North Dakota is in a bit of a conundrum.
They, like several other teams have in the past, have chosen to do away with their Native American based team name and look to a new one moving forward. St. John’s notably changed from the Redmen to the Red Storm nearly a quarter century ago.
So North Dakota has elected and committee and have taken suggestions, looking for the perfect new moniker.
Team names are tricky. So let’s help out North Dakota figure some things out. I’ve ranked every Division I basketball team by team nickname. Some are great. Some are AWFUL. In total, thanks to the unoriginal repeats out there, I’ve listed 195 unique names. Here’s how I judged them:
- Team name is the most important thing here. I took that on its own, at face value, with a mild amount of background research into each one. So while Baylor Bears or Bucknell Bison sounds great, they’ll be judged exclusively on “Bears” or “Bison”. Once I’ve grouped them with teams having the same or very similar names, then the flow of the full school and team name was considered (as well as things like colors, mascot, and logo).
- Where you play and your school history matters. The UMass Minutemen would fair much better than say…the Hawaii State Minutemen. Regional or local flair helps. Historical significance does too.
- Originality is nearly king. If someone else has the same name as you, you dropped a few spots. If a whole bunch of people have the same name as you, you plummeted down the rankings.
- Your team name should be, in some way, scary or intimidating. We’re about to go head-to-head. If you’re the Pillowtalkers or the Cotton Balls, that isn’t helping your cause.
- I should be able to read the team name and know what it is. Sure, I can Google the obscure synonym for knight or unheard of animal you’ve chosen, but I’d prefer not to.
- Always having a bad name is one thing. Changing from a good name to a bad name is looked upon more harshly. Don’t overthink it. Go with what works.
That being said, let’s get to it!
GROUP 1: “No thanks, I’m just looking for now.”
NR: North Dakota
The “Fighting Sioux” is out and the new name is up for debate. Their internal committee narrowed things down from a wild list of suggestions to 63 to 15 and now to 5.
They’ll chose from the Fighting Hawks (eh), the Nodaks (dumb), the North Stars (take that Minnesota hockey fans!), the Sundogs (huh?), and the Roughriders. WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP NAMING TEAMS THE ROUGH RIDERS? For 60 years (!), the CFL had TWO teams named the Roughriders/RoughRiders. This is baffling.
Even worse, they got some really good suggestions. The passed on the Badlanders (sing it, Bruce!), the Blizzard Dogs (not a Dairy Queen product…yet), the Flickertails (a prairie dog, apparently), and the Wooly Mammoth.
Nothing ruins fun quite like a committee of executives. They’ll pick the Nodaks and be boring forever.
GROUP 2: Still named after Native Americans
Whether you agree or not, the tide has definitely turned on this variety of team name. Looking at the photo above makes me feel uneasy. Even if you don’t agree, I hope you understand why comparing them to things like Tigers and Bears would be odd, so I’ll just pass on doing so. The remaining schools in this group fit into three boxes:
NR: Illinois Illini
NR: Utah Utes
Both are originally based on Native names, but at this point feel that they could just describe the citizens of their respective states.
NR: William and Mary Tribe
NR: Alcorn State Braves
NR: Bradley Braves
William and Mary used to be the “Indians” and have since changed to the less specific Tribe. I guess the thinking is that a tribe, like warriors, can describe any group of people.
Braves is a little harder to make that leap with, but all three of these schools no longer use any Native American imagery or ties with their sports teams.
NR: Central Michigan Chippewas
NR: Florida State Seminoles
Both schools have permission from their respective tribes to use the name, for whatever that is worth. Central Michigan’s logo and imagery doesn’t connect much to the name. Florida State on the other hand? Well, if you’re looking for the Daniel Snyder of college football, my guess is a few live in Tallahassee.
GROUP 3: WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELVES?
343. Presbyterian College Blue Hose: Oh, dear. First off, as with many of the schools to come, having a “What is a ______?” section on your school athletics’ website is helpful but a bad sign.
What then is a “Blue Hose”? Socks. Yup, hose is short for pantyhose. These are socks. At least the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox have the self pride to throw an “X” on the end in hopes of being somewhat acceptable.
You can try to back your way into saying this has to do with the Scottish fighters who wore blue stockings. It doesn’t and it’s the worst.
342. Hofstra Pride: Oof, what a sad name. You might as well be the Friendship or Excitement.
“But a pride is a group of lions!”
Then be the Lions! Or go back to your old nickname which was lightyears better, the FLYING DUTCHMEN. If the issue is naming women’s teams “DutchMEN”, go with “Flying Dutch”.
Or to satisfy all parties equally, be the “Going Dutch Men“.
GROUP 4: ARE WE IN CHURCH?
341. Penn Quakers: Good for oats. Bad for sports.
340. San Francisco Dons: No, not like a mafia don. And no, not Draper.
339. St. Mary’s Gaels: “Hey, how can we be like Notre Dame, but make it completely mysterious and uninteresting?”
338. Iona Gaels: “Yeah, us too.”
337. Providence Friars: Get Friar’d up!
336. Siena Saints: I’ve heard Francis of Assisi had a killer skyhook. I mean, religion and hoops go way back. WAAAAY BACK:
Siena’s logo is a Saint Bernard…but that doesn’t do it for me. Be the Siena Saint Bernards.
GROUP 5: HOORAY FOR AGRICULTURE
335. North Carolina A&T Aggies: The “A” in “A&T” already means agriculture.
334: Texas A&M Aggies: Ditto for “A&M”
333. UC Davis State Aggies
332. Utah State Aggies
331. New Mexico State Aggies: Couldn’t one of you just be the Farmers? Isn’t that somehow better?
GROUP 6: “NO, I HEARD YOU. I JUST DON’T BELIEVE YOU.”
330. St. Peter’s Peacocks: Peter sits the pearly gates mumbling, “Gotta be kidding me.”
329. UC Riverside Highlanders
328. NJIT Highlanders
327. Radford Highlanders: And here I thought there could only be one.
326. Indiana State Sycamores: Go Trees! Do…something. Photosynthesis, I guess?
325. St. Bonaventure Bonnies: I feel your pain, Bonnies. I’m a proud grad of Haverford High, home of the…Fords.
And a fan of the Philadelphia… Phillies.
And the Gonzaga…Zags.
324. UT Chattanooga Mocs: Used to be short for Moccasins, but now they claim it is short for Mockingbird. One is shoes. The other is the tiniest bird.
323. Georgetown Hoyas: There’s a lot wrong here. Completely fails the smell test.
For those unfamiliar, I’ll explain. Years ago, when Georgetown was playing a football game, in an effort to describe their defensive line, a fan declared, “Hoya Saxa!”. “Hoya” being the Greek word for “what” and “Saxa” being Latin for “rocks”. In the late 1800’s at a preppy Northeastern college, this passed for a funny joke.
Now over 100 years later, Georgetown’s team name is a bad joke from a dorky Classics major.
GROUP 7. THE XEROX DIVISION
322. Ball State Cardinals: Never understood why so many teams are named after such an harmless bird. Cardinals aren’t particularly rare or exciting. They are red. That’s it.
321. Incarnate Word Cardinals
320. Louisville Cardinals: Louisville is such an interesting city with so much regional flair. This one is a real let down.
319. Lamar Cardinals: Now, if we all agree to call them the Lamardinals, then I’ll reconsider.
318. New Hampshire Wildcats: Here’s my issue with “Wildcats”. Not only is it unoriginal, it’s vague. What kind of cat are we talking? It could be lions, tiger, jaguars, panthers, cougars, mountain lions, lynx, pumas, leopards, cheetahs, snow leopards…
317. Abilene Christian Wildcats
316. Davidson Wildcats
315. Bethune Cookman Wildcats
314. Kansas State Wildcats
313. Kentucky Wildcats
312. Villanova Wildcats
311. Arizona Wildcats: The real sad part is that three of the top programs in the country share one team name.
310. Weber State Wildcats
309. Northwestern Wildcats
308. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs: My issue with Bulldogs is simple, and very similar to my issue with Cardinals: Bulldogs aren’t a particularly intimidating breed. There are oodles of other bigger, scarier dogs. Boxers, Rottweilers, Pitbulls, German Shepherds. All big dogs, none with a school named after them. Bulldogs is fine, but it doesn’t make sense to be our most common name in the nation.
307. Fresno State Bulldogs
306. UNC-Asheville Bulldogs
305. South Carolina State Bulldogs
304. Mississippi State Bulldogs
303. Alabama A&M Bulldogs
302. The Citadel Bulldogs
301. Samford Bulldogs
300. Georgia Bulldogs
299. Yale Bulldogs
298. Drake Bulldogs
297. Bryant Bulldogs
296. Butler Bulldogs: This one really does flow off the tongue nicely.
295. Gonzaga Bulldogs: Bias putting them atop the Bulldogs? No…well, maybe. But my reasoning was based on their frequently used secondary name, the Zags. I’m a Gonzaga fan and almost never call them the “Bulldogs”.
294. North Carolina Central Eagles: Eagles are a cool bird. There are other cool birds, animals, things, and people that are not Eagles.
293. Georgia Southern Eagles
292. Coppin State Eagles
291. Morehead State Eagles
290. Winthrop Eagles
289. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
298. Boston College Eagles: I went to this school and this might be the most original thing about BC. Cheers, slogans, traditions. All of it feels swiped from other schools. Except for the hockey goal chant. It takes a good minute. It’s awesome:
About the best video I could find. For those unfamiliar, the goalie is called a “sieve” repeatedly, then his name is chanted, then he’s told that he “sucks at life…and goaltending” and that it’s “all (his) fault”. Pretty harsh.
287. American Eagles: Seemingly a slam dunk, but this is too on the nose. Show an ounce of creativity, guys.
286. Eastern Michigan Eagles
285. Eastern Washington Eagles
284. Eastern Illinois Panthers
283. Georgia State Panthers
282. Northern Iowa Panthers
281. Florida International Panthers
280. Milwaukee Panthers
279. Prairie View A&M Panthers
278. High Point Panthers
277. Pittsburgh Panthers: Give it to me, Shady!
276. SIU Edwardsville Cougars
275. Chicago State Cougars
274. Washington State Cougars
273. College of Charleston Cougars
272. Houston Cougars
271. BYU Cougars: If there’s one school we could have voted for to have their name have a new double meaning, its BYU and it’s great. For example:
GROUP 8: GREEK LIFE, BRO!
270. Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans
269. USC Trojans
268. Troy Trojans: Again, like American this is too on the nose. Go with the Archers or Hectors or something.
267. South Carolina Upstate Spartans: Spartans get the edge over Trojans because [SPOILER ALERT] Troy lost the war! They fell for the old horse trick and yet we’ve got 3 schools named after them.
266. UNC-Greensboro Spartans
265. San Jose State Spartans
264. Norfolk State Spartans
263. Michigan State Spartans: Mild bonus points for being able to collectively call them “Sparty”.
GROUP 9: UNORIGINAL, BUT EXCITING ANIMALS
262. Montana State Bobcats: You gonna try to tell me a bobcat is the scariest creature you’ll find in Montana?
261. Texas State Bobcats
260. Quinnipiac Bobcats
259. Ohio Bobcats
258. Houston Baptist Huskies
257. Northern Illinois Huskies
256. Northeastern Huskies
255. UConn Huskies
254. Washington Huskies
253. VCU Rams
252. Fordham Rams
251. Rhode Island Rams
250. Colorado State Rams: Being a state that actually has wild rams gets the edge over alliteration.
249: IUPUI Jaguars: Not an easy school name to match with.
248. South Alabama Jaguars
247. Southern Jaguars: I haven’t been able to say “Jaguars” like a normal person since seeing Bill Hader’s impression of Bob Simon from 60 Minutes.
I’ve been calling them Spotty Cats!
246. Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks: That’s just “Hawks”, not “Shore Hawks”, which would be half decent.
245. Monmouth Hawks
244. Saint Joseph’s Hawks
243. Hartford Hawks
242. Seattle Redhawks: I was on their campus recently and when asked what their team name was, I knew it from memory. This was well before I started researching or writing this post too. It was disgusting. There’s something the matter with me.
Beautiful campus, though.
241. South Missouri State Redhawks
240. Miami (OH) RedHawks: Ooooh! Slight change in grammatical styling.
239. Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles: “We see your Red Hawks…and raise you!”
238. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
237. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
236. Marquette Golden Eagles
GROUP 10: ORIGINAL, BUT UNEXCITING ANIMALS
235. Southern Illinois Salukis: I know, I know, you have no idea what a Saluki is. It’s a dog!
But like, a weird skinny dog. They are fast, which is nice, but not particularly exciting.
234. UC Irvine Anteaters: The scariest thing about anteaters is that they eat ants. Congrats! Now get your weird tongue away from me.
GROUP 11: A PRETTY GOOD ZOO
233. Bowling Green Falcons: A tad disappointing to pair such a funky school name with such a classic team name.
232. Air Force Falcons: I’m not sure what I expect from the Air Force Academy, but this isn’t quite it.
231. Western Michigan Broncos
230. Santa Clara Broncos
229. Boise State Broncos
228. Southeastern Louisiana Lions: Another team with great regional possibilities that took the easy route.
227. Columbia Lions
226. Loyola Marymount Lions: I was a bit surprised that we only have 3 sets of Lions. Not too shabby!
225. Jackson State Tigers: How does Tigers, with a whopping 13 schools, find it self so high on the list? Because Tigers are really cool. That’s why.
They are terrifying and come with a built in color scheme (minus points to any school named Tigers that doesn’t use black, orange, or both).
224. Texas Southern Tigers
223. Memphis Tigers: Like Memphis. What’s with all the blue?
222. Savannah State Tigers
221. Grambling Tigers
220. Missouri Tigers
219. LSU Tigers: The color scheme (purple and gold) is odd, but they get a bump from their alternate name, the Bayou Bengals. In fact, if they used that officially, they’d fly up these rankings at supersonic speeds.
218. Auburn Tigers
217. Clemson Tigers
216. Tennessee State Tigers
215. Towson Tigers
214. Pacific Tigers
213. Princeton Tigers: Princeton and Pacific get the edge by actually using tiger colors.
GROUP 12: “OH, COOL….WHAT IS IT?”
212: Iowa Hawkeyes: It’s a great name when you don’t think about it. But when you start to put two and two together, not so great anymore.
211. Virginia Tech Hokies: After they went with a nonsense word, they could have chosen any animal to represent it, but they went with a turkey and that was a weird choice.
210. Virginia Cavaliers/Wahoos/Hoos: UVA is surprisingly the only Cavaliers in Division I, but its still not a wildly inventive name. They offset that with the alternates of Wahoos and Hoos, but those are underutilized.
209. Ohio State Buckeyes: It’s a plant. Or a nut. Or something.
GROUP 13: THE CRAYON BOX
208. Dartmouth Big Green: Makes me think of this:
207. Cornell Big Red: Makes me think of this:
206. Syracuse Orange
205. Stanford Cardinal
204. Harvard Crimson
GROUP 13: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
203. UT-Corpus Christi Islanders
202. St. Francis (NY) Terriers
201. Wofford Terriers: An oddly vague choice. The American Kennel club includes 25 different Terrier breeds.
200. Boston University Terriers: One of which is specifically the Boston Terrier.
199. Western Carolina Catamounts
198. Vermont Catamounts: Why are there two of these?
GROUP 14: COLOR + BIRD = GOOD, RIGHT?
197. Creighton Bluejays
196. Illinois State Redbirds: So much more fun than being the Cardinals. One of the few times being more vague helps. Redbirds sounds like they couldn’t think of the word “Cardinal” when naming their teams, but I don’t fault them for it.
195. Delaware Blue Hens: I hope there’s a sad, sorry men’s rights activist somewhere protesting Delaware because “Hen” is a female term.
194. LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds: Sing it, Paul!
193. Niagara Purple Eagles: When I think “Eagles”, I think…purple?
GROUP 15: LOVE A GOOD MODIFIER
192. Gardner Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs: Standard bulldog? Not interested. Running bulldog? SIGN ME UP!
GROUP 16. IT’S A COINCIDENCE THAT THESE ARE ALL NFL TEAM NAMES
191. McNeese State Cowboys
190. Wyoming Cowboys
189. Oklahoma State Cowboys: I like that their women’s teams are called the Cowgirls (the same is true of McNeese and Wyoming). That’s pretty fun.
188. Cal State Fullerton Titans
187. Detroit Titans
186. Wagner Seahawks: Willing to bet there aren’t a ton of seahawks near the Wagner campus in Staten Island.
185. UNC-Wilmington Seahawks
184. UT Pan-American Broncs: Is that a school or an airline? Wait a second…
That’s better. Let’s try that again.
184. UT Rio Grande Valley Broncs
183. Rider Broncs: You read those correctly. More than one school has the audacity to shorten a six letter word.
182. Idaho State Bengals: Being the only Bengals is much better than being the 14th Tigers.
181. Charlotte 49ers: Ah, the famous Gold Rush of Charlotte, North Carolina. Wait, what? Yeah, this name doesn’t come from the same origin as the San Francisco 49ers. It commemorates the school being saved from closing in 1949. So…ok? This is pretty dumb.
180. Long Beach State 49ers: That’s more like it.
179. George Mason Patriots
GROUP 17: SIX GUYS WHO WERE KICKED OUT OF THE VILLAGE PEOPLE
178. Sacred Heart Pioneers
177. Denver Pioneers: There’s nothing particularly cool about a pioneer. They rode in wagons and about half of them died of cholera or dysentery.
176. Robert Morris Colonials
175. George Washington Colonials: If you’re listing the interesting attributes of George Washington, the fact that he lived in Colonial America is way down on that list. How about Presidents, Generals, Rebels, or Guys Who Cut Down Cherry Trees?
174. Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers
173. Appalachian State Mountaineers
172. West Virginia Mountaineers
171. Holy Cross Crusaders
170. Valparaiso Crusaders
169. Colgate Raiders
168. Wright State Raiders
167. Tennessee Volunteers: Knee jerk reaction had the Vols pretty low on the list before I remembered what it actually means. Volunteering to fight in a war is about the most brave and badass thing you can do.
GROUP 18: THE KINGS OF GOOGLE
166. St. Louis Bilikens: I wanted to hate it, but it’s too much fun. Bilikens! Bilikens!
165. Manhattan Jaspers: What’s a Jasper? Who cares? It’s a Jasper!
GROUP 19: ANIMALS THAT HAVE DEFINITELY HAD A CAR NAMED AFTER THEM AT SOME POINT
164. Alabama State Hornets
163. Delaware State Hornets
162. Sacramento State Hornets: The unwritten rules state only obscure state schools can use the name “Hornets”.
161. Cal Poly Mustangs
160. SMU Mustangs: We, as a society, aren’t talking about wild horses enough. There should be more of them and we should be scared of them.
159. Lipscomb Bisons: Nice grammar, Lipscomb!
158. North Dakota State Bison
157. Howard Bison: This sounds like the name of a personal injury lawyer who has daytime TV ads. Howard Bison doesn’t get paid unless you do.
156. Bucknell Bison: Really underrated given how well the school and team name work together, but the lack of originality hurts. I really like Bison as a nickname, but once a name hit four repeats, I generally started to sour on it. (There are a few exceptions).
GROUP 20: HOLA, MI AMIGOS
155. UCSB Gauchos
154. Cal State Northridge Matadors:
If you hate where your team or favorite name finished, leave a comment. I argued these rankings with myself, now I wanted to argue about them with you.
Header image via collegecourtreport.com