Dec 18, 2009

The Top Ten Most Popular College Nicknames

Evaluating a college on the basis of a nickname or mascot can be an interesting study in campus personality. There are more conservative, mainstream nicknames reflecting character traits such as courage, valor, tenacity, or strength. Eagles, Cougars, or Warriors come to mind. Then there are the more iconoclastic nicknames that are, well, a little difficult to pin down, like the Banana Slugs, Trolls, Poets, Zips, or Humpback Whales.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Adam Joshua Smargon, a list of nearly all US college and university nicknames resides on a single web page. With a little programming magic, here is a ranking of the top 10 based on his list:

1. Eagles (58 institutions)
2. Tigers (45)
3. Bulldogs (39)
4. Cougars (32)
4. Wildcats (32)
6. Panthers (31)
7. Lions (30)
7. Pioneers (30)
7. Warriors (30)
10. Knights (26)

Although feral felines dominate the list, the Eagle with 58 colleges and universities won hands down. Add Golden Eagles (15), Screaming Eagles (2), Marauding Eagles, Running Eagles (1), and Bald Eagles (1), and the competition isn’t even close. Locally, both American University and the University of Mary Washington use the eagle as their mascot.

But big birds and cats aren’t the only warrior beasts supported by college fans. Breeds of dogs are also very popular. While Bulldogs (39) top the list, Huskies (9), Greyhounds (5), Terriers (5), Retrievers (1), Great Danes (1), and McDaniel College’s Green Terriers are among the canines cheered at various institutions.

Weather events also are popular and include Tornados (3), Storms (3), Hurricanes (3), Cyclones (3), Thunder (2), Lightning (1), and Savage Storm (1). Insects including Yellow Jackets (18), Bees (2), Spiders (1), Fire Ants (1), and Boll Weevils (1) populate college campuses as well.

Five schools use the Engineers as their mascot. Guess what these students study? Hint: MIT is one.

Religion is another popular theme as Saints (22), Crusaders (23), Preachers (2), Missionaries (1), Monks (1), Friars (1), and Battling Bishops (2) are holier than not. Then again there are the Devils (1), Red Devils (2), Blue Devils (4), and the Demons (1).

There are certainly the puzzling—Hilltoppers (4), Lumberjacks (4), Kangaroos (3), Privateers (2), and Camels (2). But the periennial "worst" nicknames have to include Horned Frogs (Texas Christian), Stumpies (SUNY College of Environmental Science), Dirtbags (CA State—Long Beach), Jumbos (Tufts), Gorillas (Pittsburg State), and Vandals (University of Idaho).

Local favorites in the "one-of-a-kind" department include the Terrapins (UMD), the Hoyas (Georgetown), the Hokies (Virginia Tech), and the Gophers (Goucher).

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