Does a Rose Smell as Sweet? Team Nicknames Are No Clue

What's in a name? To the Bard, a rose by any other name smelled as sweet. Unfortunately, too many have taken that thought to heart in creating collegiate sports nicknames.

In the beginning, nicknames of collegiate teams weren't in short supply, simply because at the start there was only Harvard, Yale and William and Mary. Those three schools all adopted the given names of their founders for their athletic teams: the Elis (Eli Yale), the Crimson (Crimson Harvard) and the Tribe (Pocahontas).

And back in those days only competition in tory-baiting and tea-pot partying existed. Then came the great westward expansion and as more institutions of higher learning sprouted up, more nicknames were invented: Indians, Bulldogs, Lions, Tigers, Bears, Bobcats, Bearcats, and as the line of civilization moved west, Bison, Buffalo, Pumas and Losers. The Losers was the nickname Custer's soldiers, unlucky miners, and the Pony Express.

Then American ingenuity came to the fore, the ingenuity of Henry Ford and John d. Rockefeller, and produced the Boilmakers of Purdue, the Battling Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan, the Waves of Pepperdine, the Green Wave of Tulane and the Red Wave of Troy State.

In Canada or Massachusetts the search for nicknames went on: the Beothuks of Memorial University of Newfoundland, the Ephmen of Williams. In South Carolina the Blue Hose of Presbyterian College in Clinton was the name created for that small denominational school and TCU was blessed with the Horned Frogs.


Animals and indigenous creatures seemed fair game, the University of Richmond came up with Spiders and St. Mary's University out west fanged their teams with the Rattlers nickname.

But for fans and sportswriters alike there's a rub. The Tigers of Princeton roar, but do the Purdue Boilermakers boil? Or make? Bulldogs or Bears can fight, claw of maul but what do the Ephmen do? Something obscene, no doubt.

And for that matter one great unanswered mystery remains: how does the Crimson function? Do Harvard athletes bleed their way to victory?

In short there is an awful stink in Denmark, and Shakespearean scholars take heed. Little Transylvania College in Lexington, Ky. avoided the temptation of using Vampires and instead went with the prosaic Pioneers. And their color? Harvard Crimson.