Due to some recent additions to the Atlantic Coast Conference (Hello, Pitt! How do you do, Syracuse?), we felt it was time to settle the ACC’s nickname debate once and for all. We looked at all 13 teams in what can only be described as a highly scientific and wildly objective process to determine a winner. School colors, history, mascots, fight songs and other factors were taken into consideration to come up with the rankings below.
>>WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?
13. Syracuse Orange: Oh my, what a mess. First off, the school’s first colors were pink and pea green and shortly thereafter rose pink and azure blue, both decidedly more original than the plain orange that was later adopted. But it gets worse. In the 1920s, Syracuse had Vita the Goat as their mascot and, believe it or not, it was all downhill from there. What followed were the Saltine Warrior (pretty offensive and based on a hoax), a Roman-style gladiator who was laughed and booed off the field, followed by proposals that included such winners as a troll, a superman-like figure and – drum-roll please – a man in an orange tuxedo. Then, in 1984, Sports Illustrated stepped in to “help” SU find a mascot. Their suggestions included: an insurance agent in an orange cowboy outfit and blue mask, a gnat-like figure in orange sweats with Elton John glasses and an incandescent wig and, finally, The Orange. Fortunately for ‘Cuse, and whatever dignity it had left, they chose The Orange. (Who would’ve thought that would be the least ridiculous option?) Of course there are no oranges in upstate New York and no, Orangemen doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue either, but hey at least they didn’t have to resort to insurance agents or gnats.
12. Clemson Tigers: We’re fairly certain that there are no wild tigers to be found in South Carolina. So that’s strike one. After a little digging (and by “digging” we mean “googling” of course) it became apparent that Clemson adopted the tiger as a mascot because their football coach in 1896 liked Princeton and thought it would be neat to steal their nickname. Strike two. Orange and purple is one of the worst color schemes in the ACC. A trip to their website almost gave us a seizure. Strike three; you’re out.
11. Virginia Tech Hokies: Question: What the heck is a Hokie? Answer: It’s like one of those fillers we make up when we sing a song and don’t know the lyrics. No really that’s what it is. It is the first line to a cheer that was conceived by a student in 1896 to go with the school’s then-shortened name of VPI. Here’s the masterpiece:
Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy.
Techs, Techs, V.P.I.
Polytechs – Vir-gin-ia.
Rae, Ri, V.P.I.
Why they didn’t choose the Virginia Tech Sola-Rex’s, we will never understand. Oh well.
10. Florida State Seminoles: Let’s put it this way: Whenever you have to defend your “mascot” and nickname to the NCAA, it’s probably not a good sign. While Florida’s Seminole tribes have officially sanctioned the nickname and mascot Chief Osceola, it is questionable as to how appropriate the usage of Native American imagery for sports in the 21st century really is. Other highlights from Tallahasse: the first time FSU wore its garnet and gold colors they lost to Stetson (Ha-ha!) and when the student body voted on a nickname in 1947 “Cracker” was an option. No, seriously.
>>GOOD JOB, GOOD EFFORT
9. Virginia Cavaliers: Meh. It seems not even the school itself is clear what their nickname should be with “Wahoos” and “Hoos” also being used as monikers. Don’t waste your time looking for a great backstory with those. Rival baseball fans supposedly started calling UVA players that in the 1890s. (Don’t worry, we have no idea what a “wahoo” is supposed to be either.) Their colors, just like their nickname, leave us lukewarm at best.
8. University of North Carolina Tar Heels: Even though it’s definitely original, we’re not crazy about it. A Tar Heel is basically a synonym for a North Carolinian. The term originated in the civil war Battle of Murfreesboro. Yadayada John S. Preston yadayada 60th regiment of North Carolinzzzzzzzzzz… Sorry nodded off there for a second. Where were we? Oh yeah, it started off as a derogatory term no less. Bonus points for choosing a nickname that refers to all inhabitants of the state, thereby claiming it as their own.
>>NOW WE’RE TALKING
7. Boston College Eagles: It’s a strong name if not overly original. But BC does receive extra points for having America’s oldest college fight song and even more points for reintroducing a live bald eagle as a mascot at games. ‘Murrica!
6. North Carolina State Wolfpack: NC State scores very high on the originality scale – they could’ve simply gone with wolves, but in a power move went with the whole pack. As the story goes, a disgruntled football fan wrote in the school paper in 1921 that the football team acted like a wolfpack. Nicknames before that include Farmer & Mechanics, the Aggies, the Techs and the Red Terrors – which would’ve obviously earned them first place on this list had they chosen it. We don’t know what mascot head Lee Corso would put on, but it would be awesome.
5. Pittsburgh Panthers: The university gives the following reasons for choosing the Panther as a mascot. One, the panther was a fearsome animal native to the area. Two, historically it was considered noble. Three, the happy accident of alliteration. Four, the panther’s coloring matches the old gold in Pitt’s blue-and-gold colors. And five, no other college or university had a panther mascot at the time. Here is our take: First off, Pennsylvania’s last panther was killed in 1874 so saying it’s “native to the area” is definitely a stretch. The last time anyone saw a panther in Pennsylvania, Ulysses S. Grant was residing in the White House, but we still think it’s a pretty badass animal. We really dig the colors and, yes, appreciate the alliteration (although we think “happy accident” sounds decidedly dirty). Ergo: fifth place.
4. Duke Blue Devils: Ahhh yes, America’s anti-sweetheart. Their nickname is derived from a group of French soldiers during World War I which were nicknamed “les Diables Bleus” because of their blue uniforms, flowing capes and jaunty berets. They won accolades for their courage but couldn’t do much else to alter the outcome of the war. (Shocking, we know.) At any rate, what a perfect backstory for Duke’s nickname! After all, the only thing America hates more than Duke is France.
>>CRÈME DE LA CRÈME
3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: What a fabulous nickname! Georgia Tech scores an 8.75 on our originality scale. Contrary to popular belief, the nickname has nothing to do with hornets, but was an expression to describe Tech students and first appeared in the Atlanta Constitution in 1905. The white and gold is solid, their mascot “Buzz” is one of the better ones in college sports and their Ramblin’ Wreck is pretty darn sweet. (Who doesn’t enjoy seeing a 1930 Ford Cabriolet Sport Coupe barge onto a field packed to the brim with cheerleaders? Exactly.) Bonus points for a great fight song; highlights include: references to drinking whiskey clear, a barrel of rum with 3, 000 pounds of sugar and, of course, a dig at Georgia.
2. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: First of all, you have the always awesome alliteration. Second, it was first used in the school paper after a major beat down of Duke (then Trinity), which everyone – and we think we speak for all of America here – is in favor of. The first Demon Deacon rode onto the field on a Carolina ram, dressed in a top hat, and with an umbrella in hand. We love it, but have so many questions: Could you get a ram that easily in 1941? If so, how would one go about acquiring one? Where can we get one now? Our heads are spinning. Other highlights include Demon Deacon mascots climbing goalposts and riding on unicycles. The only reason Wake Forest didn’t take home the win is their weak color scheme. Sorry Wake Forest, the black and gold is just not doing it for us.
1. Miami Hurricanes: We tried. We really did. But the ‘Canes just have the best nickname in the ACC. The colors are fantastic. The orange, green and white just naturally go together. The Ibis is one of the smartest mascot choices in college sports. (“Last bird to leave before a storm, first …” ah you know the deal.) The “U” is probably one of the most recognizable symbols in sports and the nickname makes perfect sense. Sorry, we’re not sorry.