Jayhawks, Hoyas & Owls (Oh My!): How 21 Schools Got Their Nicknames

March Madness starts today, which means you're going to be tossing team nicknames around like crazy for the next few weeks. Do you know where these mascots came from, though? What the heck is a Hoya? Would you know a Gaucho if you saw one? Let's take a look at the origins of some of the tournament teams' mascots.

1. Georgetown Hoyas
The origins of the Hoya nickname are a bit murky, but the school thinks it originated in the 1890s. Students created a mixed Greek and Latin cheer of "Hoya Saxa!" (which translates into "What Rocks!") to inspire either the school's baseball or football teams. By 1920, "Hoya" had become a popular saying on campus, and by 1928 the nickname was firmly stuck to the school's teams.

Georgetown's original dog mascot, a pit bull named Stubby, actually fought in World War I before becoming associated with the school. He earned a promotion to sergeant by capturing an enemy spy and later delighted Georgetown crowds by pushing a football around the field at halftime.

2. Temple Owls
When Temple was founded in 1884, it was a night school, so people jokingly referred to its students as "night owls." When the school started fielding teams, it was only natural to call them the Owls.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes
A buckeye is a small, dark brown nut with a light brown patch on it. Carrying a buckeye is supposedly good luck; some superstitious people (like me) won't leave the house without one in their pocket. The buckeye tree is Ohio's state tree, and Ohio residents have been referred to as Buckeyes since 1788. Hence, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

4. UCSB Gauchos

UCSB-MascotUC Santa Barbara's teams call themselves the Gauchos, a term that's broadly applied to residents of South America's grasslands. It loosely translates into "cowboy," which explains why UCSB's logo includes the school's initials and a dark face glowering beneath an Argentine cowboy hat. [Image courtesy of CSTV.]

5. Kansas Jayhawks
According to the school's website, the mythical jayhawk is a combination of two birds: the belligerent blue jay and the quiet, deadly sparrow hawk. During the 1850s, there was a lot of violence regarding whether or not Kansas would enter the union as a free or slave state, and the militant free staters eventually became known as Jayhawkers. The fictitious bird eventually became a symbol of Kansas' commitment to freedom, and in 1912 a student drew a depiction of the bird. The bird wore shoes so it could kick opponents.

6. Purdue Boilermakers
In 1891, Purdue's football rivalry with Wabash was thriving. Purdue's team took a trip to Crawfordsville and thumped Wabash 44-0. The next day the local paper in Crawfordsville depicted the Purdue squad as conquering bullies and ran the headline: "Slauther of Innocents: Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue." Instead of being offended, Purdue's teams ran with the nickname.

7. Robert Morris Colonials
This one's not too tough; financier Robert Morris was a bigshot during colonial times. Morris signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution, and he helped finance the American side during the Revolutionary War. [Image courtesy of Flickr user dietzy2320.]

8. Cornell Big Red
In 1905, Cornell alum Romeyn Berry was trying to write a fight song, but he hit a snag. The school didn't have a mascot for him to reference. To solve this problem, he called Cornell "the big red team," and eventually fans just started calling their squads the Big Red.

9. East Tennessee State Buccaneers
The Buccaneer is a fine mascot for a coastal school, but ETSU is decidedly landlocked. What gives? According to the university's website, a series of subterranean rivers runs through tunnels in the mountains near the school's campus. According to legend these waterways, known as Pirate Creek, were once home to pirate Jean Paul LeBucque, who had fled from the coast to hide his treasure. Thus, an inland school has a pirate mascot.

10. Tennessee Volunteers
This one comes from Tennessee's nickname, the Volunteer State. During the War of 1812, President Madison asked Andrew Jackson to find 1500 fellow Tennesseans to voluntarily help him fight the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Later, during the Mexican War, Tennessee's governor put out a call for 2800 men to help battle Santa Anna, but 30,000 volunteers showed up. All of this voluntary participation earned the state, and later its biggest college, a nickname.

wake-forest.jpg11. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake's teams originally called themselves the Tigers, but that name didn't stick. People started referring to the squads as "the Baptists" due to the school's religious affiliation, and when the football team beat archrival Trinity (which would later become Duke) in 1923, student newspaper editor Mayon Parker dubbed them the "Demon Deacons" to honor both their Baptist affiliations and "devilish" play.

12. North Texas Mean Green
The vicious play of football star "Mean" Joe Greene may have given rise to the school's current moniker. According to one story touted by the university, Sidney Sue Graham, the wife of sports information director Fred Graham, called Greene "mean" following a brutal tackle during his late-1960's career at the school. She then began calling the entire smothering defensive unit the "Mean Green," and although Graham initially dismissed his wife's newly coined phrase, he eventually used it in a press release that caught on with reporters.

13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
There's some debate about how the Fighting Irish nickname affixed itself to Notre Dame. Some people say the media started calling the teams the Fighting Irish because the Catholic school's teams played with the ferocity and grit people associate with the Irish.

Others say the nickname came from the Union Army's Irish Brigade, while yet another story claims the name was born at an 1899 away football game at Northwestern where the home crowd chanted "Kill the Fighting Irish!"

14. California Golden Bears
In 1895 Cal's powerhouse track team went on the road to challenge top college powers back East in a series of meets. Arthur Rodgers, a university regent, commissioned a blue banner decorated with a gold grizzly bear for the team to carry on its journey. The team kicked some serious tail, and a nickname was born.

15. Sam Houston State Bearkats
This odd spelling has been around since the school abandoned its previous nickname, the Normals, in 1923. According to SHSU, the name probably doesn't refer to any sort of animal; instead, it reflects a popular 1920s saying on campus, "Tough as a Bearkat!"

blue-blob-xavier16. Xavier Musketeers
Xavier actually has two mascots. D'Artagnan the Musketeer has been around since 1925; the idea of using a French musketeer came about because the school had strong ties to French culture in its early days. The other mascot, the Blue Blob, has a more mysterious back-story. The school may have developed the Blue Blob because the heavily armed D'Artagnan terrified small children, but others claim that the school won the Blue Blob as part of a Skyline Chili promotion in the 1980s.

17. New Mexico Lobos
According to the school, it picked the Spanish word for "wolf" as its nickname in 1920. The school paper wrote, "The Lobo is respected for his cunning, feared for his prowess, and is the leader of the pack. It is the ideal name for the Varsity boys who go forth to battle for the glory of the school. All together now; fifteen rahs for the LOBOS."

18. UTEP Miners
This one's pretty straightforward. When the school was founded in 1914 it was known as the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy. It later became Texas Western and then UTEP, but the mining heritage hangs around in the school's mascot.

19. Vermont Catamounts
Vermont got its Catamount nickname through a democratic vote. In 1926 the student newspaper UVM Cynic ran a poll asking students to vote for the wildcat or lynx as the school's mascot. The response was tepid at best, so the paper gave it another try later in the school year. This time the options were the camels, tomcats, cows, or catamounts. "The Catamounts" took the day by grabbing 138 votes to the other options' combined 126.

20. Murray State Racers
Murray State's teams were originally known as the Thoroughbreds in a nod to Kentucky's racing tradition, but newspaper editors had trouble cramming such a long word into headlines. Eventually they started shortening it to "Racers" to save space, and in 1961 the school officially changed its nickname to the shorter version.

21. Minnesota Golden Gophers
According to the school's website, Minnesota has been known as "the Gopher State" since an 1857 cartoon depicted local politicians as gophers pulling a locomotive. Thus, the school's teams eventually became the Gophers. The "golden" part came later. In the 1930s the football team wore gold jerseys and gold pants, so a radio announcer started calling them the "Golden Gophers."

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Getty Images

Fred Rogers—who was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1928—remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of what would have been his 90th birthday, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”


According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.


Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”


Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.


It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.


Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.


Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."


A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.


If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.


Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.


According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.


Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.


It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”


In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.


Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.


In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
The World's Last Male Northern White Rhino Has Died, But Could He Still Help Save the Species?
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

Following age-related complications, Sudan the northern white rhinoceros was euthanized by a team of vets in Kenya at 45 years old, CNN reports. He was one of only three northern white rhinos left on Earth and the last male of his subspecies. For years, Sudan had represented the final hope for the survival of his kind, but now scientists have a back-up plan: Using Sudan's sperm, they may be able to continue his genetic line even after his death.

Northern white rhino numbers from dwindled from 2000 in 1960 to only three in recent years. Those last survivors, Sudan, his daughter Najin, and granddaughter Fatu, lived together at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Each animal had physical issues making it difficult for them to breed, and now with Sudan gone, a new generation of northern white rhinos looks even less likely.

But there is one way the story of these animals doesn't end in extinction. Before Sudan died, researchers were able to save some of his genetic material, which means it's still possible for him to father offspring. Scientists may either use the sperm to artificially inseminate one of the surviving females (even though they're related) or, due to their age and ailments, fertilize one of their eggs and implant the embryo into a female of a similar subspecies, like the southern white rhino, using in vitro fertilization.

"We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilized for conservation of critically endangered species," Jan Stejskal, an official at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic where Sudan lived until 2009, told AFP. "It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring."

Poaching has been a major contributor to the northern white rhino's decline over the past century. Rhinos are often hunted for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal properties in some Asian cultures. (Other people just view the horn as a sign of wealth and status). Procreating is the biggest issue threatening the northern white rhinoceros at the moment. If such poaching continues, other rhino species in the wild could end up in the same situation.

[h/t CNN]


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