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Monday, August 25, 2008

Big 12 vs. Big 10 Mascots

Your brother Pete and I had a good convo one day a couple of weeks back about college mascots while spending some quality time together coaching up current undersized Michigan State Spartan freshman defensive tackle Kevin Pickelman in his senior season on NCAA 09. The question of which conference has the best mascot lineup from top to bottom arose. Let us help you with your research.


North Division:

Missouri Tigers.
tiger. –noun, plural -gers, (esp. collectively for 1, 2, 5) -ger. 1. a large, carnivorous, tawny-colored and black-striped feline, Panthera tigris, of Asia, ranging in several races from India and the Malay Peninsula to Siberia: the entire species is endangered, with some races thought to be extinct.
2. the cougar, jaguar, thylacine, or other animal resembling the tiger.
3. a person resembling a tiger in fierceness, courage, etc.
4. an additional cheer (often the word tiger) at the end of a round of cheering.
5. any of several strong, voracious fishes, as a sand shark.
6. any of numerous animals with stripes similar to a tiger's.

A tiger sounds mean and good at journalism. At the time of the adoption of the tiger as Mizzou's mascot, I'm sure it sounded exotic and noble. Now there are no less than 28 other institutions of higher learning that are repping the Tiger. Seems about as unique as say...the Wildcat. Which brings us to...

Kansas State Wildcats. wild·cat. noun, plural -cats, (especially collectively) -cat for 1–4, adjective, verb, -cat·ted, -cat·ting.
–noun 1. any of several North American felines of the genus Lynx. Compare lynx.
2. a yellowish-gray, black-striped feline, Felis sylvestris, of Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, resembling and closely related to the domestic cat, with which it interbreeds freely.
3. a closely related feline, Felis sylvestris libyca, of northern Africa, believed to be the ancestor of the domestic cat.
4. any of several other of the smaller felines, as the serval or ocelot.
5. a domestic cat that has become feral.
6. a quick-tempered or savage person.
7. Railroads. a single locomotive operating without a train, as one switching cars.
8. an exploratory well drilled in an effort to discover deposits of oil or gas; a prospect well.
9. a reckless or unsound enterprise, business, etc.
10. Informal. wildcatter (def. 2).
11. Nautical. a shaped drum on a windlass, engaging with the links of an anchor chain.
12. Informal. wildcat strike.
–adjective 13. characterized by or proceeding from reckless or unsafe business methods: wildcat companies; wildcat stocks.
14. of or pertaining to an illicit enterprise or product.
15. running without control or regulation, as a locomotive, or apart from the regular schedule, as a train.
–verb (used without object) 16. to search an area of unknown or doubtful productivity for oil, ore, or the like, esp. as an independent prospector.
17. Slang. to engage in a wildcat strike.
–verb (used with object) 18. to search (an area of unknown or doubtful productivity) for oil, ore, or the like.

Based on the definition #2, a wildcat is just a domestic cat's poor, country trash cousin that it inbreeds when it drinks too much at the family reunion. If you've ever visited Manhattan, KS, the previous sentence may be interpreted as complimentary, which would be incorrect. I thought this number would be higher, but K-State is one of 16 colleges or universities using the Wildcat moniker.

Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawk is a cross between two common birds -- the noisy blue jay and the quiet sparrow hawk. The term came to prominence just before the Civil War, in Bleeding Kansas, where it was adopted by militant abolitionist groups known as Jayhawkers. With the admission of Kansas as a free state in 1861, Jayhawker became synonymous with the people of Kansas. The Jayhawk appears in several Kansas cheers, most notably, the "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" chant in unison before and during games. Well done, KU. Well done. You are the lone purveyor of the Jayhawk mascot. It looks cool. It sounds cool. It's won you a couple of titles in college baskeball. This is why more teams should simply make up mascot names, like the Colorado State Zeds or the SMU Webolos. The Jayhawks are also a good band from Minnesota. KU and NU have the 3rd longest uninterrupted series, dating back to 1892. Until the Callahan Era, NU won every game.

Colorado Buffaloes. buf·fa·lo. noun, plural -loes, -los, (especially collectively) -lo, verb, -loed, -lo·ing.
–noun 1. any of several large wild oxen of the family Bovidae. Compare bison, Cape buffalo, water buffalo.
2. buffalo robe.
3. a buffalofish.
4. a shuffling tap-dance step.
–verb (used with object) Informal. 5. to puzzle or baffle; confuse; mystify: He was buffaloed by the problem.
6. to impress or intimidate by a display of power, importance, etc.: The older boys buffaloed him.

Once there were a lot of buffaloes on the great plains, but not so many in the world of college athletics. Only four other Buffaloes exist in that world. Almost endangered. Looking like a Native American has always made me feel at one with the mighty buffalo, or Tatanka, as I call them. And lest I forget Ralphie XIX, or whichever incarnation it is. Pretty awesome to see him/her run the field in person. Colorado definitely brings something to the table with this mascot.

Nebraska Cornhuskers. corn·husk·er. –noun 1. a person or thing that husks corn.
2. (initial capital letter) a Nebraskan (used as a nickname). Origin: 1840–50, Americanism; corn1 + husk + -er1]

Without bias, it can be established that this is the greatest mascot in all of the Big XII, wait Christendom. Though Iowa claimed it first, we decided we liked it and beat it from their possession. Nebraska is named the Cornhusker State. The word cornhusker refers to a Nebraskan. No other school, not even a high school, dares use the revered Cornhusker title. Not even Kansas can claim that. It's like naming your kid Jesus Christ Smith. Just shouldn't happen. Rare is the mascot that completely symbolizes its followers. Cornhusker does. The old Herbie is great. And being of the human nature (in most cases) means that a Cornhusker has probably killed at least one of any other existing mascot.

Iowa State Cyclones. cy·clone. –noun 1. a large-scale, atmospheric wind-and-pressure system characterized by low pressure at its center and by circular wind motion, counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Compare anticyclone, extratropical cyclone, tropical cyclone.
2. (not in technical use) tornado.
3. Also called cyclone collector, cyclone separator. Machinery. a device for removing small or powdered solids from air, water, or other gases or liquids by centrifugal force.

Topical? Yes, cyclones happen in central Iowa. Scary? Yep. Good choice, Iowa State. Weather is scary and apparently looks like a cardinal. I can't say I blame you, a cyclone would be a difficult mascot suit to make. I don't even know where I would begin. Next, let's work on keep the logo consistent for at least one of your graduating classes. Well, you've got enough on your plates. Do what you need to with the logo. (Pete objects to this one: "Cyclone? No one actually says that shit instead of tornado, but people on the coasts have either seen the Wizard of Oz or, god forbid, Twister, and say that or cylone. Tornado.")

South Division

Oklahoma Sooners. soon·er. –noun 1. a person who settles on government land before it is legally opened to settlers in order to gain the choice of location.
2. a person who gains an unfair advantage by getting ahead of others.

[Origin: 1885–90, Americanism; soon + -er1]

What assholes. A person who gains an unfair advantage by getting ahead of others?!? Rhett Bomar was a real sooner. Probably could've chosen something better from a PR standpoint, but it is better than the Oklahoma Cheaters. Once again, no other college has chosen to use the Sooner as its mascot, and after studying the definition of the word I cannot blame them. Apparently Injun Killers was taken.

Texas Longhorns. Long·horn. –noun 1. (lowercase) Texas longhorn.
2. Slang. a Texan.
3. (lowercase) long-horned beetle.
4. one of a nearly extinct English breed of beef cattle having long horns.

This is pretty self-explanatory. It is a breed of cattle specific to the state of Texas. I get it. Like the Baltimore Orioles or the University of Missouri Kansas City Kangaroos. It pulls the geographic strings. 0.00 other colleges have the Longhorn as their mascot. Very recognizable mascot.

Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Masked Rider is the oldest of Texas Tech's remaining mascots, tracing its origins to 1936. It became the official mascot in 1954. Beginning with the 1971 football season, the Southwest Conference created a rule restricting the use of live animal mascots. Since this rule applied to the horse ridden by the Masked Rider, Raider Red was created as an alternative.
If I had never seen a Texas Tech athlete and all I had to go on was the name Red Raider, I could successfully reason deductively that their uniforms included the color red. But their mascot looks like a Lone Ranger knock-off.

Texas A&M Aggies. ag·gie. –noun (sometimes initial capital letter) Informal. 1. an agriculture college.
2. a student at an agricultural college.

Considering that the "A" in A&M stands for agriculture along with the second definition, Aggie seems like an apt choice for A&M's mascot. Great job, but don't go patting yourselves on the back just yet. Eight other colleges decided that Aggie was awesome too. And what the hell is an Aggie? From what I've seen, it's a collie. Or, if you're from New Mexico State, it's a cowboy. I think Utah State's Aggie is just a picture of Mitt Romney's dad.

Oklahoma State Cowboys. cow·boy. –noun 1. a man who herds and tends cattle on a ranch, esp. in the western U.S., and who traditionally goes about most of his work on horseback.
2. a man who exhibits the skills attributed to such cowboys, esp. in rodeos.
3. Chiefly Northeastern U.S. a reckless or speedy automobile driver.
4. Informal. a reckless or irresponsible person, esp. a show-off or one who undertakes a dangerous or sensitive task heedlessly: They put foreign policy in the hands of cowboys.
5. (during the American Revolution) a member of a pro-British guerrilla band that operated between the American and British lines near New York City.
–verb (used without object) 6. to work as a cowboy.

Stillwater, Oklahoma is safely located in the western U.S., so I'm cool with Oklahoma State's choice. Despite being known locally as the cowpokes, I thought the name Cowboy seemed pretty common. I am stupid for thinking that. Only McNeese State and Wyoming share the name with Oklahoma State. So there. Loses points for having anything in common with the Dallas Cowboys, and therefore PacMan Jones.

Baylor Bears. bear. noun, plural bears, (especially collectively) bear, adjective, verb, beared, bear·ing.
–noun 1. any of the plantigrade, carnivorous or omnivorous mammals of the family Ursidae, having massive bodies, coarse heavy fur, relatively short limbs, and almost rudimentary tails.
2. any of various animals resembling the bear, as the ant bear.
3. a gruff, burly, clumsy, bad-mannered, or rude person.
4. a person who believes that market prices, esp. of stocks, will decline (opposed to bull).
5. Informal. a person who shows great ability, enthusiasm, stamina, etc.: a bear for physics.
6. (initial capital letter) Astronomy. either of two constellations, Ursa Major or Ursa Minor.
7. Informal. a player at cards who rarely bluffs.
8. (initial capital letter) Russia.

The Baylor Rarely Bluffing Card Players. The Baylor Russians. The Baylor Burlies. Baylor Bears is better. But not original. 24 other schools have chosen Bears as their mascot, including the Coast Guard. Really? The Coast Guard chooses a large land mammal as it's mascot? ReallY? Do the Merchant Marines have a mascot and if so is it the Moose?

Big Ten

Ohio State Buckeyes. buck·eye. –noun, plural -eyes. 1. any of various trees or shrubs of the genus Aesculus, as A. glabra (Ohio buckeye), having palmate leaves, gray, scaly bark, and bell-shaped greenish-yellow flowers in upright clusters: the state tree of Ohio.
2. the brown nut of any of these trees.
3. (initial capital letter) a native or inhabitant of Ohio (used as a nickname).
4. a butterfly, Precis lavinia, having dark-brown wings with purple or red eyespots.

A tree or its brown nut. Not exactly blood-curdling on paper. Much like Kansas, Nebraska, or Texas, Buckeye defines the state and thus an apt mascot for a university in Ohio. Susceptible to many diseases and deforestation. I don't believe the buckeye nut is edible, so they have that going for them. THE Ohio State oddly enough shares this mascot with two of its affiliate locations in Mansfield and Marion, Ohio. More like THE Ohio State Univeristy--the one in Columbus. Oh, and if you show us a good tree mascot, it will be the first.

Wisconsin Badgers. badg·er. –noun 1. any of various burrowing, carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae, as Taxidea taxus, of North America, and Meles meles, of Europe and Asia.
2. the fur of this mammal.
3. Australian. a. a wombat.
b. bandicoot (def. 2).

4. (initial capital letter) a native or inhabitant of Wisconsin (the Badger State) (used as a nickname).
5. a swablike device for cleaning excess mortar from the interiors of newly laid tile drains.

Yes to everything listed above including 5. Badgers are the meanest animal I've ever encountered. I once saw one attack a moving truck I was in. Nuts. These guys could potentially win the pound-for-pound title at the 2009 animal fights.

Illinois Fighting Illini. The Illiniwek (also known as the Illini, Illinois Confederacy) were a group of six Native American tribes in the upper Mississippi River valley of North America. The tribes were the Kaskaskia, the Cahokia, the Peoria, the Tamaroa, Moingwena, Michigamea, Albiui, Amonokoa, Chepoussa, Chinkoa, "Coiracoentanon," Espeminkia, Maroa, Matchinkoa, Michibousa, Negawichi and Tapouara. The name "Iliniwek" is an old Ojibwe word borrowed into French as "Illinois." The modern Ojibwe word is ininiweg, from /inin/ meaning "regular, ordinary, plain," /we/ meaning "to speak," joined with a connector vowel /i/, and an animate plural suffix /g/, which when combined means "those who speak in the ordinary way, regular way."
Thanks Wikipedia. Ol' Chief Illiniwek made his last performance in February 2007. I actually think that the Illinois mascot was one of the few Native mascots that wasn't overtly offensive. Of course, not being a Native American myself, it doesn't matter what the hell I think. Completely original any way you look at it. 4 stars.

Penn State Nittany Lions. The Nittany Lion is essentially an ordinary mountain lion (also known as a cougar, puma, or panther), a creature that roamed central Pennsylvania until the 1880s (although unconfirmed sightings continued long after that time). By attaching the prefix "Nittany" to this beast, Mason gave Penn State a unique symbol that no other college or university could claim.
So really, you avoided calling yourselves the Cougars by attaching the name of a local "mountain" to it. That's sublime. Paired with some of the best unis in the biz and you've got one helluva combo. One of a kind.

Michigan Wolverines. wol·ver·ine. –noun 1. Also called carcajou. a stocky, carnivorous North American mammal, Gulo luscus, of the weasel family, having blackish, shaggy hair with white markings.
2. (initial capital letter) a native or inhabitant of Michigan (the Wolverine State) (used as a nickname).

Allow me to add that wolverines have no natural fear of humans. Most recognizable helmets in the world. The best fight song in the country (that includes you, Notre Dame). The only thing that could make it better would be a live mascot roaming the sidelines. Especially if it got loose and went after the Badger, that would be better than the actual boring Big 10 game.

Michigan State Spartans. Spar·tan. –adjective 1. Also, Spar·tan·ic [spahr-tan-ik] of or pertaining to Sparta or its people.
2. suggestive of the ancient Spartans; sternly disciplined and rigorously simple, frugal, or austere.
3. brave; undaunted.
–noun 4. a native or inhabitant of Sparta.
5. a person of Spartan characteristics.

Watch the film 300.

Iowa Hawkeyes. Hawk·eye. –noun, plural -eyes. a native or inhabitant of Iowa (used as a nickname). The term "Hawkeye" originally appeared in the book, The Last of the Mohicans, and was later used in its plural form to describe the people of Iowa. Soon thereafter, the University of Iowa borrowed this nickname for its athletic teams. The nickname was granted a symbol in 1948 when a mascot named Herky was created.[3] Herky, along with all of Iowa's athletic teams, is attired in the school's colors, black and gold.[4]
The Last of the Mohicans is a badass movie which comes from a badass novel and if Hawkeye comes from that, then right on. A for originality, but I don't get the ink blot logo. And I never watched M*A*S*H* or read comic books.

Purdue Boilermakers. boil·er·mak·er. –noun 1. a person employed to make and repair boilers or other heavy metal items.
2. whiskey with beer as a chaser.

The 2nd greatest mascot of all time? I remember thinking as a boy that a boilermaker was just the cartoon version of Gene Keady. (Pete asks: what the hell is the best mascot of all time? This is it for me.)

Indiana Hoosiers. Hoo·sier. –noun 1. a native or inhabitant of Indiana (used as a nickname).
2. (usually lowercase) any awkward, unsophisticated person, esp. a rustic.

I'm guessing Indiana University is going with the former and not the latter. Unfair advantage due to Gene Hackman's awesome acting chops.

Minnesota Golden Gophers. Goldy Gopher is the mascot for the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus and the associated sports teams. The Gopher mascot is a tradition as old as the state. Minnesota was tabbed the “Gopher State” in 1857 after a political cartoon ridiculing the $5 million Railroad Loan which helped open up the West. The cartoon portrayed shifty railroad barons as striped gophers pulling a railroad car carrying the Territorial Legislature toward the "Slough of Despond". Later, the university picked up the nickname, as the first U of M yearbook bearing the name "Gopher Annual" appeared in 1887.
Original. Comical. Adorable. Not exactly characteristics that translate into successful football as evidenced by the years 1887-

Northwestern Wildcats. (see State, Kansas). What is it with Wildcats and the color purple? You would think a school with this many smart people would come up with something a little more creative. And amazingly, Bulldogs is still available for either the Big 10 or the Big 12. So is Webolos...

Great post, growing up in Wolverine country, I knew who had the best mascot, fight song, and helmet around. And those guys south of Lake Erie had to have the worst set up with the tin foil colored domes, the dark pink uniforms, and a mascot that was some kind of acorn.
Thanks for reading, but I'm pretty sure it was made clear that the Cornhusker is the best mascot. Because it is.

And I'll take Nebraska's helmet over Michigan's anyday, too. Oh, and also that 1997 Sears Coaches' Poll National Championship Trophy.

(I love college football.)
Iowa makes more corn than Nebraska, we're the greatest. But I'll give you credit for the Cornhusker mascot. Hawkeyes and Cyclones are powerful, but that stern looking farmer husker guy with the big head is intimidating when coupled with the classic red and white colors
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