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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Names like no other

Photo by Graphic by Hunter Mitchell
Final Nicknames graphic

Well, it’s that time of year again. As Texas A&M football sits on a bye week, so too do I. As a college nickname/logo/mascot aficionado, I figured I’d have a little fun this week, embarking on a journey to find the best college nicknames in the country.

The only rule I had for this journey down the rabbit hole was that the nickname had to be completely unique — no duplicates. Now, I won’t be talking about the usual “Wichita State Shockers” or “UAB Blazers” that usually make up these lists. As fun as those names might be, they don’t hold a candle to the contenders on this list.

Honorable mention: Rhode Island School of Design [REDACTED]

Just … just look this one up yourself. Viewer discretion is advised.

No. 10: Webster University Gorloks

The most unique nicknames are the ones that are quite literally just made up. Located in Webster Groves, Missouri, Webster University decided to stray from the Eagles, Lions or Wildcats we see far too often and take a much more unique path.

The name actually came first, combining the names of the streets, Gore and Lockwood, that intersect in the middle of campus. Then, later in 1984, the student paper, The Journal, ran a contest for applicants to send in a picture of what they thought a Gorlok would look like, giving us the Gorlok Webster has today. A Gorlok is described as having, “the paws of a speeding cheetah, the horns of a fierce buffalo and the face of a dependable Saint Bernard.” What better way to make a mascot than to just do it yourself?

No. 9: Chaminade University of Honolulu Silverswords

Despite the menacing-sounding nature of Chaminade’s nickname, it is neither silver nor a sword. Instead, the college’s nickname refers to the Silversword plant, a perennial plant grown in Hawai’i. The plant nearly went extinct, but it was saved by botanists who crossbred the plant and kept it in greenhouses. They also only bloom once every 50 years, then promptly die.

There’s probably something poetic here about resiliency and fighting until the job is done, but it’s lost on me. Either way, it’s still a good representation of the Aloha State.

No. 8: Campbell University Fighting Camels

When researching how Campbell got the name of Fighting Camels, I expected some tale about how Buies Creek, North Carolina had two hills that resembled a camel’s hump or some corny story like that. Instead, I found a tale of lies, deceit and big tobacco.

The running theory on campus is that after the university burned down in 1900, founder J.A. Campbell was told by friend and contractor Zachary Taylor Kivett, “Jim Archie, why are you in bed? Time’s wastin’. I thought Campbells had hump on them.” The hump part of that quote is the reasoning behind the camel.

This is where it gets good. Billy Liggett from the Campbell Magazine identified that the university only began using the camel as its nickname in 1934, 33 years after the incident. Instead, Liggett noted that D. Rich, a Campbell alumnus, left an eighth of his estate to the university upon his death in 1924 and contributed more than $400,000 to the university.

In his life, Rich was the treasurer for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. What was this company’s biggest brand? Camel. Considering big tobacco’s rise in the 1930s and its prominence with college-age students, it makes sense.

While the verdict is still out on how they became the Fighting Camels, I love a good conspiracy theory. Great nickname, even greater lore.

No. 7: California State University Maritime Academy Keelhaulers

Back to the simple naming strategies, the CSU Maritime Academy adopted the nickname Keelhaulers in 1974 by a student vote. Now, their logo resembles that of a pirate, which in and of itself isn’t that unique.

That being said, if you don’t know what keelhauling is, let the academy itself explain it to you.

“To haul under the keel of a ship by ropes attached to the yardarms on each side. Keelhauling was a form of corporal punishment that was formerly practiced as a punishment in the Dutch and English navies.”

Ouch. Nothing goes together much like maritime and deadly punishment. A vicious nickname, indeed.

No. 6: Bismarck State Mystics

If this list isn’t a testament to the creativity of college students, I don’t know what is. Yet another student-voted nickname, the Mystics moniker was adopted in 1940.

Nickie Barber, a Bismarck State alumnus said, “[The Mystics] came out of a newspaper comic strip. There was this guy … a wizard or magician or something. Comic strips were just coming into fashion and we were young and it appealed to us,” according to the school’s athletic page.

Well, they really dodged a bullet there if that’s the case. The Mystics is a sick nickname, with a cool mascot — named Merlin, by the way — to boot. If they were to have come up with the comic-strip nickname 30 years later, however, we may be looking at the Bismarck State Garfields.

No. 5: University of Jamestown Jimmies

While the University of Jamestown’s logo is a simple knight, a closer inspection reveals a peculiar feature: the word “Jimmies” plastered across its shield.

According to the university, “It has been rumored that years ago a knight named Sir Jimmie fought for the good of all mankind and an unknown athlete from the University of Jamestown read about this knight.”

Wow, I feel rude for not thanking Sir Jimmie for saving all of mankind. I feel like the least I could do is put him on this list.

Also, side note. Besides the Jimmies, there are also the St. Thomas Tommies and the Saint John’s Johnnies. If someone wants to found St. Timothy University and create a football program, I would start a GoFundMe for a Jimmies-Johnnies-Timmies-Tommies round-robin tournament each year.

No. 4: Atlantis University Atlanteans

Unfortunately not within the Lost City of Atlantis, Atlantis University is located in much less cooler Miami.

That being said, the university was handed their mascot on a silver platter. I mean what’s cooler than Atlantis? I don’t know, maybe calling yourself an Atlantean? The logo being a King Triton-esque merman holding a trident just puts the cherry on top of the whole college’s aesthetic.

The only suggestion I could offer the school is to play all of their games inside of a giant underwater dome, for continuity.

No. 3: Whittier College Poets

Founded by the Religious Society of Friends in 1887, the university was named after John Greenleaf Whittier who was — drumroll please — a poet. In all seriousness, there’s a lot to work within this nickname. I can already imagine all of the “The pen is mightier than the sword,” shirts flaunted around campus.

Even their mascot, Johnny Poet — docking points for lack of naming creativity there — carries around a giant pen. I’m already envisioning the “Poetry in motion” headlines. This just goes to show you the effectiveness of the moniker. Also, as unintentional as it may be, saying you’re a “Whittier Poet” not only shows your collegiate allegiance, but it also implies you are superior in a lyrical battle of wits.

I love how Whittier had an opportunity and jumped right into it. Their embrace of the Poet nickname has even inspired me. I might be a Poet and I didn’t even know it.

Oh Whittier College,

Different from any school,

You are quite unique.

No. 2: Arkansas Tech University Wonder Boys and Golden Suns

Arkansas Tech were not always the Wonder Boys, as before 1920, the small Russellville College was just called the Aggies, an admittedly tame mascot. However, after The Arkansas Gazette on Nov. 17, 1920 officially referred to the university as “the Wonder Boys,” the name stuck.

What a Wonder Boy is is beyond me, but does it lend visions of football players in capes or basketball players donning masks to prevent their identity as a multi-millionaire being revealed?

Some backlash has come from the moniker’s use of the word, “Boy,” but it hasn’t stopped the university from using it for over 100 years. Besides, Wonder Men doesn’t roll off the tongue as well, sounding increasingly more PG-13.

The women’s team was called the Wonderettes until the 1970s until the female student-athletes voted to change it to the Golden Suns. Not only do we get one beautifully unique nickname, but two? It’s perfect.

No. 1: North Carolina School of the Arts Fighting Pickles

Taking the No. 1 spot on this list, in all of its briny glory, is the UNCSA Fighting Pickles.

In the Fall of 1972, UNCSA held a contest to give the school an official mascot. The idea was to have it be militaristic to reflect a fighting spirit. Students at the time, Francis Perry, Mark Stadler and Robert Severini, took this as a challenge, compiling a list of 63 unique mascots with their own unique slogans, according to the university. Only one other submission was given for the contest, a simple rooster.

Perry said the origin of the pickle nickname stems simply from the inability to find a pickle anywhere in Winston-Salem, North Carolina during the Vietnam War. By some vinegary miracle, the Fighting Pickles became the moniker.

The origin of this nickname is just a testament to not only how tactical college students can be but also the lengths they will go to avoid doing classwork.

Also, the slogan “Sling ‘em by the warts!” is one of the most disgustingly beautiful phrases I’ve ever heard.

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