If my kids had ever taken me to school for show and tell, there is no doubt what talent they would have asked me to display before their classmates.
Can I juggle? Do I speak seven languages? Do I have superhuman strength? The answers to those questions would be no, no and no. So what is my amazing gift? If you know the sports nickname of a college or university it is likely I do as well.
Need an example or two? Well let’s try these for starters: The men’s team at the University of Arkansas-Monticello are the Boll Weevils while the school’s women’s teams are ….. the Cotton Blossoms. I kid you not.
Then there is Washburn College in Kansas, I’m sure you know that one. It’s the Ichabods. Then there are the University of Southern Utah Thunderbirds. The Niagara Purple Eagles and the Canisius Golden Griffins.
Sure you can guess the nickname for Washington & Jefferson. Think about it, think about it. Yep, Presidents.
One of my favorites is the Jumbo Elephants of Tufts University. You can toss in the Dolphins of Jacksonville University, the Wonderboys of Arkansas Tech and the Reddies of Henderson State.
And we mustn’t forget the Thorobreds of Kentucky State University, the Bearcats of Rust College, the Hatters of Stetson, or the Paladins of Furman.
Did you know that both Austin College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City are the Kangaroos. How about the Norsemen of Northern Kentucky University, or perhaps the Scots of Maryville College or the Pride of Hofstra. And did you know this? Before becoming the Pride, Hofstra teams were known as the Flying Dutchmen. And speaking of name changes Elon went from being the Fighting Christians to the Phoenix. Try that one on for size.
The list goes on and on. And yes, I’m writing this from memory, although I must admit to checking a fact or two along the way.
My interest in various and unusual names for sports teams was birthed from my days as a sportswriter in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I would look through media guides and thumb through the pages where they listed their opponents, where the mascots of those teams would be revealed.
Over time I went from just learning the names to collecting t-shirts, caps and coffee cups from the various schools. The rule is this: I have to actually go to the school or have seen the team play in person to collect the souvenir.
That’s where I wound up with gear from the University of Nebraska-Kearny Lopers. While I never visited a friend sent me a baseball cap from the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State.
Then there are the Colonels of Nicholls State, the Movin’ Mavs of UT-Arlington and the Comets of UT-Dallas.
Let’s not forget the Quakers of Swarthmore College, the Hurricane of Georgia Southwestern State or the Catamounts of Western Carolina.
One of the most intriguing spots names belongs to the University of California-Santa Cruz and has long been one of my go-to questions when it comes to sports trivia questions, They are the Fighting Banana Slugs. That’s a pretty hard one to top.
I actually had the chance about four years ago to visit the campus and walked out of the book store with a cap that I still possess to this day.
If that doesn’t entertain you we can always take about the Muleriders of Southern Arkansas University, the Bison of Lipscomb university the Gorillas of Pittsburg State or the Pilots of Portland State.
You may wonder which school is proud honor of my favorite sports nickname of all time.
Well, that belongs to North Carolina Wesleyan Go ahead and look it up. Yep, they are the Battlin’ Bishops. I actually drove by the campus a few years ago when they were having an inter-squad baseball game. I couldn’t resist asking one of the players to turn around while he was on the on deck circle so I could get a photo of the Bishops written across the front of his jersey.
That was a happy day for me. Now If I could just get Austin College to play the Bishops in a sporting contest of some sort. That’s one I just wouldn’t be able to miss.
Austin Bishop, AKA The Old Sports Dude, has been covering high school, college, amateur and professional sports since 1975. He will be retiring from the journalism business at the conclusion of 2021. He is currently pastor of Great Commission Assembly of God in Philadelphia, Miss. He may be contacted by email at email@example.com.