  Kangaroos is a very fun nickname, and Kansas City gets points for alliteration too.

54. Fairfield Stags.  A solid, decent, masculine nickname.  Not as good as Bucks, but good nonetheless.


Fairfield has a solid yet understated nickname.

53. Canisius Golden Griffins.  If it were just Griffins, it would  be ranked higher.  Griffins is a terrific reference to a mythological creature, and is intimidating to boot.  The ‘golden’ is certainly unnecessary, but it’s better than, say, Blue Griffins.

52. Nebraska Cornhuskers.  Regionally-relevant state nickname moniker that works pretty well.  It is, however, just a bit corny.

51. Minnesota Golden Gophers.  It’s goofy, no doubt, but there’s plenty of leeway for that kind of thing in college sports.  The ‘golden’ is alliterative, too, so it doesn’t lose points for over-specificity.   

50. North Carolina Tar Heels.  Another state nickname moniker that sounds tough, even if it is a bit of a headscratcher.  For the record, a Tar Heel is not a sheep–it’s a person with pine pitch on their foot.

49. Ohio State Buckeyes.  Whoever thought that a tree nut moniker could be both tough and fun.  History helps the pride of the Buckeye State.


OSU gets nutty while representing the Buckeye state.

48. Miami Hurricanes.  Regionally relevant, sure, but also well-branded and at this point–historic.

47. Louisville Cardinals.  Cardinals is certainly an overused moniker, but Louisville pulls it off surprisingly well.

46. Creighton Blue Jays.  Creighton wears the blue quite well, and operates this nickname independently of the Toronto baseballers.

45. Michigan State Spartans.  It references a ruthless and brutal historic culture, so I guess that counts for something.  The hard ‘T’ sound in the middle of the word sounds tough as well.

44. Long Island-Brooklyn Blackbirds.  Nice.  This is the only time I’ve heard ‘Blackbirds’ used as a team nickname, but it works really well.  Nice.


The Blackbirds may have the most respectable songbird nickname in all sports.

43. West Virginia Mountaineers.  West Virginia is a state that would expect to have Mountaineers as a sport team nickname.  It just works.

42. Southern Methodist Mustangs.  Mustangs is a moniker that would fit well at any level, including the pros.  SMU pulls it off very well, considering that they’ve kept a consistent brand at least since Eric Dickerson wore the red and white.

41. Campbell Fighting Camels.  The ‘Fighting’ is unnecessary, but it’s also fun.  Ignoring it, Campbell Camels has terrific alliteration.


Campbell adds yet another unique mammal moniker.

40. Cal-Irvine Anteaters.  There’s a team called the Anteaters?  This is what non-professional sports can do so well.

39. Washington Huskies.  A pretty solid moniker all around, and Washington wears it just slightly better than UCONN.

38. Portland Pilots.  Pilots is a very good nickname that works at any level.  Portland also gets the alliterative boost.

37. Wyoming Cowboys.  This is such a wholesale use of Cowboys, that it’s impossible to ignore.  Dallas may own the moniker, but Wyoming is going nowhere.  The same logo is on licence plates and road signs.

36. Oregon State Beavers.  State nickname moniker that is also fun and furry.


Oregon State represents the Beaver State.

35. Iowa Hawkeyes.  The Hawkeye State is represented by collegiate teams that wear the nicknames as well as possible.  Simplicity and history.

34. Georgia Bulldogs.  The best of the many Bulldogs, and that’s saying something.  Woof!

33. Arkansas Razorbacks.  It’s fun yet also regionally-relevant.  That word ‘razorback’ is fun to say, and it meshes will with Arkansas.

32. La Salle Explorers.  Very nice and family-friendly, to boot.  Just a great college nickname, all around.


There should be more nicknames in D-I like this. The college Joes need to use their noggins.

31. Hawaii Warriors.  Warriors is always a great moniker, and Hawaii takes a measure of pride from the traditions of the indigenous Hawaiian warrior culture.

30. Baylor Bears.  Bears may be overused and ‘owned’ by Chicago, but Baylor wears the name well.  Alliteration is a big bonus.

29. Purdue Boilermakers.   A gritty blue-collar name always earns extra points.  The college equivalent of the Steelers.


Those boilers aren’t going to make themselves.

28. Massachusetts Minutemen.  Very regionally-relevant and also alliterative.  Tough and respectable  too.

27. Colorado Buffaloes.  There’s just something about buffaloes that commands respect.  Colorado works a Wild West image to very good effect.

26. Southern Illinois Salukis.  This one always seems to come to the forefront every few years in the basketball tournament.  To refresh: the saluki is a breed of dog favored by ancient Egyptians.  Southern Illinois is known as little Egypt due to city names like Cairo and Thebes.  Hence, the SIU Salukis.


Southern Illinois has a clever nickname that indirectly references it’s region.

25. New Mexico Lobos.  The simple ‘Wolves’ might not be used anywhere in the Big Four or D-I, but the Spanish translation sounds great and works well in a border state.

24. Delaware Blue Hens.  No, it’s not the most masculine moniker in America.  But it’s fun, state-specific, and color coodinatable.  I love inventing words.

23. Providence Friars.  This is about as good as a religious moniker can get.  The two words work nicely together, and the moniker manages to be respectable.


This is about as good as you can get with religious nicknames.

22. Wofford Terriers.  Fun, scrappy, and even a little tough.  Got to love how Wofford is basically Woof-ord.  Excellent.  Arf!

21. Montana Grizzlies.  The best use of Grizzles out there.  If only Memphis would take a hint from Montana and use a regionally relevant nickname.

20. San Diego State Aztecs.  I hope that nobody is offended by this moniker, because I think it’s excellent.  It’s representative of a historic culture in much the same way as Vikings or Spartans, and it fits well within a city near the border.


Using a moniker from an ancient warrior culture is a pretty sure bet.

19. Buffalo Bulls.  Bulls may be used in Chicago to good effect, but it’s universal enough to allow for a few other versions.  Buffalo makes terrific use of alliteration, and this is a much better moniker than the Buffalo Bills.

18. Pittsburgh Panthers.  I think Pitt wears Panthers better than any other sports organization in the country, including both of the pro teams.  Awesome.

17. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.  Hilarious and region specific, with great rhyming.  It’s the kind of moniker that makes you want to dance a zydeco and take a roadtrip to Louisiana.  Much better than Fighting Irish.  Hats off.


Louisiana-Lafayette makes the bayou proud

16. Saint Louis Billikens.  Saint Louis takes the cake for having no inhibitions about goofiness and using a bit of city folklore in their moniker.  Makes for good conversation when Saint Louis makes the basketball tourney.

15. Arizona State Sun Devils.  This is a variant that really works well.  There’s just something believable about a devil in the sun and it fits Arizona.  Fun fact: the Sparky logo is a cartoon rendering  of Walt Disney.  Why would Walt Disney be a devil?  Because the cartoonist was fired by Disney.

14. Maine Black Bears.  Another one (like Red Foxes) that’s a specific variant, yet an actual animal.  It’s intimidating and it fits with Maine very well.

13. Vermont Catamounts.  A catamount is another word for cougar, mountain lion, puma….basically a more colloquial version of Wildcats.  Catamount is short for cat-o’-the-mountain.


Vermont looked to the Green Mountains for their nickname.

12. Ohio Bobcats.  Forget the NBA; here’s a moniker that’s meant for amateur levels.  Ohio wears it best of all the Bobcats.  It looks like the NBA franchise in Charlotte may change their nickname, which would give ‘ownership’ back to Ohio.

11. Richmond Spiders.  It may be creepy, but it’s very effective.  I’m glad that there’s a team somewhere named the Spiders.  This is one of the monikers that stands out in NCAA basketball tournaments.  Simply webderful.


Yes, it’s creepy. Also unique and effective.

10. Texas Christian Horned Frogs.  Horned Frogs is one of those monikers that’s fun, unique, and regionally relevant at the expense of being overly serious and intimidating.  In other words, it’s perfect for D-I.  Now if Texas gave up the Longhorns and started called themselves the Christian Horned Frogs, that would really be something.

9. Oregon Ducks.  Everybody loves this moniker, and the Anaheim hockey team should take their webbed feet off of it.  Oregon is the third team on this list that has a Disney logo connection.  The use of Donald Duck as a team logo is acceptable under an agreement between Oregon and Disney.  Go figure.


Oregon gets it’s feet wet among the great sports nicknames.

8. Wisconsin Badgers.  The Badger State actually refers to a nickname for miners who made their homes in the earth.  There are actually not many badgers in Wisconsin.  Either way, Bucky is a great mascot and the moniker has teeth.

7. Michigan Wolverines.  The Wolverine State (also Great Lakes State) actually refers to a nickname for ferocious soldiers in Michigan who once fought against Ohio.  There are actually next to no wolverines in Michigan.  Either way, it’s a unique sports moniker with plenty of teeth.

6. Xavier Musketeers.  I love it.  Great way to reference historic swashbucklers and literature at the same time.  The X logo always brings to mind either two swords crossed or a mark left in a similar manner as Zorro’s Z.


Xavier pledges allegiance to classic literature with their nickname.

5. Temple Owls.  At the end of the day, it’s the animal nicknames that come out on top.  Owls wouldn’t work well on a pro level, but in college: sublime.  Fun fact: former Temple basketball coach John Chaney resembles an owl.

4. Lafayette Leopards.  Yes!  This what a non-professional cat nickname should be.  It’s more obscure than most, yet it’s also a large ferocious feline.  The alliteration shoots Lafayette towards the top.


Lafayette employs the most underrated of the big cats.

3. Florida Gators.  It’s fierce yet fun.  It’s universal yet regional.  It lends itself to a hilarious hand motion for fans.  Nice work, Florida.

2. Drexel Dragons.  I don’t think Dragons is ready for the pro level, but it’s an absolutely terrific moniker for college, semipro, or other minor leagues.  It’s respectable and literary, but also unique and a bit goofy.  Drexel gets a big handful of bonus points for alliteration–which is much trickier when your place name begins with a consonant cluster.

1. Maryland Terrapins.  Funny, original, and just obscure enough.  A moniker that lends itself to a lovable mascot, yet still commands a measure of respect.  The best part: Maryland and Terrapin rhyme.  A shell-shockingly good moniker!


Terrapins: a shell of a good moniker!


Honorable Mention

A few monikers just missed the Top 100.  Both fight song remnant nicknames, the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Georgetown Hoyas, weren’t able to cheer their way in.  The two state nickname based monikers that didn’t make it were the Indiana Hoosiers and the Oklahoma Sooners.  There’s just nothing to hold on to there.  The two bullfighters, the Cal-Northridge Matadors and the San Diego Toreros, got pushed out of the ring.  The three flighty Ohio programs: the Dayton Flyers, Toledo Rockets, and Akron Zips flew out of the rankings.  Despite the nice alliteration, the Longwood Lancers were not able to poke themselves into the Top 100.

So there you have it.  It took the better part of a month, but we have fully explored about all there is to know about sports team nicknames in NCAA Division I.  Thanks for reading.  Feel free to post comments or argue the rankings.  How would you rank them?  What’s your top ten?

NCAA Moniker Study Part 1: the Copycats

NCAA Moniker Study Part 2: Wildcats, Cougars, and Bulldogs, oh my!

NCAA Moniker Study Part 3: From Anteaters to Zips

NCAA Moniker Study Part 4: the Top 100 Nicknames in Division I


What’s next on Sport Change?  Something different, for Pete’s sake. Stay tuned.



It is now time for the third installment in our NCAA Division I moniker study.  In this episode, we’re taking a good look at the monikers that are one of a kind in Division I.


Cal-Irvine intimidates opponents by constantly threatening to eat insects.


For Part 1, click here.  For Part 2, click here.

As a refresher, these are the nicknames that did not fall into either of the two categories that we studied in the previous installments.  In Part 1, we looked at college monikers shared with pro sports teams in the Big Four.  In Part 2, it was the nicknames that are unseen in the Big Four, but are duplicated throughout Division I.  There were three nicknames (Blue Devils, Gamecocks, and Wolverines) that were carried forward from Part 2 to this installment.  Those three may share their moniker with another school, but were dubbed the “I don’t think so” teams–meaning the more prominent schools had more than staked a claim on the name.

So let’s get right into it.  Here are the one-of-a-kinders.  We’ll break it down by category.



This guy will not be badgered into having an overused moniker.

STATE NICKNAMES.  There a handful of schools that use an element of a state nickname as their mascot.  Often these are the largest universities in their state, and each either claims the state itself as it’s place name or is the state name followed by the word ‘state.’  This is particularly popular in the Big Ten, where seven of twelve members use a state nickname.  The monikers that fit this category are:  Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, North Carolina Tar Heels, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oregon State Beavers, Pennsylvania Quakers, Tennessee Volunteers, and Wisconsin Badgers.  It should be noted that Michigan’s official nickname is the Great Lakes State.  Wolverine State is the traditional nickname, so we gave them the nod.  The Blue Hen State is one of Delaware’s nicknames, but is maybe only the third or fourth most-used.  As such, we moved Delaware to another category….


Hens may not be the most macho creatures, but Delaware certainly has a fun mascot.

BIRDS.  Aside from the obvious bird monikers (Eagles, Hawks) covered in the last two installments, NCAA runs a-fowl with unique bird-based nicknames.  In the barnyard, we find the Delaware Blue Hens and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers–a reference to a rooster in old children’s tales.  The South Carolina Gamecocks strut their tough, outlaw image, and the St. Peter’s Peacocks certainly display their feathers in a statement of semipro flamboyance.  Taking a walk on the wild side, we have the Illinois State Redbirds and the Long Island-Brooklyn Blackbirds flashing their colors.  The University of North Florida Ospreys represent the lesser-known raptors, if improperly pluralized.  Then you have the highly visible odd duck–the Kansas Jayhawks.  What is a Jayhawk?  It’s not clear.


Is it a jay? Is it a hawk? One thing is for sure: it’s one-of-a-kind.


WILD DOGS.  You would think that wild dogs would be well-represented in all levels of sports, but it’s not really the case.  In the pros, there is are the Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Timberwolves.  That’s it.  The ‘Wolfpack’ moniker is used twice in Division I, so that was covered in Part 2.  Seawolves doesn’t count for this category since that’s not an actual animal.  That leaves us with three unique wild dogs: the Marist Red Foxes, Arkansas State Red Wolves, and New Mexico Lobos.  Two color specific subspecies and the Spanish word for wolf.  I’ve asked this question several times…why is it so hard to find teams with a moniker of just ‘Wolves?’  If you ignore minor league hockey, you’re just about out of luck.

DOMESTICATED DOGS.  In addition to the plethora of Bulldogs, Huskies, and yes, Terriers covered in Part 2, there is still a full kennel of unique pet dog monikers.  The Albany Great Danes, Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers.  Yes, retrievers.  Even more obscure are the Southern Illinois Salukis, a reference to the ancient Egyptian royal dogs.


The Retrievers embody the energy of a free safety waiting for a pick-six.


WILD CATS.  The obvious choices for the ever popular big cat nicknames have already been scooped by by Part 1 and Part 2.  There are dozens of NCAA teams that share a name with a pro team (or two) including Tigers, Lions, Panthers, Bobcats, Jaguars, and even Bengals.  There is also a whole herd of Wildcats, Cougars, and yes, Bearcats.  That leaves with two unique felines: the Lafayette Leopards and the Vermont Catamounts.  Meow.

MORE MAMMALS!  Here we go.  Let’s take a safari, a trip to a national park, or a visit to the zoo.  Along the way we’ll meet Arkansas Razorbacks, Cal-Irvine Anteaters, Campbell Fighting Camels, Colorado Buffaloes, Fairfield Stags, Kansas City Kangaroos, South Dakota State Jackrabbits, and Texas Longhorns.  If we’re able to go back in time or to facilitate advanced cloning techniques, we may even see the Indiana-Fort Wayne Mastadons.


Fort Wayne looked to the Ice Age for their nickname.


BUGS.  There are two nicknames in Division I that reference a bug of some sort.  The Virginia Tech Yellow Jackets join with the NBA’s Hornets to showcase the stinging insect sector of society.  The Richmond Spiders make eight-leggers everywhere mighty proud.

REPTILES.  The cold-blooded crowd has a few representatives in Division I.  Most prominent are the Florida Gators, though the Maryland Terrapins and Texas Christian Horned Frogs are no slouches.  The lone member of the snake community is the Florida A&M Rattlers.


Cute & cuddly yet prickly & dangerous.


ANIMAL GROUPS.  The Hofstra Pride seem to take their inspiration from a group of Lions.  The Marshall Thundering Herd are quite specific about the nature of their bison.

MYTHICAL CREATURES.  Tapping into the mythologies of world culture can sometimes yield nicknames that fit wonderfully with college culture.  Other times, it’s just plain awkward.  The Canisius Golden Griffins, Duke Blue Devils, and DePaul Blue Demons seem to have a need for clearly stating the color of their creature.  The Drexel Dragons and Northwestern State Demons play it simple, to good effect.  The Southern Utah Thunderbirds reference Native American folklore.  The Stony Brook Seawolves animate a literary metaphor.  The Saint Louis Billikens refer to an elvish creature imagined by a school teached in St. Louis.


Perhaps the only school that takes it’s name from a good luck charm.


THE COLORS.  Sometimes teams simply claim a color as their own.  This differs slightly from a name like the Cincinnati Reds in that college teams tend to just be that color–in a non-pluralable sort of way.  The Cornell Big Red, Harvard Crimson, Stanford Cardinal, Dartmouth Big Green, North Texas Mean Green, and Syracuse Orange all fit this description.  Maybe it’s a status thing.

THE COLORFUL SOMETHINGS.  Maybe it’s a force of nature, an occurrence, or an article of clothing.  For whatever reason: it is colorful.  The Alabama Crimson Tide and Tulane Green Wave make a spash with their monikers.  The Kent State Golden Flashes and St. Francis Red Flash refer to lightning or photographs or something.  The St. John’s Red Storm make it clear that the approaching squall is ruddy in hue.  Most bizarrely, the Presbyterian Blue Hose make an archaic reference to a very manly piece of legwear.


What is more intimidating than thigh-high stockings of a blue hue?


WEATHER.  Considering the proliferation of weather-related monikers in the NBA and NHL, it’s a bit of a surprise that Hurricanes is the only moniker shared by NCAA (Miami) and the Big Four (Carolina.)  Even more of a surprise is that the Iowa State Cyclones and Pepperdine Wave are the only two monikers that fit exclusively in this category.  Now Golden Hurricane, Green Wave, and Red Storm….those make sense.  Generally, I’m not a fan of weather nicknames anyway, so no complaints here.

NOBLEMEN.  Moving on to the many people-based nicknames.  We’ll start at the top of the hierarchy with the political and social leaders.  The Austin Peay Governors, Old Dominion Monarchs, and San Francisco Dons all fit here.  It also seems like the good place to put the Centenary Gentlemen.


Austin Peay: celebrating Governors everywhere!


RELIGIOUS FIGURES.  The Providence Friars are in a similar category as the New Orleans Saints.  The big headscratcher here is the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.  I guess that’s one way to make a moral authority seem intimidating.

SOLDIERS OF NEW.  The current military finds it’s way into sports through a few monikers used by service sports teams.  These are the Navy Midshipmen and the Virginia Military Institute Keydets–a reference to the Southern pronunciation of ‘cadets.’

SOLDIERS OF OLD.  Where an underutilized moniker like Knights doesn’t jell, there is a whole host of ancient swashbucklers who are ready for battle.  The Furman Paladins, Longwood Lancers, New Orleans Privateers, Vanderbilt Commodores, and Xavier Musketeers all fit the bill.


Furman dug into ancient European mythology and extracted Paladin.


NATIVE AMERICANS.  Native American nicknames are generally pretty contentious.  For example, the former North Dakota Fighting Sioux are currently playing sports without a moniker whatsoever.  Some schools have struck agreements with various tribes, while others apparently go unabated.  The Central Michigan Chippewas, Florida State Seminoles, Illinois Fighting Illini, and Utah Utes are the four unique examples of teams that refer to Native groups in the current United States.  The San Diego State Aztecs looked South of the border for their moniker, while the University of California-Santa Barbara Gauchos cast their gaze even further–as far as South America.

CRANKY ETHNIC GROUPS.  I’m not sure why the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Lousiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns are so upset, but it certainly is entertaining.


The Irish have been Fighting for many years, but the question lingers: how do they match up against the Ragin’ Cajuns?


GUN-TOTING REVOLUTIONARIES.  The UMass Minutemen hearken back to the American Revolution, whereas the Ole Miss Rebels are Civil War era relics.  The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (or in baseball–the Hustlin’ Rebels) draw from Confederate history for some reason.  You wouldn’t think that Las Vegas would need to come up with a unique reason to be called the Rebels.

BLUE COLLAR WORKERS.  Where the NFL has the Packers and Steelers, NCAA Division I has the Purdue Boilermakers and the UTEP Miners.

BULLFIGHTERS.  Believe it or not, there are two Division I monikers that reference bullfighters: the Cal-Northridge Matadors and the San Diego Toreros.  Go figure.


‘Torero’ is a more authentic term than ‘Matador,’ but Cal-Northridge was wise to use the color red.

MOVERS & SHAKERS.  The Idaho Vandals have a moniker that was probably more akin to Raiders at the time it was picked.  Vandalism is a little more politically incorrect these days.  The La Salle Explorers manage to be respectable, yet original and family-friendly.  The Portland Pilots make excellent use of a very underutilized and terrific sports nickname.  The Murray State Racers are neck and neck with the Pacers for most dull movement-oriented moniker.

THE CHEER PIECES.  Two prominent D-I schools, the Georgetown Hoyas and Virginia Tech Hokies, both get their monikers from remnants of fight songs.  Contrary to popular belief, a hoya is not a bulldog and a hokie is not a turkey.


A Hokie is not a turkey.  Just sayin.’


MISCELLANEOUS.  There are some monikers that do not lend themselves easily to any specific category.  The UAB Blazers, for instance, have created a great identity independent of the NBA’s Trailblazers by using a dragon as a mascot.  The retention of the vague ‘Blazers’ moniker, however, does not mean that UAB would be lumped in with the Mythical Creatures.  The Manhattan Jaspers are simply named after a guy named Jasper.  The Indiana State Sycamores are a rare plant-based moniker.  The Loyola Chicago Ramblers seem to be named after a certain type of wanderer, but their mascot is a dog.  Another headscratcher with a dog mascot is the Western Illinois Leathernecks.  Not totally sure what a leatherneck is, but I don’t think it’s a type of dog.  On the literal side of things, we’ve got the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (apparently a pronunciation key) and the Stetson Hatters–an obvious clothing-based moniker.  The Chattanooga Mocs and William & Mary Tribe are two schools that have made themselves bland in the face of offensive references.  The Mocs (former Moccasins)  are now explained as being short for mockingbird.  The Tribe have kept the name, but removed Native American imagery.  The Evansville Aces could’ve been a reference to pilots, but seemingly  has no real meaning.  The West Kent Hilltoppers reference a geographic situation, and the Wichita State Shockers hearken back to an agrarian hay-day.  Since we’ve gone from A to Z with all of these original Division I schools, it’s only fitting that we end with the Akron Zips.


Akron zips it’s way across the finish line.


Yep.  The Zips.  God Bless America.   And bless you too, dear reader.  Before we zip out of this NCAA experience, there’ll be one last push to rank the top Division I monikers.  What’s a study without a conclusion?  Stay alert for Part 4.

NCAA Moniker Study Part 1: the Copycats

NCAA Moniker Study Part 2: Wildcats, Cougars, and Bulldogs, oh my!

NCAA Moniker Study Part 3: From Anteaters to Zips

NCAA Moniker Study Part 4: the Top 100 Nicknames in Division I


For Part 2 of our ongoing NCAA moniker study, we’re taking a good look at all the Division I nicknames that are repeated within the ranks, but are not represented by a pro team in the Big Four. In Part 1, we studied the schools that share a nickname with a pro team.  These nicknames are the originals.  The original duplicates.  Like in our last post, we’ll serve up a brief description and then decide who “owns” the nickname–or at least wears it best.  Let’s dig in:


Believe it or not, there are a few Bulldogs in Division I.


Who Let The Dogs Out?

For starters, let’s take a look at four nicknames that draw inspiration from the Canine family.  Let’s start with the big one:

-Bulldogs.  Guess how many Division I schools use Bulldogs as their nickname?  If you guessed fourteen, you’re count and mine are the same.  Fourteen.  More than any other nickname.  More than Eagles, even if you count Golden Eagles and other variations.  The fourteen doesn’t include the Georgetown Hoyas, North Carolina A&T Aggies, James Madison Dukes, and Western Illinois Leathernecks–though all four use a bulldog as a mascot.  It’s somewhat surprising that there isn’t a single Bulldog in the Big Four.  The NFL once had the Canton Bulldogs, and the Cleveland Browns carry the tradition somewhat.  Perhaps new and rebranding pro teams see the plethora of college Bulldogs and shrug.  Anyway, of the fourteen, the most prominent are Butler, Fresno State, Gonzaga, Georgia, Mississippi State, and Yale.  Others include Alabama A&M, Gardner Webb, NC-Asheville, Drake, Samford, Louisiana Tech, South Carolina State,  and the Citadel.  Of all of those, the top dog has to be Georgia.

-Huskies.  Another one that surprisingly has no Big Four representation.  Perhaps because Connecticut, Northern Illinois, Houston Baptist, Northeastern, and Washington are barking loudly.  For ownership’s sake, it’s a dog fight (pun intended) between UCONN and Washington.  I’m giving the bone to Washington for their competence in football and basketball.


The cat will mew, and the Terrier will have it’s day.

-Terriers.  Unbelievable.   There are three Terriers in Division I.  I really like this as a collegiate moniker, but I’m shocked that Boston University, St. Francis, and Wofford all use Terriers as their mascot.  Of the three, I’m going with Wofford since it’s so close to Woof-ord.  That’s how I pronounce it, anyway.

-Wolfpack.  This is a a vaguely clever twist on using just Wolves as a moniker.  I’m so surprised that (not counting the Timberwoves) there are no Wolves in not only the Big Four, but in all of Division I athletics.  Surprisingly, there are two Wolfpacks: Nevada and NC State.  Both make a good case, but NC State has a damn good athletic program.



“Outside in the cold distance, a Wildcat did growl…”

What’s New, Pussycat?

Moving on to three representative of the Feline family.  That is, if you include Bearcats as part of the feline family.  What the hell is a Bearcat, anyway?

-Wildcats.  To me, this is the quintessential college moniker.  It’s surprising that there are only nine Wildcats in Division I, but the mean quality is very good.  The big ones are Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas State, Northwestern, and Villanova.  Bethune-Cookman, New Hampshire, Davidson, and Weber State are no slouches.  It’s a bit of a cat fight (pun intended, of course) between the top teams, but I’ve got to give it to Kentucky.

-Cougars.  There are five Cougar colleges overall, with Brigham Young, Houston, and Washington State being the most noteworthy.  Despite some weird Ryan Leaf association in my mind between WSU and Cougars, I really have to give Houston the nod here.

-Bearcats/Bearkats.  That’s right, you read it.  Sam Houston State uses Bearkats as a moniker.  Wow.  Additionally, Binghamton University uses Bearcats.  In a landslide victory, I’m giving the trophy to what I thought was the only Bearcat in the universe before I began this study: Cincinnati.  What the hell is a Bearcat, anyway?  I’m not sure I even want to know what a Bearkat is.


A Bearcat, apparently.


Bird is the Word

-Owls.  A great nickname, particularly at a collegiate or semipro level.  Florida Atlantic, Kennesaw State, Rice, and Temple are all owls.  Rice makes a tantalizing choice, but I bow before Temple.  It must be John Chaney–a man who resembles an owl.

-Roadrunners.  Two schools (Texas-San Antonio and Cal State-Bakersfield) rock the Roadrunner.  Who wins?  I’ll give UTSA the nod.  There’s not really a good reason–I just like it better.

-Phoenix.  There are two Phoenix in Division I, in Elon and Wisconsin-Green Bay.  I’m giving UW-GB the nod since I’ve never heard of Elon.  The Phoenix: giving the Packers a run for their money.


The Pherocious Phoenix represents two schools.


Home on the Range

-Bison(s).  A decent nickname that is pluralized in two different ways.  Bucknell and Howard go by Bison, whereas Lipscomb and North Dakota State use Bisons.  Which is right?  Bison is probably more grammatical, but corners can be cut in a moniker.  Of the four, Bucknell has the most exposure and alliteration to boot.

-Mustangs.  Hard to believe that there are no Mustangs at a pro level and only two in Division I.  Cal-Poly and Southern Methodist both ride their wild ponies into the sunset.  SMU certainly owns the moniker.


SMU owns the Mustangs for the time being


Unknown Soldiers

-Knights.  Two colleges make use of one of the most underutilized and basic nicknames–the Knights.  Those two are Central Florida and Farleigh Dickinson.  Army uses a variant (Black Knights) and Rutgers goes by the Scarlet Knights.  Of all of them, I’ll give Rutgers the suit of armor.

-Spartans.  There are five schools that use Spartans.  San Jose and Norfolk State may rattle their sabres, but this moniker belongs to Michigan State.

-Trojans.  Arkansas-Little Rock, Troy, and USC all use Trojans.  Troy is a no-brainer, but of course–this nickname belongs to Los Angeles.

-Colonels.  Eastern Kentucky and Nicholls State both use Colonels as a handle.  I’m going with Eastern Kentucky because their mascot intentionally looks like Colonel Sanders.

-Crusaders.  Holy Cross and Valparaiso both make interesting use of the moniker, but I’m going with Valpo because they have a better logo.


Valparaiso’s logo makes Holy Cross look like holy crap.


Everyday People

-Pioneers.  Denver and Sacred Heart both use Pioneers.  Boy, it’s such a shame that the Portland Trailblazers aren’t the Portland Pioneers.  This is an underutilized name.

-Colonials.  George Washington and Robert Morris both call themselves the Colonials.  It must only be acceptable for this moniker to be attached to a college with a person’s full name as the name of the school.

-Gaels.  This is a reference to Irish ancestry that is used by Iona and St. Mary’s.  I’ll give Iona the luck of the Irish.

-Highlanders.  This is typically a reference to Scottish ancestry, and Cal-Riverside, NJIT, and Radford all wear the kilt with roughly equal notoriety, or lack thereof.  Notoriety I mean, not lack of a kilt.


A moniker that would make Christopher Lambert proud.

-Dukes.  Duquesne and James Madison use Dukes, and I’ll give the victory to Duquesne for the uber-alliteration.

-Lumberjacks.  Stephen F. Austin and Northern Arizona both go by Lumberjacks, though neither achieves Paul Bunyan status.

-Mountaineers.  Surprisingly, there are three Mountaineers: Appalachian State, Mount St. Mary’s, and West Virginia–the clear leader.

-Aggies.  Ah, that classic moniker favored by cow colleges far and wide.  Five colleges; Cal-Davis, North Carolina A&T, New Mexico State, Texas A&M, and Utah State all get Aggie with it.  Texas A&M is certainly the most noteworthy, and thus: the Aggie trophy is theirs.


Aggies: the preferred moniker of cow colleges from coast to coast.


The “I don’t think so” Pairs.

These monikers are fairly unique words that are shared by two colleges, and are therefore mentionable in this post.  However, the pairs all consist of one large college that is utterly synonymous with their nickname and another that is essentially totally unknown.  As such, the well-known monikers will carry through to the “unique names” round, while the lesser-known schools are basically ignored.  There are three that stand out:

-Blue Devils.  Duke really owns this nickname.  It’s inconsequential that it happens to also be the mascot of Central Connecticut State University.

-Gamecocks.  I was game-shocked to hear that South Carolina is not the only ‘Cock in town.  Jacksonville State also rocks Gamecocks.  It’s South Carolina’s.

-Wolverines.  This one nearly slides as wolverines are simply fierce creatures–common characteristics in a moniker.  But I don’t think so, Utah Valley.  Michigan is not only the Wolverine State, but they have one of the best overall athletic departments in the country.  They pass to round three.


Nice try, Utah Valley State. Wolverines belongs to Michigan.


Ah, yes.  Round three…I guess we’re calling it that now.  In this study, we’ve powered through the 70% or so of Division I nicknames that are fairly boring.  Thus far, they’ve been nicknames that are shared by another team in Division I or the Big Four.  For the next installment, we’re looking at the sometimes original, unique, bizarre, fun, and also horrendous nicknames that are one of a kind.  Looking forward to it.

NCAA Moniker Study Part 1: the Copycats

NCAA Moniker Study Part 2: Wildcats, Cougars, and Bulldogs, oh my!

NCAA Moniker Study Part 3: From Anteaters to Zips

NCAA Moniker Study Part 4: the Top 100 Nicknames in Division I


Now that we’ve said about all there is to say about pro sports nicknames, let’s take a look at the amateur levels.  Since the NCAA basketball season is in full swing and the college football season is getting toward the bowl frenzy, it’s a great time to take a look at collegiate monikers in the NCAA.


NCAA:  Nicknames Can Articulate Archetypes


For this multi-part study, we’re taking a look at monikers of Division I schools only.  I’m sure there are scores of noteworthy monikers in Division II and III (the UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs jump to mind) we’re narrowing our gaze to Division I.  Narrowing our gaze to an in-depth analysis of about 350 schools!

This study will be presented in at least four installments, and for Part 1 we’re looking at the schools who share a moniker with at least one pro sports team in the Big Four.  In some cases, they are the copycats; though who is copying who is up for debate.  There are several groups of schools even within that specific category, so let’s waste no more time digging in.  Sport Change will offer a description and then pick the team that wears the nickname the best.



Who is the top cat?

The Big Three.  Of those monikers that are shared with pro sports teams, there are three nicknames that are utterly ubiquitous in the college ranks.  These are Tigers, Eagles, and Panthers.  Tigers boasts representation of thirteen schools, Eagles has nine, and Panthers has eight.  Almost nine percent of all 347 teams have one of these three handles.  Let’s take a look at them:

-Tigers.  Though the Detroit Tigers certainly wear their moniker well, ‘Tigers’ is broad and obvious enough that Detroit doesn’t ‘own’ the nickname.  Not only is Tigers represented 13 times in Division I, the quality of those athletic programs is surprisingly good.  The big six here are Auburn, Clemson, LSU, Memphis, Missouri, and we’ll throw Princeton in there too.  So who owns it?  Hard to say.  I tend to sway toward the football side of things, and in that case it’s either Clemson, LSU, or Mizzou.  Auburn may be very visible, but the blue/orange, ‘war eagle,’ and letter logo don’t exactly roar.  All three make a compelling case, but I’m going with Clemson due to the tiger paw print and inescapable orange.

-Eagles.  This is another broad-swath nickname that the Philly Eagles can’t claim 100% stake on.  We’ll discuss variations on the theme (Golden Eagles, etc.) later.  Of the nine Division I teams that carry simply the Eagles nickname, Boston College stands out the clear leader.

-Panthers.  Carolina and Florida both use Panthers in the Big Four, but both of those teams are less than 20 years old, and have yet to fully own the moniker.  Of the eight Division I schools, Pittsburgh is the clear leader.


Not exactly the most prominent Panther


The 3-5ers.  These monikers are used by 3-5 schools in addition to being used by a pro team.  Bears and Broncos have 5, Hawks, Bobcats, and Rams have 4, and Cardinals, Cowboys, Hornets, Jaguars, Lions, and Pirates have 3.

-Bears.  Chicago nearly owns this nickname, but I mean…it’s Bears.  That’s like when Donald Trump tried to trademark “you’re fired.”  Of the 5, Baylor is the clear leader.

-Bobcats.  I was quite surprised to see that Charlotte shares a moniker with four other schools.  The one that I knew of (Ohio) is the clear leader over Montana State, Qunnipiac, and Texas-San Marcos.  If Charlotte goes back to being the Bobcats, I think Ohio would own the nickname, so to speak.


What about Bobcats?

-Broncos/Broncs.  Denver has pretty good control of this moniker, but five colleges may beg to differ.  One in particular, Boise State, makes it’s case.  Or whinnies it’s case.

-Cardinals.  I don’t think anybody can claim more ownership of ‘Cardinals’ than St. Louis, but of the three in D-I, Louisville wears it best.  Not to slight Ball State and Lamar.

-Cowboys.  Dallas owns this nickname.  I’m giving Wyoming the nod over Oklahoma State and McNeese due to the all-in nature of Wyoming U’s embrace of the Cowboys moniker.

Oklahoma State may be more visible, but Wyoming comes closest to Dallas to owning 'Cowboys.'

Oklahoma State may be more visible, but Wyoming comes closest to Dallas to owning ‘Cowboys.’

-Hawks.  Atlanta has a loose grip at best, and there are many variations on theme.  Of the four schools with just ‘Hawks’ there is no clear leader, so I’ll pick Monmouth over Hartford, St. Joseph’s, and Maryland Eastern.

-Hornets.  New Orleans seems to be rejecting the moniker, but Alabama State, Cal-Sacramento, and Delaware State don’t exactly make compelling cases.  Let’s say Charlotte owns the moniker.

-Jaguars.  Jacksonville has an unsteady grasp on this handle, and I’m giving Southern the edge over IUPUI and South Alabama because Southern has the best logo.


Jacksonville could take some tips from Southern’s graphic designer

-Lions.  Detroit is most prominent, but Lions is very general.  Columbia may be an Ivy Leaguer, but I’m letting Loyola Marymount carry the banner simply because I really enjoyed “The Guru of Go,” a 30 for 30 documentary about the run & shoot basketball offense.

-Pirates.  Pittsburgh rocks it, but again: general.  I say that Seton Hall and East Carolina tie.  Sorry Hampton.

-Rams.  St. Louis carries the moniker that Los Angeles still owns, but there are four formidable reps in Division I.  I’m giving Virginia Commonwealth the slight nod over Fordham, Colorado State, and Rhode Island.


Rams is a great nickname. No butts about it.


The 2fers.  These nicknames are two-time name-sharers.  When it gets down to these dregs, it really makes you question if the college copied the name or if was just bizarre coincidences.  Those with two are: Braves, Bruins, Buccaneers, Bulls, Falcons, Flames, 49ers, Raiders, Seahawks, Titans, and Vikings.

-Braves.  General enough.  Atlanta owns it, but Alcorn State get the college nod.

-Bruins.  Who owns this moniker?  Boston or UCLA?  One thing we can agree on…it’s not Belmont.


UCLA: giving Smokey the Bear a run for his money

-Buccaneers.  Don’t think that Charleston Southern or East Tennessee can wrest the handle away from Tampa, but we’ll say ETU over CSU because of a cooler logo.

-Falcons.   Atlanta is most prominent, certainly.  I don’t ever hear of Air Force using the Falcons moniker, so I’m giving Bowling Green the nod.

-Bulls.  Chicago claims it, but it’s general enough.  South Florida and Buffalo both make strong cases…we’ll call it a draw–horn to horn.


Move over Bills, here come the Bulls

-Flames.  Any relation to Calgary must be purely incidental.  Illinois-Chicago or Liberty?  How about Liberty because it’s such a bad pun.  At least they’re not the Bells.

-Raiders.  It’s Oakland’s, or Los Angeles’s at least.  I’ll give Colgate the nod over Wright State.  Raiders with fresh breath.

-Titans.  The NFL team is too new to claim any ownership.  Cal-Fullerton and Detroit use Titans, but neither has the sweet  alliteration like Tennessee.


The elephant is a headscratcher. Cousin of the Crimson Tide creature?

-Seahawks.  For such an odd nickname, it’s mighty suspicious that there are two colleges and an NFL team with the name.  Who’s copying whom?  No clear leader.

-Vikings.  General enough that Minnesota can’t claim total use rights.  So Portland State or Cleveland State?  Whoever wants it gets it.

-49ers.  Shocked to hear that Charlotte and Long Beach both use 49ers.  Obviously, Frisco owns it.  At least Long Beach is in the Golden State, so they get the nod.  I’ve never heard about the North Carolina gold rush of 1849.


The great Carolina Gold Rush


The Singles.  Teams that are the only sharers of a pro team nickname are: Bengals, Blue Jays, Cavaliers, Dolphins, Ducks, Flyers, Grizzlies, Hurricanes, Islanders, Mavericks, Patriots, Penguins, Rockets, Saints, and Warriors.

-Bengals.  Really, Idaho State?  This moniker works on a college level much better than the NHL, however vague it might be.

-Penguins.  Youngstown State uses the Penguins moniker, and it’s really a fun mascot at a semipro level.  Unfortunately for YSU, Pittsburgh owns this moniker.

-Dolphins.  The Jacksonville Dolphins.  Hmm.  At least Miami U isn’t called the Jaguars.


Apparently Jacksonville denizens can claim Jaguars and Dolphins

-Blue Jays.  Creighton rocks this nickname independently of the Toronto baseballers.  No harm, no fowl.  (ha)

-Cavaliers.  Virginia wears this one better than Cleveland, but both are OK.

-Ducks.  It’s easy to forget this one, since the NHL team is more memorable as the Mighty Ducks.  Either way, Oregon owns this nickname.

-Grizzlies.  Montana owns this nickname.  It shouldn’t be in Memphis at all.


A nickname to make Memphis hoops fans feel grizzled.

-Flyers.  Dayton’s moniker operates apart from Philly’s NHL team.  It works.

-Mavericks.  The University of Texas-Arlington may have copycatted this name from Dallas’s NBA team.

-Warriors.  Hawaii changed from Rainbow Warriors to just warriors.  Nice.  It’s general enough that they absolutely make it work.  One of my favorites in all of Division I.

-Rockets.  Toledo launches this moniker independently of Houston.


Five! Four! Three! Two! Ledo!

-Patriots.  I think this is general enough to be fair game.  Does anybody care that George Mason uses it?

-Hurricanes.  It’s a shame that we even have to put Miami on this list.  Carolina of the NHL should’ve picked a different name.  Oh well, maybe they’ll move.

-Islanders.  Like New York, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is a place reference.

-Saints.  The funny thing is that Siena uses a Saint Bernard for their logo.  Nice.  Now that’s a semi-pro moniker!


Roll over, Beethoven. He comes Siena.


Variations on the Theme

There are several Division I monikers that are similar to pro team names, but with an adjective in front of them.  They run the gamut, so let’s pick them apart one by one.

Bears.  The Maine Black Bears have a great name.  It doesn’t actually bring the Chicago Bears to mind, and it seems regionally relevant.  Cal Golden Bears works well considering that there’s a golden bear right on California’s state flag.


Now that’s a loud logo!

Grizzlies.  The Oakland Golden Grizzlies are interesting.  That’s mighty close to the moniker of next door’s Cal-Berkeley, and it’s not like Grizzlies are roaming the streets of Oakland.  Whatever–it’s still better than Memphis Grizzlies.  [EDIT: the Golden Grizzlies apparently play in Oakland, Michigan.  Thanks for the heads up to reader Joel!  Either way, still much better than Memphis!]

Hurricanes.  This doesn’t exactly fit the category, but it seems like the best place to mention the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.  That’s right.  The Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

Devils.  It’s probably inconsequential that there’s a hockey team named the New Jersey Devils, but we’ll call it due diligence.  The Arizona State Sun Devils make it work terrifically.  Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils is a bit of a stretch, to say the least.  Since there are two Blue Devils, we’ll discuss them in another post.


Arizona State is the best representation of Devils. Stick a fork in the rest.

Hawks.  Many variations on the theme.  We already mentioned the two Seahawks users, but Hawk variations run deep.  For starters, there are the Kansas Jayhawks.  KU nearly transcends the hawk-moniker, but it remains nonetheless.  Redhawks is used twice, with Miami of Ohio being more memorable than Southeast Missouri State.  The Lehigh Mountain Hawks, Tennessee Martin Skyhawks, and Northeastern State Riverhawks simply attach a natural term to hawks–similar to Seahawks.  The Louisiana Monroe Warhawks try to add some teeth…or beak, I guess.

Lions.  Arkansas Pine Bluff goes by the name of Golden Lions.  Kind of cool, if a little confusing.  Penn State has the Nittany Lions–whatever that means.


I’m not sure what a ‘Golden Lion’ is, but it’s certainly ferocious.

Panthers.  In addition to the eight just Panthers, there’s Florida International Golden Panthers.  I have to say that ‘Golden’ is perhaps the best adjective to stick in front of an animal name.

Raiders.  There’s two here.  The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. What do they mean?  Your guess (or research) is as good as mine.

Eagles.  There are a whopping four Golden Eagles.  Since that’s an actual bird, I guess you could say it stands on it’s own.  I’d say Marquette and Southern Miss can duke it out for who owns it best, though I may give Southern Miss the edge since Marquette changed their name more recently.  Oral Roberts and Tennessee Tech are the other two.  Then there is another eagle variation: the Niagara Purple Eagles.  Wow.  Just wow.


Purple Eagles is at least more intimidating than Pink Hawks.


Alright.  That’s about all there is to say about Division I schools that share a moniker (or a variation) with a pro team.  Next up will be the names that have no pro counterpart, but are repeated nonetheless.  In other words, there will be Bulldogs.  Stay tuned.

NCAA Moniker Study Part 1: the Copycats

NCAA Moniker Study Part 2: Wildcats, Cougars, and Bulldogs, oh my!

NCAA Moniker Study Part 3: From Anteaters to Zips

NCAA Moniker Study Part 4: the Top 100 Nicknames in Division I


Here comes some news as fresh as fish flopping in the drooping lower jaw of an aquatic bird.  The New Orleans Hornets are changing their nickname to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Pleased to meet you!  Get used to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Pleased to meet you!  Hope you guessed my name.


New owner Tom Benson stated last year that we wanted to change the name, so we’ve known this was coming for a while.  As it turns out, Benson already owned the name Pelicans and chose it over Krewe and Brass.  A while back, Benson was trying to foist the Voodoo nickname away from the Arena Football club, but he was thwarted–presumably with a doll made in his likeness.

Since this is right up our alley, you might be wondering what the Sport Change take on it is.  Well…Sport Change likes it, sort of.  Pelicans is infinitely superior to the other name ideas thrown around, but it’s not really ideal for a pro team in the Big Four.  In the context of the NBA, I would rank it somewhere between 14th and 19th best in the league, which is where the Hornets are.  Similar to the Bobcats, Pelicans is a likable but cute nickname that would be better suited to a minor league, collegiate, or semipro club.

It could’ve been even worse.  Sport Change followers will know our stance on non-singularable/non-pluralable (as we call them) nicknames such as Heat, Magic, and yes–Jazz.  They’re some of the worst of all.  If Krewe, Voodoo, or Brass (ugh) were selected, they would’ve likely ranked  in the bottom ten of all monikers in the Big Four.

Despite our loathing of the NS/NP, Sport Change once reluctantly suggested that the Minor League Baseball Mobile BayBears change their name to the Mobile Krewe.  Reluctant even at a low level.  Brass is a name that came out of left field, and thank god it was scrapped.  I remember when the great website Uni-Watch solicited suggestions from readers, and came up with possibilities.  Of those, I certainly favored the Pelicans above the rest.  Here was a conceptual drawing:


Not bad, really.  In reality, Tom Benson’s wife Gayle wants the colors to be red, blue, and gold.  I guess she gets to pick.  At least those are nice colors!


What was lost?

Well, we lost the opportunity for the great NBA moniker swap.  In that scenario, we had Hornets going to Charlotte, Toronto taking the Bobcats, Utah taking the Raptors, and yes, the Jazz going home to NOLA.  Jazz would’ve been the only NS/NP nickname that Sport Change could’ve tolerated in New Orleans.

We also lost the Fleur de Bee, one of the greatest sports logos of our time.  I may have to purchase a Fleur de Bee t-shirt now out of reverence.  Just as soon as they go on mega sale.


Fleur de Bee. RIP.


What was gained? 

Well, I’d say that there’s a damn good chance that MJ will follow through on his suggestion that Hornets returns to Charlotte.  That’s a good thing.  The Charlotte Hornets will always hold a candle in my heart, but that may be tied to being at an impressionable age during the heyday of Alonzo, Larry, and Muggsey.  It will be good to see the name returned.


What broke even?

In the event of the Hornets buzzing back to Charlotte, we’ll be losing the Bobcats.  That will be a sad day.  I can’t help but love the fuzzy, scrappy, inept kitties in North Carolina.  Of course, as I said before, Pelicans is very similar to Bobcats in a lot of ways.  In essence, we’re trading Bobcats for Pelicans.  Whatevs.  I’m just glad it wasn’t the Brass.  Brass.  (vomits)

Thoughts?  Comments?  This is another news break.  For those of you awaiting the posts that have been promised: they’re coming soon.  We’re tackling every nickname in NCAA Division I sports.  Stay alert.


Time for another quick check on current events that interest Sport Change.  It’s the early December Newsflash!


His Airness airs some intriguing news.

His Airness airs some intriguing news.

1.) Last week, Michael “Air” Jordan of the Charlotte Bobcats let an intriguing comment slip past his teeth.  When asked if the Bobcats would consider a reversion to the Hornets moniker of old in the event of a New Orleans rebranding, Jordan said more than ‘no comment.’  Here’s an excerpt: “It’s definitely an interest down the road, but right now it’s the New Orleans Hornets,” Jordan told the Charlotte Observer. “We would definitely entertain the opportunity. That’s as much as we can say right now. We’ve heard the community ask the question, and we would listen.”  Aha!  Now that’s music to Sport Change’s ears.  This announcement came fortuitously only one week after a Sport Change post that suggests the same thing.  In fact, the timing of that post led to a significant spike in site hits and page views.  That’s great, because Sport Change is quite proud of that post.  Of course we want to see this taken even further and expanded into a four-way moniker swap that give the Hornets back to Charlotte, the Jazz back to New Orleans, the Raptors to Utah, and the Bobcats to Toronto.  It might happen…..



2.)  In other pro sports moniker news, it was announced that the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes will now be known as the Arizona Coyotes.  Excuse me…I just yawned so loudly it sounded like a coyote yip.  Word is that they are also changing their logo as well, which is kind of a shame considering that their current logo is about as cool as a coyote logo can possibly look.  If you’re wondering, this does nothing to change the team’s status in any of our recent moniker rankings–for the record, Coyotes ranked 105th of 116 unique nicknames in the Big Four.  Ouch.  Considering that the Coyotes have the worst attendance of any NHL team in recent years, it may be fair to assume that this is a last-ditch effort to revitalize a team that is likely destined for relocation.  As painful as relocation can be for fans, I can’t say that I shed any tears over a hockey team leaving the desert.

Coyote ugly?  Actually it's hard to imagine an improvement.

Coyote ugly? Actually it’s hard to imagine a logo improvement.


3.)  In lighter news, three interesting new logo sets for Minor League Baseball teams were unveiled recently.  First up, we have the West Michigan Whitecaps; a single-A Midwest League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers based in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  The Whitecaps are a popular team, in no small part due to the fact that they play in the home state of their parent club.  The Whitecaps came out with a few new logos that reflect their ties to the Tigers, none more memorable than their transformation of their current logo (a wave with eyes) into a wave-tiger.  This is one of the many reasons why Sport Change loves the Minors.

A wave created by a tail-wind.  (ha.)

A wave created by a tail-wind. (ha.)

Next up is the Aberdeen Ironbirds, a popular Maryland-based short-season A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.  The Ironbirds are owned by Cal and Billy Ripken, and the name Ironbirds is a reference to “Ironman” Cal.  The Ironbirds formerly had a cartoonish logo with Cal’s #8 on the wing.  Their new logo is much more…serious.

Fear the bird.  He's made of iron.

Fear the bird. He’s made of iron.  He’s literally an iron bird.

Finally, we have the Eugene Emeralds.  The Ems (as they’re affectionately known) have always had a nice classy brand with a great minor league moniker.  That said, they’ve never really had a logo to speak of.  Their former logos were simply a letter ‘E’ or ‘Ems’ with some stylistic embellishments.  They always looked good, but were lacking something.  Goofiness reigns supreme in the Northwest League, with the Everett AquaSox and the new Hillsboro Hops leading the charge.  So the Emeralds hired a design company that completely reworked their image; changing colors, fonts, and logos.  Their new logos feature our old cryptozoological friend Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) in a variety of poses wherein he his running while clutching a tree, swinging a tree like a baseball bat, or simply chewing on a tree.  Ah, life is good.

Is he swinging it like a bat or trying to open it like an umbrella?

Is he swinging it like a bat or trying to open it like an umbrella?


Yes, life is good today here at Sport Change.  Good news all around.  Check back or become a follower of the page to stay updated on some of the great new posts in the hopper.  Thanks for reading.  Leave comments as you leave.


Alright.  Now that we’ve talked about the best, it’s time now to unveil the 33 worst pro sports nicknames as selected by Sport Change.  How low can we go?


Let’s flip the moniker rankings upside down.


To view the top-ranked monikers, click here.

For information on what makes a bad pro sports moniker, click here.

If you’re curious about the rationale behind the rank of each individual team, find them on their specific league rankings pages.  Links to external pages:

Moniker Rankings for the NFL

Moniker Rankings for MLB

Moniker Rankings for the NBA

Moniker Rankings for the NHL

What we’re going to do is rank the worst 33 monikers in the Big Four from 90-122, with #122 being the absolute worst moniker in all of the Big Four.  Why 33, you ask?    Read on to find out why.


90.  San Antonio Spurs

91.  Buffalo Bills

92.  New Orleans Saints

93.  Anaheim Ducks

94.  Los Angeles Clippers

95.  Brooklyn Nets

96.  Ottawa Senators

97.  Nashville Predators

98.  Colorado Rockies

99.  Buffalo Sabres

100.  Indiana Pacers

101.  Jacksonville Jaguars

102.  Calgary Flames

103.  Carolina Hurricanes

104.  Washington Wizards

105.  Phoenix Coyotes

106.  Minnesota Twins

107.  Arizona Diamondbacks

108.  Toronto Raptors

109.  Memphis Grizzlies

110.  San Diego Padres

111.  Houston Astros

112.  Miami Heat

113.  Cincinnati Bengals

114.  Colorado Avalanche

115.  Columbus Blue Jackets

116.  Tampa Bay Lightning

117.  Minnesota Wild

118.  New York Islanders

119.  Orlando Magic

120.  Oklahoma City Thunder

121.  Utah Jazz

122.  Washington Redskins


So there you have it–the 33 worst monikers in the Big Four major pro sports.  So why 33?  Because it was a good number to create 11 divisions of 3 teams each.  This is a pointless exercise that Sport Change likes to indulge in.  Here they are:

The Ambiance Division: Wild, Jazz, Magic

The Forces of Nature Division: Thunder, Heat, Flames

The Natural Disaster Division: Avalanche, Lightning, Hurricanes

The Carnivore Division: Jaguars, Coyotes, Predators

The Sub-Species Division: Bengals, Grizzlies, Diamondbacks

The Place Name Division: Rockies, Islanders, Twins

The Inanimate Object Division: Spurs, Nets, Sabres

The Allusions to Movement Division: Pacers, Clippers, Astros

The Moral Authority Division: Senators, Saints, Padres

The Nineties Leftovers Division: Raptors, Wizards, Ducks

The Headscratcher Division: Bills, Blue Jackets, Redskins


Feel free to comment.  If your favorite team wasn’t on this list or the Best Monikers list, then they’re either an historic skater, losing duplicate name, or just a plain old middler.

Many more posts in the hopper!  NCAA will be a new focus, but there will continue to be posts relating to just about any and all leagues.  Stay posted.