There are thousands of colleges spread all across the United States and whether they be in the Ivy League, Catholic, Christian, private schools, public schools, or tucked away into the nooks and crannies of the country’s smallest towns, spirit and pride are central to their students’ often inebriated lives. To bolster that magical “Go Team!” spirit, most colleges – besides using testosterone stoking cheerleaders – create recognizable mascots based on intimidating, vicious, and proud animals that serve to inspire their athletes to perform great feats of heroism on the field in the name of idol worship. Some schools however eschew the standard of dropping a lonely nerd into an angry Eagle costume and go down a road less traveled; that of the seemingly confused, bizarre, and straight up insane mascot.
9. Johnny Poet – Whittier College
As the representative of an entire college’s athletic program, a mascot should be intimidating and ferocious in order to strike fear into the hearts of opponents. Founded in 1887, Whittier College instead decided to base their mascot on abolitionist and Quaker John Whittier for whom the city was named rather than yet another overused animal. The problem here is Whittier was a peace loving poet and while some poets are known for their powerful prose, most aren’t known for sporting prowess on the football field. The rallying call of “go poets!” that should be so inspirational in the face of a team of grizzy bears, for example, isn’t going to instill much confidence in a team wearing tri-corne hats and wielding fountain pens.
8. The Geoduck – Evergreen State
Pop quiz! What is the most uninspiring animal that you can think of that is also relatively unknown and totally disgusting? If you said Geoduck, you win! Though it sounds like some kind of psychic Pokemon, a Geoduck is actually a large saltwater mollusk that looks like your run of the mill clam but with a very large and slimy elephant trunk-like appendage. Looking more like a porn star than sports star, it’s baffling as to how a college could choose this animal out of the thousands of species that inhabit our planet to represent them. Maybe it has something to do with Evergreen State’s official motto: “Let it all hang out”, but that would just be gross.
7. The Billiken – Saint Louis University
Saint Louis University has the dubious distinction of being able to say that it is the only American college whose mascot is based on a fad toy from the turn of the 20th century. After a seemingly drug induced dream showed her the strange half-elf half-bat figure, Ms. Florence Pretz patented the Billiken in 1908 as the answer to the upstart teddy bear fad going on at the time. While doomed to fade into obscurity after only a few years of popularity, Saint Louis University still proudly uses the Billiken toy as the face of their school because of its supposed propensity to bring good luck, despite still not knowing what the hell it actually is.
6. WuShock – Wichita State University
Ambitiously described as “a big, bad, muscle-bound bundle of wheat” on his official Wichita State University web page, WuShock is one of the sillier college mascots the world has ever seen. Being a mere bundle of wheat, it’s quite a leap of faith to believe that he could be intimidating or disheartening to any of Wichita’s opponents, even if you do give him Mr. Universe-like muscles and erroneously characterize him as “bad.” In fact, I’d imagine seeing a basketball team called the “shockers” (those who harvest wheat) led by a walking heap of grain onto the hardwood would illicit more giggles and sneers than sports victories.
5. Otto the Orange – Syracuse University
Winning the Least Creative Mascot Award is Syracuse University’s Otto the Orange (the fruit) who represents Syracuse’s athletic teams called the Oranges (the color) because obviously there’s nothing more orange than an orange, right? Syracuse originally embraced a Native American character called the “Saltine Warrior” as their mascot until student protests forced the school to retire him in 1978. After spending the next 17 years scrambling for a new mascot, the school finally threw their collective hands up into the air and settled on the orange whose name, Otto, came from a bunch of cheerleaders who chose it simply because it was a more difficult name to make fun of than “Opie.” No, seriously. Boy, for a bunch of university students and professors given 17 years, you’d think they could come up with something more creative than a hairy orange wearing blue pants and a baseball cap.
4. Purple Cow – Williams College
From the simply uncreative to the plainly insane, no one at Williams College in Massachussettes seems to know how or why a strange purple cow with a yellow streak became the school’s official mascot, yet they accept it without question. “Ephelia” – as she was named by a radio contest in 1952 – is thought to have been inspired by a nonsense poem about purple cows written by Gelett Burgess or by Williams’ own humor magazine entitled “The Purple Cow” dating back to 1907. Wherever she came from however, it’s clear that “Ephs” the world over love their lavender Dr. Seussian bovine nightmare, even if they still have no idea where exactly she came from.
3. Lord Jeff – Amherst College
As Williams College’s chief rival, it stands to reason that Amherst College must also embrace the spirit of the ridiculous with their costumed symbol in order to remain in contention for the lamest mascot award. “The Singing College” is represented by one Lord Jeff; a poncy, powdered wig wearing British general and politician who somehow manages to be even less intimidating on the field than Evergreen’s Geoduck. In fact, it’s because of Lord Jeff that Amherst earned its unofficial nickname, “Little Lord Fauntleroy’s School For Albino Hemophiliacs.” Man, at least give the guy a musket or something.
2. Artie the Fighting Artichoke – Scottsdale Community College
Way back in 1970, Scottsdale Community College left it up to its students to create and vote on a new mascot for the school’s burgeoning athletics program. But, because community colleges are more known for their stoners and lifetime students than for creative intelligence, as a prime example of “what did you expect would happen?” the students settled on an artichoke called Artie by popular vote. The college’s administators attempted to shove the vegetable under the proverbial rug, but the rebellious students would have none of it. So as of 2010, Artie the Fighting Artichoke still appears at Scottsdale’s sporting events to shame and embarrass anyone remotely associated with the college.
1. [ ] (Empty Set) – New College of Florida
What’s worse than a totally unimposing, freakish, or ridiculous mascot? Why, no mascot at all! That’s the case over at New College of Florida where their sports spiritmonger is actually called Empty Set and is represented by a pair of square brackets. Legend has it that when the college’s constitution was drawn up in 1960, the administrators left a blank space reserved for the future mascot denoted by the empty set. However because it was the 60s, they were either too high or too busy strumming acoustic guitars atop beds of daisies to ever choose a mascot. So the nonexistent and complete lack of a mascot became the school’s official representative known only as “Empty Set.” Trippy.