Top 10 Lame College Sports Nickname Changes

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Every couple of years, some Christian group approaches my hometown school district and asks them to change the logo of the school from the Blue Devil to something, well, less Satanic. Don’t people have more important things to worry about? Apparently not, because it seems that new college presidents are always talking about changing team colors, mascots, or symbols for whatever reason while some niche group on the outside is trying to forward their itinerary by petitioning institutions to change their representation. No matter what side of the argument you’re on, people are unnaturally attached to their college sports teams, leading us to this, the Top 10 Lame College Sports Nickname Changes.

10. The Syracuse Orange

In 2004 the Syracuse Orangemen simply became the Syracuse Orange. Why bother? Well apparently political correctness was running rampant in the last decade and college administrators at Syracuse wanted to tweak the nickname to something a bit more gender neutral. So when I watch Syracuse Basketball now, instead of thinking of athletes in orange gear, I think of the Annoying Orange using bad fruit puns.

 9. University of Hawaii Warriors

In 2000 the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors became the University of Hawaii Warriors. At the turn of the millennium the University of Hawaii brain trust was kicking around ideas on how to make the university more marketable. Their decision was to change the nickname of the school, dropping the Rainbow portion, seeing it had too many ‘gay’ connotations associated with it. A controversy promptly ensued and the weak Hawaii administration allowed each sports team to choose their own nicknames. The football team, whom it is hinted that the administration made the decision for, chose the Warriors. But the baseball team chose the Rainbows, the basketball team chose the Rainbow Warriors, and the women unilaterally chose the Rainbow Wahine. Talk about creating a problem where there was none.

 8. Ole Miss Rebels

In 2010 the Ole Miss Rebels stayed the Ole Miss Rebels. Let me explain. In 1936, the school changed their sports nickname from the Mississippi Flood to the Mississippi Rebels. Now depending on your source material, the Rebels in question are Confederate rebels. Either in an official or non-official capacity, Johnny Rebel and Colonel Reb have long been associated with Ole Miss. Under pressure from outside sources, the university started to look at alternate nicknames. The right answer from the university was to say either “screw you, we’re the Confederate Rebels” or “we renounce our long ties to the defeated Confederate ideology, we are now the Ole Miss Flood, reverting back to our roots.” But they did neither, and threw the solution back to the student body. To the dismay of the wishy-washy administrators, traction grew among the students to keep the Rebel name, but the mascot would be Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi fame. Horrified, Ole Miss quickly said they would stay the Rebels, but the mascot would be the rebellious Black Bear.

7. North Texas Mean Green

In 1966 the North Texas Eagles became the North Texas Mean Green. With the fourth largest enrollment of universities in the state of Texas, this case study is very simple. Sophomore sensation in both football and track, “Mean” Joe Green became a Cult of Personality, and despite the school’s colors already being green and white, the school changed its nickname from the Eagles to the Mean Green. Too bad no one under 40 knows who “Mean” Joe Green is and now the school is stuck with a nickname that doesn’t really represent the shade of green plastered across the campus.

 6. Elon Phoenix

In 2000 the Elon Fighting Christians became the Elon Phoenix. As Elon University made the jump from Division II to Division I in 1999, the university fathers decided that Elon needed to dump their nickname for something more Division I-ish (?!?). Fighting Christians is an awesome nickname, but the new name that was chosen was the Phoenix, a metaphor on how the university rose from the ashes of a 1923 fire that devastated the campus. Not better.

 5. Hofstra Pride

In 2004 the Hofstra Flying Dutchmen became the Hofstra Pride. Some of the best Spongebob Squarepants episodes ever produced contain a green pirate ghost known as the Flying Dutchman. His first animated appearance was in 1999, about the same time Hofstra was trying to disassociate themselves from the Flying Dutchman nickname and moving toward an official name change to the Pride. Not Pride as in proud, but Pride as in a pride of lions. If you have to spell out your explanation, it is a poor marketing decision. Then in 2009, Hofstra dissolved their football program. Nothing says Pride more than dismantling an average university’s biggest sports moneymaker.

 4. Akron Zips

In 1950 the Akron Zippers became the Akron Zips. Zippers were rubber overshoes that were popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s and by 1950, Zippers were out of style. Well since Akron, Ohio was one of the rubber capitals of the United States, the nickname made sense. The shortened nickname didn’t, for a Zip isn’t really anything. The mascot of the school is Zippy the Kangaroo, you know, representing all of the multitudes of kangaroos found throughout the Midwestern states.

 3. University of Cumberland Patriots

In 2005 the Cumberland College Indians became the University of the Cumberlands Patriots. There’s nothing wrong with the nickname the Patriots, but in this context the change is cloaked in irony. Cumberland College caved into the pressures to remove Indian related nicknames from the campus, but in 2006 the school was embroiled in controversy when changing the grades of a gay student. Basically, according to the Southern Baptist Convention, they are sensitive to the plight of the Native-American, but not so much for the homosexual student population.

 2. Dartmouth Big Green

In 1974 the Dartmouth Indians became the Dartmouth Big Green. Dartmouth is an Ivy League school in New Hampshire that changed their Native-American nickname years before the NCAA forced the changes down the throats of multiple member schools. Technically Dartmouth reverted back to the Green tradition that dated back to the mid-1800’s. With the Indian mascot banned from campus, Dartmouth was mascot-less for over 30 years, for The Big Green is a reference to a common green area at the center of the campus. Nothing says competition more than “common green area,” except for maybe the school’s new unofficial mascot, Keggy the Keg.

 1. William & Mary Tribe

In 1978 the William & Mary Indians became the William & Mary Tribe. “The name Tribe now refers to the unity and comradery that William & Mary athletes share when competing on the field.” Really? To show that the word Tribe has no association to the Indian culture the college is trying not to offend, feathers were removed from the official logo of the college (?) and the mascot was changed to the Griffin. A tribe of Griffins? In Virginia? In the new millennium?


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11 Comments

  1. Not exactly sure why Elon’s on the list. Phoenix isn’t a terrible name for them to move from, even though I do prefer Fightin’ Christians, myself (although it sounds more like a high school football team name).

  2. St. John”s University in Queens New York changed its team name Red Men,( the logo was the profile of a red American Indian), to the polictically correct name Red Storm.

  3. Recent Ole Miss grad and long time rebel here.
    The administration really took this and did there own thing. After banning Colonel Reb from the field in 2003 with absolutely no say from the students, the administration opted for no mascot for years. The vote in 2010 was a joke. That is why Ackbar was a candidate. We either wanted Colonel Reb or nobody. Neither of these options were possible on the ballot for students. Rebel, the black bear, was pretty much forced onto the students and fans. Some people have let him grow on them, but for the most part, Rebel is ill received to this day. As proud of a rebel as I am, he deserves to be on this list.
    Shame aside, great list! Been following forever!
    Keep it up y’all.

    • Thanks, William. I really enjoy hearing from people who were somehow a part of list we added. Thanks for adding the additional information and thank you for being a frequent visitor and reader!

  4. I was sure Stanford was going to top this list. Not only is their team nickname a color, that absurd mascot is the silliest thing in organized sports.

  5. One of my favorite stories is of St. Johns. They were known as the Redmen because way back when, there team wore long johns over their uniforms. The long johns were red. That was the whole reason why they were called the Redmen. Then, they changed to the Red Storm to not offend the Native American community with their name. When a simple explanation would have let every one know it did not even reflect that community. But they changed to Red Storm anyway, In truth, it should be the St. Johns Long Johns. That would be a bit more reflective of their heritage

    • Well if that’s true, then they should not have had a huge picture of an American Indian in their cafeteria (which they did)! It was only his profile so I do not know if he was wearing long johns. In addition, ALL of the literature SJU distributed from catalogue, to PR info packets had that image and explained it as representing and America Indian NOT some “Native American” in long johns.

      Personally, I think the long john explanation is an insult, patronizing and condesending.

  6. The fact that the author actually believes that football is the biggest money-maker for the average athletic department is all we really need to know about his credibility when speaking of college athletics.

  7. Current student at North Texas, Mean Green was actually the nickname given to our entire defensive core when Joe Green was there. The name was adopted as a school nickname at this time. Joe Green wasn’t referred to as Mean Joe Green until he played for the Steelers. Also, it’s a bit unfair to say that no one under the age of 40 knows who Mean Joe is.

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