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Do you know your college athletic history? (or anyone else's)


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That post in Sports Logos about the evolution of the Arkansas nickname and mascot was one interesting read. It makes me wonder if anyone eles out there has any similar stories about THEIR alma mater's history of colors/nicknames/mascots.

This actually is a continuation of an older thread (started by me, no less)...I was just wondering (and I'm sure there are other curious minds out there) if anyone else has any similar tales or stories to tell about any other schools.

If you got it, post away!

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According to the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia (a truly great book), Texas A&M's colors were red and white in the early 1900s, but the uniform supplier accidentally sent maroon jerseys. A&M just kept maroon and white because it set them apart from the many other schools that used red.

I've always liked the story behind LSU's colors. The coaches and players wanted to decorate the jerseys to celebrate their first game. They went to the store, and it had Mardi Gras colored ribbon in stock (green, gold, purple). But they were low on green, so LSU just stuck with purple and gold.

You're right, it is pretty interesting to learn the stories behind the colleges. Of course, A&M has too much history and tradition for me to even go into right now.

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My alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was founded in 1896 as Milwaukee State Normal School (and later became Wisconsin State College in 1927), but didn't become UWM until 1956, when Wisconsin State merged with the UW-Extension campus in Milwaukee. Here's a history of our nicknames and colors:

Milwaukee State Normals (1896-1927) -- Green and White

Wisconsin State Green Seagulls (1927-1956) -- Green and White

UW-Milwaukee Cardinals (1956-1965) -- Red and White

UW-Milwaukee Panthers (1965-present) -- Black and Gold (and Red in the early years)

During their athletic history, UWM spent most of their early years in the NCAA College Division (small colleges, comprable to today's NCAA D-2). In 1974, the Panthers moved up to NCAA Division I, staying at that level until 1980. I don't know the particular dates, but between 1980 and the present, UWM has played in the NAIA, D-3, D-2, and D-1 (moving up for good in 1991).

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I love Bemidji (MN) State University's story (printed in every media guide) as to their colors:

The School Colors

In Feb., 1920, an assembly hour was set aside for the selection of school colors. After the balloting on colors had resulted in a deadlock, Cyrillus Freeman, a student from Minneapolis, rose and commanded attention.

?As we sat here discussing this question,? she said, ?I happened to glance out the window. The sight that met my eyes was fresh, green pines silhouetted against pure white snow. What could be more appropriate than green and white??

This idea was accepted unanimously.

As far as the name "Beavers," again, the story printed in every media guide:

The Naming of the Beavers

As President Deputy reviewed football practice one evening in May, 1932, he called the team into a huddle and raising his hands above their heads declared, ?I christen this team the Beavers.?

The name ?Beavers? is symbolic of the silent, hard-working teams representing Bemidji State University.

Cheesy? Absolutly. But I think it's better than having nothing...


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before my old school, UW Whitewater, became the Warhawks in the early 1950s, they were the Quakers (and the school was known as Whitewater State at the time). Initially, the Warhawk logo was an arrowhead with an indian holding up a spear on it, though in the mid 70s it was dropped in favor of a succession of hawks, culminating in this guy:


as far as purple and white, I actually have as much idea why those are our colors (we also use black and silver) as I do of why the rugby teams wear green and blue...none whatsoever. maybe somebody saw a purple flower or something and liked how it looked (heh, that's how Tennessee got its colors, only their mug saw light orange and light blue flowers)

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I'm a grad of Williams College, in the Purple Valley of the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts. As the story goes, when Williams played Harvard in an 1869 baseball game, spectators watching from their carriages had problems telling the teams apart, since there were no standardized uniforms. One of the onlookers bought ribbons from a nearby millinery store to pin on Williams' players, and the only color available was purple (which, of course, went nicely with the Purple Valley). As it happens, the buyer was Jennie Jerome, an English lady whose family summered in Williamstown... she later became famous as Winston Churchill's mother. Williams' other color is gold, purple's complementary color.

However, the Williams rugby team (of which I was a member) wears claret and gold jerseys. The WRFC wears these colors because they were founded by exchange students who played for the Old Millhillians, a rugby team in England, in 1963. The transfer students supplied jerseys used by their team back across the pond, which the rugby team has worn ever since.


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All I know about UW-Oshkosh is that the name came after the writing of the fight song, "Hail Titans." Have no idea why they chose gold and white (although the colors are really gold and black) but they came before the song as they are mentioned therein.

As for UW-Green Bay, the original name in the 60s was the Bay Badgers (as a stepchild of the main UW, which in those days was separate from the Wisconsin State schools including Oshkosh, Whitewater, La Crosse...)

UW-Green Bay acquired its singular nickname, the Phoenix, as a result of a student ballot in 1970. According to mythology, upon reaching a great age, the Phoenix is consumed in flame and reborn from the ashes. The evolution of the University created with the consolidation and expansion of two-year UW centers that previously served the region helped inspire the selection of the Phoenix as the University's symbol and mascot. Legend has it that ?Fighting Tomatoes? was a close second in the balloting. UW-Green Bay, for many years, was the only NCAA Division I sports program ? and one of the few at any level ? to claim "The Phoenix" as its athletics mascot. The mythical bird was also adopted several years ago as the emblem of Elon College in North Carolina. The red and green colors combine Wisconsin red with Green Bay green.

And I have no idea about the St. Norbert Green Knights.

BTW, there is a site with a list of nicknames at this site, alphabetized by nickname.

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The Panther (Felis concolor) was adopted as the University of Pittsburgh's mascot at a meeting of students and alumni in the autumn of 1909. According to George M. P. Baird, '09, who made the suggestion, it was chosen for the following reasons:

1. The Panther was the most formidable creature once indigenous to the Pittsburgh region.

2. It had ancient, heraldic standing as a noble animal.

3. The happy accident of alliteration.

4. The close approximation of its hue to the old gold of the University's colors (old gold and blue), hence its easy adaptability in decoration.

5. The fact that no other college or university then employed it as a symbol.

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