In search of a mascot

Finding a school mascot that hasn’t already been used is an impossible task. The Spittin’ Camels, anyone? Photo by Phil Houseal

Oct 14, 2020–As a marketing gimmick, I once tried to come up with a clever mascot for a university’s fictional athletic program.

I couldn’t do it.

I brainstormed the most insignificant or annoying animals and plants that would make a tongue-in-cheek T-shirt that college students would consider cool enough to wear. But the best ones I thought up were already being used by real schools.

Mosquitoes? Meet the Skeeters of Mesquite High School.

Spiders? University of Richmond

Yellowjackets? Right up the road in Llano.

Surely there are no school teams called the Fire Ants. Wrong. University of South Carolina.

I went through a long list with no success. Here, try it. Which of the following names is NOT already a school mascot?

Armadillos

Bloodhounds

Bullfrogs

Ganders

Goats

Gobblers

Hippos

Parrots

Polar Bears

Sandcrabs

Zebras

Of course it’s a trick question. ALL of those are school mascots, and all happen to be Texas high schools:

Armadillos–San Saba

Bloodhounds–Brownsville

Bullfrogs–Lake Worth

Ganders–Baytown

Goats–Groesbeck

Gobblers–Cuero

Hippos–Hutto

Parrots–Fort Worth Polytechnic

Polar Bears–Frost (naturally)

Sandcrabs–Port Lavaca

Zebras–Grandview

I even called up fictional animals. But the Unicorns of New Braunfels are very real, as any Fredericksburg Battlin’ Billie can tell you.

Speaking of the Billies, I used to think the local high school was the only one in the country with the courage to boast a Billie for its mascot. After all, goats are barnyard creatures not usually considered inspirational, and Billies is really short for Hillbillies, another disparaging moniker. But I found that Monticello, Arizona, also claims to be Home of the Billies. I am impressed how these sports communities have managed to turn around the common perception of a goat (as in scapegoat) into a G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time). Now THAT is marketing!

After exhausting the entire animal kingdom, I moved over to flora for inspiration. Surely, no team was the Fighting Grass Burrs? I was wrong again. Highland High School is home of the Burrs, named for the prickly burrs of the Chinquapin tree.

Schools have exhibited a high degree of creativity naming their teams after a cornucopia of common objects, professions, and natural phenomena:

Wooden Shoes–Teutopolis, IN

Syrupmakers–Cairo, GE

Pretzels–New Berlin, IL

Millionaires–Williamsport PA

Blizzards–Winters TX

Meloneers–Rocky Ford CO

Sugarbeeters–Chinook MT

Appleknockers–Cobden IL

Hoboes–Laurel Hill FL

Honkers–Yuba City CA

The Mighty Bunnies–Omaha NE

Growing up, my favorite team to follow in the Iowa State Basketball State Tournament every year was the Everly Cattlefeeders. It was a real team. I would fall off the couch in laughter while cheering on their 6-on-6 girl’s team The Cattlefeederettes, everyone’s favorite Cinderella team and one of the top 10 best high school nicknames in the history of the planet.

So far I haven’t found the perfect nickname for a fictional university team, one that is unique in the world, weird yet wild enough for a 20-something to be proud to sport. The best I could do was The Spittin’ Camels (Humping to Win), but no one wanted to wear that ball cap.

Send me your ideas.

The winner might get a T-shirt.

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