The mascot is the abiding symbol of college sports, a source of pride around which an entire school is united. A person or animal (or…something) with characteristics that embody the spirit of the university is chosen. Pictures are drawn. Merchandise is made. Colors are selected. Costumers are created. Sometimes even a real, live version of the mascot is put on parade before the sporting event commences.
There are institutions which obviously put a lot of thought and consideration into the selection of their mascot and chose something to represent the history and culture of the region which the university serves: The Oklahoma Sooners, the North Carolina Tar Heels, or the Purdue Boilermakers. Others chose something unique or interesting to represent their school and the spirit they wished to exemplify:
- Solid, standard-issue animal mascots like Bulldogs, Wildcats, Rams, Bears, Tigers, Panthers, Cougars, Falcons, or Eagles.
- Quasi-ferocious humans, which include Trojans, Spartans, Crusaders, Red Raiders, Vikings, Knights, Pioneers or Pirates.
- Mystical or mythical creatures are featured prominently on the mascot roster: Blue Demons, Sun Devils, Dragons, Titans, or the Phoenix.
- So do violent forces of nature like Hurricanes, Cyclones, or Tornadoes.
- Some mascots are obviously the first animal that wandered past the naming committee: a Mule, a Buffalo, a Longhorn, a Blue-Tick Hound, a “Fighting” Squirrel.
- Then there are those schools that apparently care most about truckloads of merchandise sales to juveniles and go with sexual innuendo (e.g. Beavers, Cocks, or Horned Frogs).
10. The Oregon Ducks. Is this a university or a Disney film? It’s better than the Ibis, which isn’t a duck but is played by a duck at the University of Miami, who are actually the ‘Canes. (I guess that means the Ducks are number 11; oh well, bonus!)
9. The Nebraska Cornshucker. Is it just me or is ‘Lil Red reminiscent of a time when inflatable children were forced to shuck corn for 85 hours a day? Or is this the bastard half-brother of Big Boy?
8. The Wichita State WuShock. This mascot is (I kid you not) a stalk of wilted celery on steroids.
7. The Maryland Terrapins. Fear the Turtle? I don’t think so.
6. The Stanford Cardinal, which is a bird, represented by a big tree, but is actually a color (a deep, crimson red). Yes, their mascot is a color.
5. As is the Syracuse Orange. Or maybe it’s a fruit. Either way it doesn’t inspire fear or terror (although it may prevent scurvy).
4. The Alabama Crimson Tide. This confounds understanding. I understand that it’s hard to find a ferocious representation of a Tide, but you could have served your school better if you didn’t just go with the first animal that came to mind when the mascot committee assembled in TUSK-aloosa.
Regrettably, the Big Ten has more than its fair share of contestants for the Ghastly Mascot award. Indeed, the Top 3 are from our own conference:
3. The Nittany Lion. Ok, +1 because the name is great. But -1000 because the mascot is actually a naked weasel with a bad scarf.
2. The Golden Gopher. Maybe this is personal, but every time I contemplate the thought of a loss to the Golden Gopher, I curl up into the fetal position with the distressing awareness that maybe we are Bill Murray in Caddyshack.
Grand Champion Worst Mascot Every Conceived in the Mind of Mortal Men:
1. The Buckeye. What school would ever think that using a turd ball for a mascot, complete with the piece of corn lodged in the center, was a mighty swell idea? Yep…Skid Marks R Us, Buckeye Central, Ohio.