Nickname Genesis: What Sparked Origin of Clever School Monikers?

The process for schools acquiring nicknames is an inexact science. Whether they stem from ancestry, favorite expression, hometown characteristics, quest for higher profile, rhyme scheme or whatever reason, colleges across the country boast hundreds of colorful monikers. Following is an alphabetical list by nickname of the origin of many of the more entertaining monikers:

The advent of one of the most unique nicknames in intercollegiate athletics was in 1965, the year the university opened. Pat Glasgow and Bob Ernst, two water polo players, are regarded as the main instigators for the campaign to select the Anteater as mascot, with some imspiration from the Johnny Hart comic strip "B.C." The two student-athletes, along with the marketing creativity of fellow student Schuyler Hadley Bassett III, organized an intense promotional effort prior to the student election.

Bassett borrowed the war cry "Zot" from the Anteater in the "B.C." comic strip and established his own fraternity, Zeta Omega Ta. His campaign efforts led to a piece on the nickname in an issue of Sports Illustrated and into the news-commentary segment of the well-known Huntley-Brinkley newscast.

The Billiken was originally produced commercially, like Snoopy. In 1908, a Kansas City artist received a patent for the design. Evidently, the name Billiken was attached to it, because the design was purchased by the Billiken Co. of Chicago, which manufactured it as a bank, a statuette and dozens of other permutations. It became a national rage for six months.

Exactly how that nickname came to represent St. Louis University athletic teams remains in question. However, it seems certain that John Bender, former SLU football coach, was a main figure in the mystery. Some connection was made between the Billiken and Bender's appearance, and the team became known as Bender's Billikens in 1911. The name has stuck ever since. It is said that Billikens are associated with good luck.

In a letter dated June 15, 1935, written by then PC athletic director Walter Johnson to an inquiring English professor in Virginia, Johnson wrote: "I changed uniform colors to blue, wearing blue stockings and jerseys, and some sportwriter started calling in his articles the PC teams the Blue Stockings." In later years "Stocking" was modified to "the Hose," particularly in newspaper headlines. It was more or less officially embraced by the student body in the 1950s.

MTSU athletic teams were known by several nicknames, including Teachers, Normalites and Pedagogues, until 1934 when it was decided that the school needed a specific nickname. During the football season that year, the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal conducted a contest to name the team.

Charles Sarver, then a Middle Tennessee football player and later principal at White County High School in Sparta, Tenn., won the $5 prize for his entry of "Blue Raiders". Sarver later indicated he had "borrowed" the nickname of the Colgate Red Raiders, but substituted MTSU Blue for Colgate Red.

Although the monikers Cavaliers, Wahoos and Hoos are used almost interchangeably to refer to Virginia teams and players, Cavaliers is more often used by the media, while Wahoos and Hoos are frequently used by UVa students and fans.

Legend has it that Washington & Lee baseball fans dubbed the Virginia players "Wahoos" during the fiercely contested rivalry that existed between the two in-state universities in the 1890s. By 1940, Wahoos was in general use to denote school students or events relating to them. The abbreviated Hoos sprang up later in student newspapers and has gained growing popularity in recent years.

In 1923, the college newspaper, College Topics, conducted a contest to choose an official alma mater and fight song. John Albert Morrow, Class of '23, won the alma mater contest with "Virginia, Hail All Hail," while "The Cavalier Song," written by Lawrence Haywood Lee, Class of '24, with music by Fulton Lewis, Class of '25, was chosen the best fight song. Although both songs failed to become part of university tradition, "The Cavalier Song" inspired the nickname Cavaliers.

The Chanticleer was a proud and fierce rooster who dominated the barnyard in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, more specifically, the Nun's Priest Tale. "For crowing there was not his equal in all the land. His voice was merrier than the merry organ that plays in church, and his crowing from his resting place was more trustworthy than a clock. His comb was redder than fine coral and turreted like a castle wall, his bill was black and shone like a jet, and his legs and toes were like azure. His nails were whiter than the lily and his feathers were like burnished gold." A group of Coastal students and their Engish professor brought up the idea of changing from Trojans to a new mascot in the late 1960s. With Coastal serving as a branch of the University of South Carolina, many people began to push for a nickname that was more closely related to USC's Gamecock. Thus, Chanticleer was born as one of the nation's most unique mascots.

In early newspaper accounts of Alabama football, the team was simply listed as the "varsity" or the "Crimson White" after the school colors. The first nickname to become popular and used by headline writers was the "Thin Red Line." The nickname was used until 1906. The name "Crimson Tide" is supposed to have first been used by Hugh Roberts, the former sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald. Roberts used "Crimson Tide" in describing an Alabama-Auburn game played in Birmingham in 1907, the last football contest between the two schools until 1948 when the series was resumed. The game was played in a sea of mud and Auburn was a heavy favorite to win. But, evidently, the "Thin Red Line" played a great game in the red mud and held Auburn to a 6-6 tie, thus gaining the name "Crimson Tide." Zipp Newman, former sports editor of the Birmingham News, probably popularized the name more than any other writer.

Prior to 1930, university teams were known as "The Gray Fog," an appropriate, if somewhat inelegant, cognomen for teams from the City by the Golden Gate. The University of San Francisco, then known as St. Ignatius College, was celebrating its 75th anniversary.

During the anniversary celebration, the school changed its name to the University of San Francisco. The Chamber of Commerce thought it would also be a good time to dispose of the nickname that had reference to the wispy clouds that floated in from the Pacific.

The early history of California and San Francisco was marked by the exploits of the adventuresome and swashbuckling Spanish Dons. Because of the parallel growth of the city and the university from those early pre-gold rush days, "The Dons" became the choice of the selection committee. The name was suggested by a member of the student newspaper staff.

The nickname is most certainly derived from school founder Dr. James Archibald Campbell's surname. Formerly called the Hornets, the Camels nickname for its teams can be traced to a January 13, 1933 issue of Creek Pebbles, the school newspaper.

The school was founded by the Hofstra family, who hail from the Netherlands. The nickname arose in 1937 when a professor, R. Burr Smith, commented on a student's sluggish progress across the basketball court to "look at the Flying Dutchman," he deadpanned. The name became popular and was one of several nicknames voted on by the student body in a 1937 issue of the student newspaper, The Chronicle, and was the overwhelming favorite.

At the turn of the 20th Century, after struggling for more than a decade under numerous nicknames, the school's football squad was the first referred to unofficially as "Game Cocks." In 1903, Columbia's morning newspaper, The State, shorted the name to one word and South Carolina teams have been Gamecocks ever since.

A gamecock, of course, is a fighting rooster known for its spirit and courage. A cock fight, which was popular throughout the U.S. in the 19th Century, would last until the death of one of the combatants. Cock fighting has been outlawed by most states for humanitarian reasons, but it is still held surreptitiously in many areas.

The state of South Carolina has long been closely identified with the breeding and training of fighting gamecocks. General Thomas Sumter, famed guerrilla fighter of the Revolutionary War, was known as "The Fighting Gamecock."

The university was once located on The Riviera (the hills above Santa Barbara that overlook the Pacific Ocean) where birds called roadrunners, the school's previous nickname, ran wild. The birds ultimately became very unpopular because they were constantly defacating on the campus. Thus the student body had a referendum to select a new nickname.

At the time, university co-eds were enamored with Errol Flynn, who was starring in the movie "El Gaucho". They stuffed the ballot box with the nickname Gauchos and consequently, UCSB is nicknamed the Gauchos. A Gaucho is, of course, the Argentinian equivalent of an American Cowboy.

With the majority of Centenary men also soliders in the fall of 1922, the moniker "Gentlemen" was a proud, looked-up-to name and a logical choice. A tongue-in-cheek account that first mentioned the new nickname appeared in the 1923 Yoncopin (Centenary yearbook) in that season's football summary.

"... The boys were beginning to round into pretty good form by this time and as several recruits had been recently added we were beginning to resemble a real college football team.

"Yet there was some doubt on the eve of the first game. Reports from the Marshall camp had them recruiting from the boiler factories and we were made to believe that the Marshall team was coming to Shreveport to mop up with the `Gentlemen' (You see we had just taken the name of the Centenary Gentlemen and far be it from us to start a dispute just at that time).

"Well, we put on our best manners but just couldn't help from running up a 77 to 0 score..."

Charles Brady, an author (including 1953 best seller Stage of Fools), poet (Keeper of the Western Gate won the American Poetry Society's top prize in 1968), English instructor and father of USA Today sportswriter Erik Brady, gave Canisius its nickname. A griffin is a mythical beast with the head and wings of an eagle and the hindquarters of a lion. Canisius' Griffin came to campus from the prow of La Griffon, the first ship to sail America's inland seas, built on the Niagara River in 1679 by the French explorer La Salle. Artists have fashioned griffins in stone for more than 5,000 years. And they are forever found flying through the pages of great literature.

According to documentation in the book "The Years of Youth," widely regarded as historically correct, it is noted that in a letter to Linda Baughman, dated August 6, 1959, Merle Wagoner recalled that the change in the name of Kent athletics teams from "Silver Foxes" to "Golden Flashes" occurred in 1926 after the dismissal of President John E. McGilvrey for whose silver fox farm east of the campus the teams first had been anmed.

With acting President T. Howard Winters providing the impetus, a contest was conducted (for a $25 first prize) to choose the new name. No special significance was attached to the winning suggestion, which was used first in 1927 by the basketball squad after it had been approved by the student body and the faculty athletics committee.

Also laying partial claim to the origin was Oliver Wolcott, one-time Kent football great who played center on the 1921 and 1922 teams. As former sports editor of the Kent Courier Tribune, the local newspaper, the name "Silver Foxes" seemed pretty frail to him. So, during the 1927 football season, he began referring to the team as "Golden Flashes."

The first thought for many observers is probably, "Did a hurricane really make it all the way to Tulsa?" Well, no it didn't, but the origin of the nickname is interesting.

In 1922, a new football caoch by the name of Howard Acher came to Tulsa from Pennsylvania. It seems that the team Acher inherited had endured a slew of nicknames dating back to 1895. When Acher arrived, the team was dubbed the Yellow Jackets. This was apparently due to the fact that they donned new black and yellow uniforms instead of the traditional black and orange. Incredibly, there was actually a player on the squad who also worked as a reporter for a Tulsa newspaper that began touting the new name and seemed to be carrying the torch for the name to catch on.

Coach Acher, however, was also on the bandwagon to give his team an identity. He wanted something very distinctive, a name to officially adopt for the university; something that would stand the test of time and not get phased out.

Acher, sensing a chance to seize some publicity for his promising team, wanted to find a nickname quickly. After hearing a remark in practice about how his squad was "roaring through opponents," and because of their new jersey colors, he thought of the Golden Tornadoes. He discovered, however, that the name had been taken by Georgia Tech a few years earlier. As fate would have it, Acher quickly modified the name from a tornado to a hurricane, and after putting it to a team vote, which most everyone agreed to except the player-reporter, the team officially became the Golden Hurricane.

Originally named DeLand Academy, Stetson was renamed after the famous Philadelphia hatmaker John B. Stetson in 1889. The nickname Hatters, stemming from Mr. Stetson's business, started at the turn of the century.

The operations of Western Kentucky State Normal School were moved from the site of its forerunner, Southern Normal School, to a commanding hill in the southwestern portion of Bowling Green, Ky., on February 4, 1911. The move was completed as the entire student body marched to the new site, carrying various articles of school equipment.

Since the summit of "the Hill" rises 232 feet above nearby Barren River and the comparatively level plain that surrounds it, it was only natural that the young athletes who represented the institution centered on the crest should come to be known as "Hilltoppers."

Still, the name did not come into use until the 1925-26 school year. Prior to that, WKU's athletic teams were commonly referred to as "Pedagogues" or "Teachers."

The Hokie is often associated with a gobbler, but these two Tech traditions have very different beginnings. The story goes back to 1896 when Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College changed its name to Virginia Polytechnic Institute. With the name change came the necessity for a new cheer, and a contest was conducted by the student body. Senior O.M. Stull won first prize for his "Hokie" yell, which was first used that fall and is still heard today. Later, when asked if "Hokie" had any special meaning, Stull explained that the word was solely the product of his imagination. He put it in his cheer because he thought it sounded good. It soon became a nickname for all Tech students.

Virginia Tech came to be designated the "Gobblers" thanks to the efforts of Floyd Meade, who appeared at Tech football games dressed as a clown for the entertainment of fans. The clown act grew tiring, and Meade began training a large turkey to pull him around in a small car. Meade and his turkey first appeared on opening day 1912, and over the next few years, made the Gobbler a part of Virginia Tech history.

A committee from two student library societies picked the title "Horned Frog" in 1887 for the institution's annual, or yearbook. Why a Horned Frog? Apparently because those concerned with name selection considered both cactus and the horned frog (or as is commonly known throughout the Southwest as simply a horned toad or horny toad--a small lizard with hornlike spines) to be the most typically Texas subjects of which they could think. The name "Cactus" had already been adopted by the University of Texas in Austin for its official annual titles. Gradually, the plural "Horned Frogs" became the recognized nickname for TCU's varsity athletic teams.

In the days when all Georgetown students were required to study Greek and Latin, the university's teams were nicknamed the "Stonewalls." A student, using Greek and Latin terms started the cheer "Hoya Saxa," which translates as "What Rocks!" The name proved popular and the term Hoyas was eventually adopted for all Georgetown teams.

The genesis of "Jaspers" comes from one of the college's most memorable figures, Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C., who served at the college in the late 19th century.

One of Brother Jasper's greatest achievements was bringing the then little-known sport of baseball to Manhattan College and become the team's first coach. Since Brother was also the Prefect of Discipline, he supervised the student fans at school baseball games while also directing the team itself.

During one particularly warm and humid day when Manhattan opposed a semi-pro baseball team called the Metropolitans, Brother Jasper noticed the students becoming restless and edgy as Manhattan came to bat in the seventh inning of a close game. To relieve the tension, Brother Jasper called timeout and told the students to stand up and stretch for a few minutes until the game resumed.

As a result of the college annually playing the New York Giants in the late 1880s and into the 1890s at the old Polo Grounds, the Manhattan College practice of the "seventh-inning stretch" spread into the major leagues, where it has now become a time-honored custom practiced by millions of fans annually.

The word "Jayhawk" was first used in present-day Kansas in the late 1850s. It was associated with robbing, looting and general lawlessness. During the Civil War, however,it took on new meaning.

Dr. Charles R. (Doc) Jennison, a surgeon, used it in 1861 when he was commissioned as a colonel by Kansas Governor Charles Robinson and charged with raising a regiment of cavalry. Jenison called his regiment the "Independent Mounted Kansas Jayhawkers," although it was officially the First Kansas Cavalry and later the Seventh Kansas Regiment.

During the Civil War, the word Jayhawk became linked to the spirit of comradeship and the courageous fighting qualities associated with efforts to keep Kansas a free state. And following the war most Kansans were proud to be called Jayhawkers.

By 1886, the University of Kansas had adopted the mythical bird as part of the KU yell. By the 1890s, birds of one sort of another were used to represent KU on post cards and wall posters. And the university's yearbook became known in 1901 as the Jayhawker. A student from Eureka, Kan., created a cartoon Jayhawk in 1912. It was the basis for the modern-day bird, symbolic of the University of Kansas.

With the exception of three service academies, WIU is the nation's only school to feature a nickname acquired from a branch of the military. Former coach and administrator Ray "Rock" Hanson started the nickname "Fighting Leathernecks" in 1927 when he became WIU's athletic director and head football coach.

A new name was adopted through the influence of Hanson, who received honors with the Marine Corps during World War I. He received special permission by an act of Congress to use the official seal of the Marines and to use the name "Leathernecks" from the U.S. Navy Department following World War I.

Hanson, who retired as WIU athletic director in 1964, also served with the Marine Corps in World War II, and held the rank of Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. He was known as Mr. Leatherneck.

For many years, the athletic teams of the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary (as ODU was formerly called) were known as the Braves. This was a derivation of the William & Mary nickname of Indians. As Old Dominion achieved its own four-year status and saw its enrollment surpass that of its Williamsburg neighbor, it was no longer suitable or acceptable to have its teams called the Braves.

The name Monarchs evokes much of the early history of the Commonwealth of Virginia and of Old Dominion's mother institution, the College of William & Mary. The nickname "Old Dominion" was first coined to the Virginia colony by King Charles II after Virginia's loyalty to the crown during the English Civil War. Furthermore, William III and Mary II, whose patronage helped found the College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1693, ruled England at the invitation of Parliament as "joint monarchs."

The Monarch used by Old Dominion is a royal crown on a lion's head, representing an historic past and a strong future.

The school's athletic symbol, chosen by the student body in 1906, is a mountain lion once said to have roamed the central Pennsylvania mountains. H.D. "Joe" mason, a member of the Penn State class of 1907, conducted a one-man campaign to choose a mascot after seeing the Princeton tiger on a baseball game trip to New Jersey. A student publication sponsored the contest to choose a mascot and Penn State is believed to be the first college to adopt the lion as a mascot. Penn State is located in the Nittany Valley at the foot of Mount Nittany. In regional folklore, Nittany (or Nita-Nee) was a brave Indian princess in whsoe honor the Great Spirit caused Mount Nittany to be formed.

First used by a Greenville, S.C., sportswriter in the 1930s to describe the school's basketball squad, "Paladins" became the official nickname of all of Furman's intercollegiate athletic teams following a vote of the student body on September 15, 1961.

A "Paladin" is defined in the American Heritage College Dictionary as a "paragon of chivalry; a heroic champion; a strong supporter or defender of a cause; and any of the 12 peers of French emperor Charlemagne's court." While history reveals that knights and Paladins were not always mounted men-at-arms, the modern image of a knight has no doubt played a role in the development of Furman's mascot as a knight on a horse.

Originally, UWGB's athletic teams were known by the nickname Bay Badgers, a tie-in with the school's parent campus, University of Wisconsin-Madison. However, UWGB students and administrators pushed for a separate identity and Phoenix outpolled several others in a campus-wide vote in 1970.

The Phoenix lore is a composite of Egyptian, Greek and Roman Mythologies. The Phoenix is said to be a large and magnificent bird, much like an eagle, with red and gold plumage. According to the myth, only one Phoenix lives at a time, in 500-year cycles. When the time of its death approaches, the bird builds a nest of branches and incense. The nest is then ignited by the sun and the flames engulf the bird. Out of the ashes of the old, a young, renewed Phoenix arises.

Evansville, because of its proximity to the Ohio River, chose to go with a mascot that had the flair of an old-time Riverboat gambler. The name of the school's likable mascot is "Ace Purple." "Ace" has the distinct pleasure of entertaining the Evansville fans at all sporting events.

"Ace" got his most original name as a result of the school's official nickname, which can be traced all the way back to the early 1920s. At that time, the university's nickname was officially the "Pioneers." Then, in the fourth game of the 1924-25 season under coach John Harmon, they posted an impressive 59-39 victory over Louisville. Reportedly, coach Harmon was told by the Louisville coach after the game that "he didn't have four aces up his sleeve, he had five!" Dan Scism, a local sportswriter at the time, picked up on the name at coach Harmon's suggestions, and began to use it in the headlines. It is believed that Scism was the first to use the tag "Aces" in the papers.

The name "Purple Aces" came about as the result of the school's colors, which are purple and white. Naturally, many fans and writers shorten the moniker to "Aces".

Prior to the 1920s, all Loyola athletic teams were merely assigned the school colors (Maroon and Gold) instead of a nickname. In 1925, the football coach, along with the student newspaper, conducted a contest to name the football squad, which was king at the time. The winning entry was "Grandees", tying into the Spanish origins of St. Ignatius of Loyola. However, the moniker "Grandees" did not catch on in the ensuing months.

In 1926, a more informal but much more binding process finally gave Loyola's teams their current nickname. That year, the football team traveled so extensively across the United States, "rambling from state to state," that the media dubbed Loyola as the Ramblers. Despite the dropping of football as a varsity sport in 1930, the nickname stuck.

SIU changed its nickname from Maroons to Salukis in 1951. The uniqueness of Salukis may never be understood completely. For native Southern Illinoisans who grew up understanding that the area is frequently referred to as "Egypt," there might be hope. However, even many lifelong residents aren't all that aware of the logical acceptance of Salukis or the origin of "Egypt" when speaking of the southern one-third of the state.

In an attempt to explain "Egypt," author Baker Brownell in his "The Other Illinois" states: "Although the legend probably was invented after the fact, it is persistent. There was a drought in the northern counties in the early 1800s. The wheat fields dried up, the streams died in their beds. But in Southern Illinois rain fell and there were good crops, and from the north came people seeking corn and wheat as to Egypt of old. Thus, the name `Egypt.'"

Genesis, the first book in the Bible, describes a similar situation in Egypt. In Egypt at that time, Salukis were known as the finest animals a family could own. Cited for speed and hunting skills, Salukis are the oldest pure-bred dogs dating back to 3600 B.C.

UO athletic teams were called either Rough Riders or Boomers for 10 years before the current Sooner nickname emerged in 1908. Historically, a Sooner was a settler who came into Oklahoma Territory before the land run officially began, but the university Sooners actually derived their name from a pep club called "The Sooner Rooters."

In 1921, a contest was conducted to select a name for the athletic teams at what was then called Indiana State Normal School. Until that time the term "Fighting Teachers" was frequently used in press accounts of athletic contests. In January 1992, it was announced that the name Sycamores had won a popular vote of the student body, although there is some question as to how serious the student body was in picking the name.

The problem has been that a Sycamore is a tree and does not lend itself very well to creation of a mascot. Athletic teams have been know in the past as "The Fighting Trees," which was not considered very glamorous or intimidating. For a period time in the 1950s and 1960s, there actually was a tree mascot developed, but this posed obvious problems of embarrassment with other mascots.

In 1969, a committee created the Chief Quabachi concept as a mascot for the school. This Indiana Chief was used as a mascot until 1989, when the university dropped its use in response to a variety of objections over the Indian caricature. After taking suggestions, the athletic department submitted a list of finalists for the ISU student body to vote. On December 6, 1995, Sycamore Sam--a unique blue and white animal--made its debut.

One legend has the nickname being applied to the state's residents as long ago as the Revolutionary War. According to this story, the troops of British General Cornwallis were fording what is now known as the Tar River between Rocky Mount and Battleboro when they discovered that tar had been dumped nto the stream to impede their crossing. When they finally got across the river they found their feet completely black with tar. Their observation that anyone who waded North Carolina rivers would acquire tar heels led to the nickname first being used.

Others say the nickname was acquired during the War Between the States. During one of that war's fiercest batttles, a column supporting North Carolina troops was driven from the field. After the conflict, the North Carolinians who had successfully fought it out alone, happened to meet the regiment, which had fled to safety and were greeted with the question, "Any more tar down in the Old North State, boys?"

"No, not a bit," shot back one of the North Carolina soldiers. "Old Jeff's bought it all up," he went on, referring to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy.

"Is that so? What's he going to do with it?"

"He's going to put it on you'ns heels to make you stick better in the next fight."

Upon hearing of the incident, Robert E. Lee smiled and said to a fellow officer, "God bless the Tar Heel boys."

A letter found in 1991 by State Archivist David Olson lends credence to another more direct theory. A letter from Maj. Joseph Engelhard, who went on to be elected North Carolina's secretary of state in 1876, describes a fight involving men from Carolina where Lee was heard to have said, "There they stand as if they have tar on their heels."

The letter, dated August 24, 1864, told the tale of a battle on the outskirts of Petersburg, Va.

In short, the world's largest concentration of Diamondback turtles is located in the Chesapeake Bay. References to school teams being called Terrapins go as far back as at least the 1920s. The school newspaper was named the Diamondback in 1921.

The nickname seems like a natural inasmuch as the picturesque Malibu campus is perched on a bluff cradled by the rugged Santa Monica Mountains and the sparkling Pacific Ocean. Malibu Beach, world-famous because of its surf, is within walking distance.

Nevertheless, Pepperdine had its roots in South-Central Los Angeles, a significant distance from the sandy shores of the Pacific.

In 1937, prospective students of Pepperdine College found the concrete still a bit wet, and were eventually treated by the Pepperdine family to a week-long stay at the William Penn Hotel. Among the tours and diversions created by founder George Pepperdine was a visit to the seashore, a sight never previously seen by most of the enrolled Midwesterners.

Captivated by it all, some particularly impressed Tennessee students suggested the nickname "Waves," and the name stuck. The school colors? Simple, according to the school's first president, Batsell Baxter--blue for the ocean and orange from the abundance of orange groves.

The association of the "Zips" with varsity sports began in 1925 when an Akron coed tried on a pair of rubber overshoes called Zippers, a brand name of the BF Goodrich Company. At the time, the university athletic teams were without a nickname but desired to fill the void. A contest was conducted on campus, and names were submitted by students, faculty, and alumni. Many suggestions were entered, including Golden Blue Devils, Tip Toppers, Rubbernecks, Hillbillies, Kangaroos, and Cheveliers, to name a few.

After a three-way vote--by the student body, university lettermen, and local sportswriters and faculty representatives--the winner was decided on January 15, 1926. Margaret Hamlin, a freshman, had found the answer from a $6 pair of "Zippers" and received a $10 prize.

On September 13, 1950, Athletic Director Kenneth "Red" Cochrane announced that the nickname was officially shortened to "Zips." Some say this happened because of the opportunity for puns when the zipper became a popular addition to men's trousers. Others say the shorter name was easier to use.