Every Division I Team Name, Ranked (PART 1)

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

illini
via AmericanProgress.com

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!”

pride
via gohofstra.com

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:

jesus dunk
via Threadless (ITS A SHIRT!)

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

paper jam
via genius.com

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:

cougar town
via alumini.byu.edu

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

husky high 5

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:

big red gum

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:

Click here for Part 2!

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

5 thoughts on “Every Division I Team Name, Ranked (PART 1)

  1. Saluki behind anteater is an abomination but whatever. Also, UC Irvine is the weirdest school ever. Haley’s sister graduated from grad school there and I went. They have ant eater statues EVERYWHERE and there are paintings of anteaters on every building. They also chant “Zot” at games and some people just say it walking around the campus. Apparently it’s the sound an anteater makes. That school is the equivalent of BC but if everyone at BC thought Eagles on the Warpath was a serious, good chant.

    Like

  2. Shane – if you only body surf as well as you write, you would be wearing the crown instead of me. Great stuff. Really enjoyed it, especially the Horned frogs! Jack Brinkmann – Reigning Champion!

    Sent from my iPhone

    Like

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