Top 10 Worst FBS Team Nicknames
Some college football programs go by nicknames that are dumbfounding, ill-fitting, comical or all of the above. We count down the 10 worst ones in FBS college football.
We start with Stanford. You’d think that a team with a growing reputation for hard-nosed football would have a better nickname than a shade of red. The school is entering its 40th year with the “Cardinal” nickname, which started in 1972 after the previous “Indians” moniker was dropped.
Stanford’s choice in moniker aligns with schools on the same academic playing field as they are. After all, the Ivy League counts the Crimson (Harvard), Big Red (Cornell) and Big Green (Dartmouth) among its teams.
Given Stanford’s left-leaning nature, their alternative nickname is not that surprising. But can you imagine cheering for the Michigan Maize or the Ohio State Scarlet? We didn’t think so.
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If you ran the gamut on mediocre, 1990s kids sports movies like we did, surely you remember The Big Green, which told the story of a rag-tag youth soccer team from small town Texas. Their nickname isn’t far off from what North Texas goes by.
UNT, which had gone by “Eagles” starting in 1922, switched over to “Mean Green” in 1966. The story why is actually kind of cool.
In ’66, defensive tackle Joe Greene was one of the leaders of a North Texas defense that was second in the nation against the rush. UNT fans thought it was funny that the last name of one of their stars was a homophone of the school color.
“Mean Green” really became popular on the Denton campus after the phrase was coined by Sidney Graham, the wife of the then sports information director. It’s a fun story, but the fact remains that the team is named after a color and an adjective that rhymes with it.
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Back when America was a significantly more farming dependent country, a nickname like “Aggie” had a certain level of ubiquitous respectability. For an all-American sport like college football, what could be a more all-encompassing, all-American nickname?
And while schools such as Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) maintain a strong agricultural studies program, the “Aggies” nickname for it and other schools seems a little dated.
Put it this way. If other schools opted for nicknames based on what they educated their students in, Georgia Tech would be the Techies. West Virginia would be the Couch Burners. (Actually, that nickname could work.)
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We’re not lamenting the transition away from Native American nicknames by any means. But Miami (OH) is another school that went with a nonsensical nickname when they opted for political correctness.
From 1931 to 1997, Miami athletic teams were known as the Redskins. Happy 15th anniversary, RedHawks nickname. A search reveals that, aside from athletic teams, a redhawk (all one word) is in fact a type of revolver (which is almost as bad a nickname choice as a Native American tribe).
When Miami decided to switch its nickname, it should have gone all-out instead of keeping the "Red" prefix and slapping "Hawks" on the end to create an animal that doesn't exist. Having the nickname be one word makes it even more bizarre.
The name change also eventually gave rise to the creation of a mascot named “Swoop.” Excuse us while we slap our heads in frustration.
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Two different stories exist on how UAB’s nickname came to be. One is that, upon launching its intercollegiate athletics program in 1978, the school hoped to “blaze” a new trail in college athletics. The other is that it hoped to duplicate the success of the Portland Trail Blazers, who had won the NBA title the year before.
Both stories could very well be true. Neither of them make the nickname any more empowering.
Now that we’re far removed from Reefer Madness-era levels of distrust and stigma toward marijuana, people can joke about the toker implications of the nickname. Or that UAB’s teams are named for a type of sports coat.
And it’s all topped off with a dragon mascot that only makes sense in the “blaze = fire” sense. Not that its two predecessors were any more logical: A chicken named Beauregard T. Rooster and a Viking-like character named Blaze.
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we dare you not to hear Kent State's nickname and think of a menopause joke shortly thereafter.
No, it's not meant to be a lightning bolt as many assume. The moniker was simply voted upon by the student body and faculty athletic committee and went into use prior to the 1927 athletics season.
The plethora of mascots used to represent the nickname have included a golden retriever named Flasher, a cartoon character named Grog, a golden palomino horse named Golden Flasher and a golden eagle named Flash. We’re just about due for another mascot change any day now.
Before 1927, the team used to be called the “Silver Foxes” on account of then president John Edward Mcgilvrey raising them on his farm east of campus. If Kent State still carried that nickname today, they would automatically be Anderson Cooper’s favorite team.
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Virginia Tech might be the only school in all of college football whose nickname is a type of word.
O.M. Stull, Class of 1896, thought he made up the word for the “Old Hokie” spirit yell he created when the school changed its official name and needed a new cheer. In fact, he could have been subconsciously referring to what kind of word it was.
Retired Virginia Tech English professor said that “hokie” was a word people used to express feeling, approval, excitement or surprise. “Hokie, then, is a word like ‘hooray’ or ‘yeah’ or ‘rah,’ ” he elaborated.
So for those of you who think the nickname has to do with Virginia Tech’s goofy turkey-like HokieBird mascot, you’re mistaken. It’s actually something much sillier. They are basically the Virginia Tech Hoorays!
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Tulsa football coach H.M. Archer came up with his team’s nickname all the way back in 1922, but he’s not entirely to blame.
Archer originally wanted “Golden Tornadoes,” only to learn that Georgia Tech had laid claim to the nickname a few years earlier. Still wanting to convey the sensation of “roaring through opponents,” Archer switched to “hurricane” instead.
Oklahoma is far enough inland where a hurricane would never get anywhere close to it. Archer had the right idea of paying tribute to Tulsa’s location in the heart of Tornado Alley. But instead of changing the name to a different type of storm system, he should have gone with “twister.” Tulsa Twisters would have been both alliterative and unique.
Alas, they’re stuck with “Golden Hurricane,” which sounds more like a perverted sexual move than a team nickname.
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Is WKU’s nickname meant to be a metaphor for summiting the college sports world? Nope. The origin is not nearly as cool as that.
In 1911, the school’s academic buildings were moved to a hill that rose 232 feet above the rest of Bowling Green, KY. Student dorms remained at the bottom of the hill. Thus, because they had to walk to the top of the hill every day to get to class, the student body (including athletes) became known as “Hilltoppers,” a nickname which started running on WKU uniforms in 1927.
Because the nickname doesn’t lend itself to obvious mascot ideas, Western Kentucky is now represented at sporting events by Big Red, who is described on his Wikipedia page as a “red, furry blob.” We actually love Big Red, but hate the idea of a school nickname that honors students for hiking up a hill to get to class.
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What Akron advertises as “one of the more unique names in college sports today” started out as an homage to “zippers,” rubber overshoes made by the local BF Goodrich Company that were popular in the 1920s and 1930s. It was the brainchild of student Margaret Hamlin, who won a campus-wide contest in 1925 to come up with a nickname for athletic teams.
In 1950, Akron athletic director Kenneth Cochran shortened the nickname to “Zips.” Why? Because of the rising popularity of zippers on a common pair of pants. To continue the nickname nonsense, the student council allowed for the new mascot to be ... a kangaroo?
Akron fans can just feel lucky they dodged a bullet and didn’t opt for “Hillbillies” in that aforementioned 1925 naming contest. Yes, it was one of the names considered.
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