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

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


  1. Awesome. Thanks for the info, Steve. I had no idea it was a reference to a binturong. Still very surprised that Bearcats is used three times in D-I.

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