Welcome back to another school year and another bracket of Busted Halo’s® Catholic Mascotology.
Last year’s contest included the likes of Notre Dame, Boston College, Villanova, Marquette, DePaul, Georgetown, and many others all falling to the big winner, Petey the Canisius Golden Griffin. (Alas, we still mourn you, poor Billiken.)
This year, Petey and the rest of 2013’s top 8 mascots have a chance again as they appear in the “Last Year’s Champs” region, seeded based on how well they placed last year.
The other regions include:
The “Adventurer Region” (which consists of the likes of an Explorer, a Crusader, a Baron, a Warrior, a Pilot, a Mountaineer, and a couple of dogs).
A “What the Heck is it?” region (which is pretty self-explanatory, in that before this contest began we had no idea what a Duhawk, a Johnnie Rat, a Hilltopper, or a Blue Streak were).
And an “All Jesuit Region” featuring, you guessed it, eight different Jesuit schools, (and yes we are well aware there are Jesuit schools included in all three of the other regions as well, but c’mon, those guys founded a lot of schools!)
These three regions are seeded based on school populations, but last year’s results prove that the bigger school isn’t going to necessarily have the winning mascot. And speaking of winning, who do we want to win? Well, we’re not ready to throw our support behind any mascot just yet, be we do have a certain affinity for the Emmanuel St. Bernard. After all, his name is Halo, and in the latest logo, Halo is actually wearing a halo that looks to us, upon further inspection, to closely resemble half of a halo that our readers might be familiar with. We of course like last year’s champ, Petey the Canisius Golden Griffin. But c’mon, Petey, we like underdogs too, and maybe it’s time for a new #bestcatholicmascot in town. And then there’s the St. John’s University (Minnesota) Johnnie Rat, of which we are a little obsessed right now. He’s the unofficial mascot of the school, he’s a rat, and he wears a school sweater. What’s better school spirit than that?
May the Best Mascot win!
The Canisius Golden Griffin is the defending Catholic Mascotology champion and top seed of this year’s tournament. Half lion, half eagle, the mighty Griffin allows Canisius College two mascots in one. And of historical note, being a beast of both the land and the air, the Griffin was seen in old Christendom as a symbol of Jesus — both human and divine.
The Iona Gael is a spunky character, consistent with the school’s motto of “fight the good fight,” what with his disconcerting smile and giant wooden club. The Iona sports website defines a Gael as “anyone of Irish-Gaelic ancestry.” Don’t forget to support the Iona Gael by purchasing this giant inflatable Gael (sans wooden club).
The Fordham Ram was born out of a vulgar 1893 cheer (“One-damn, two-damn, three-damn, Fordham!”) but the Jesuit establishment soon encouraged the students to change the verse to the less vulgar “ram,” which became the official mascot in 1905. The Ram appeared in an illustrated format in 1918, as a live ram “borrowed” from a nearby farm by a group of Fordham students in 1925, and then as a costumed mascot as early as 1963.
The Providence Friar wasn’t always the Providence mascot. Originally it was a Dalmatian purchased by the Friars Club and brought to games beginning in 1935. This was in keeping with the Dominicans’ nickname as “watchdogs of the Lord” as Providence is the only college in North America run by the Dominican order. After the 1963 death of the fourth Dalmatian Friar, the school decided on a more human representation: an actual Friar mascot.
The Holy Cross Crusader came about officially in 1925 when, following an article that referred to the Holy Cross baseball team as “crusaders,” the school paper took a vote and “Crusaders” won by a landslide over “Chiefs” and “Sagamores” by more than 100 votes.
The Gonzaga Bulldog was born in 1921 when a reporter compared the athletes to tenacious bulldogs. For roughly 60 years, numerous live bulldogs were used to scare away the competition until in 1980 a student donning a cape and calling himself “Captain Zag” took over the reigns. In 1985, the Bulldog was reintroduced as a costumed mascot, better known as “Spike”.
The Loyola Maryland Greyhound, named Iggy in honor of St. Ignatius of Loyola, is the runner-up in last year’s Catholic Mascotology. Born in the autumn of 1927, the Greyhound replaced the previous and less distinctive team names, “Jesuits” and “Irish”. The mascot has been portrayed throughout the years by live greyhounds as well as a costumed one.
The Xavier Blue Blob shares official mascot status for Ohio’s Xavier University with D’Artagnan the Musketeer. Though a seemingly innocent, well, blob, Xavier’s mascot has some edge — he was accidentally tackled by Xavier basketball fan Theo Nelson in 2002, which skyrocketed the Blob to fame, landing him appearances in commercials for ESPN and Skyline Chili and even a featured interview in Playboy magazine.
The University of San Francisco Don has been the University of San Francisco mascot since 1932 when it replaced the name “Grey Fog “ which was deemed not to be a “positive image” for the city or the school. While some argue that the term is a euphemism for crime boss, other sources call it a fancy way to address Spanish nobles or rather an acronym for De Origen Noble. This Don’s name is Don Francisco, named after the first mayor of San Francisco.
The Loras College Duhawk, named Dewey, was born in 1924, compliments of a sports reporter (like so many of these mascots) who contracted the words Dubuque (the Iowa town of the school’s location) and Hawk to describe the then Columbia College (which became Loras in 1939) football team. Or, as described by Urban Dictionary, a duhawk is “basically a hawk on steroids that also happens to be purple and gold.”
The College of New Rochelle Blue Angel is one of the youngest competitors in this contest, having only been around since 1980 when the head basketball coach coined the nickname Blue Angels. Despite simply resembling the first letter of the alphabet with hastily drawn on wings and a halo, this mascot is a bit more complex: the blue represents Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the name is an homage to the Navy Blue Angels Flight Squadron, for the precision and teamwork that make them so successful.
The Saint John’s University (Minnesota) Johnnie Rat remains an unofficial mascot of this Minnesotan university, despite being born out of an energetic institution of school spirit well over half a century ago: the St. John’s Rat Pack (or Rat Pak). This raucous, growing and still thriving group of basketball fans began cheering on their team in 1954 in the old basketball arena known as “Rat Hall” and continues today. Even though the team moved out of “Rat Hall” in 1972, the name stuck…unofficially.
The Saint Edward’s University Hilltopper is a goat; no, it’s a ram; no, it’s a goat; it’s a ram; it’s a type of horse used in fox hunting? Despite conflicting reports, the Hilltopper is technically “likened to a mountain goat”, named Topper and legend has that it came about a while back when the baseball team decided to bring a live ram to the game, (even though in 2010 a live goat began attending games).
The John Carroll University Blue Streak is the name of this Jesuit school’s teams, but not technically it’s mascot. That honor has evolved over the years beginning with a St. Bernard which was meant to represent the wolves on the university’s seal which were adapted from the coat of arms of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s family and since 2008 has been represented by a wolf named Lobo (which is the Spanish word for wolf) who wears a Blue Streak across his chest.
The University of San Diego Torero has been around since 1961 when it replaced the previous Pioneer mascot, and was given the official nickname Diego in 2006. The Torero is a Spanish Bullfighter and the mascot symbolizes the university’s close affiliation with Spain, as well as its athletes’ commitment to courage, honor and fidelity. Diego Torero also enjoys dancing.
The Saint Michael’s College Purple Knight has been the official mascot of Saint Michael’s College since 1947, replacing the unofficial team names of “Hilltoppers” (watch out St. Edwards!) and the even less imaginative “Michaelmen”. Also known as Mike D. Knight, the Purple Knight was chosen as the school’s symbol because of the four offices theologians ascribe to the archangel St. Michael: 1) fighting Satan; 2) rescuing souls; 3) bringing souls to judgement; 4) being the champion of God’s people.
The Loyola Marymount Lion, like various Loyola schools’ mascots, is nicknamed Iggy after St. Ignatius of Loyola. Though there are two varying accounts of how the Lion came to replace the name “Loyolans” in 1923, one thing is for sure: the athletes used to hold real live lions.
The Wheeling Jesuit University Cardinal is not a red-hatted prelate that picks a new pope, but the red-plumed songbird common throughout most of the U.S., including the mountains of “almost Heaven” West Virginia, which contains this one Catholic school, Wheeling Jesuit University.
The University of Scranton Royal is not what you’d expect…that is, it’s not a royal person, i.e. a king or queen, but rather a “Royal Wolf” (who replaced the unofficial mascot, the “Royal Rooster” in 2004.) And like a few other schools in this bracket, it’s based on the wolves found on the family crest of St. Ignatius of Loyola. And like more than a few other (Jesuit) school mascots, it’s thusly named Iggy. So maybe it’s exactly what you expected.
The University of Detroit Mercy Titan has been the mascot of the school since 1919. Represented by various St. Bernard puppies named Titan for years thereafter, it wasn’t until the Dick Vitale era of the mid 1970’s, that the Titan was reintroduced as a costumed mascot, portrayed by a student named Tommy. The name stuck and to this day, no matter the outfit, his name remains: “Tommy Titan”.
The Seattle University Redhawk, Rudy, was born on January 6, 2000, replacing the former Chieftain mascot, which had itself replaced the Maroon mascot back in 1938. Rudy enjoys ruffling the feathers of the university’s opponents as well as flying around the air traffic of Seattle.
The Loyola New Orleans Wolf Pack, symbolized by a lone maroon wolf (aka Havoc T. Wolf), has been the moniker of Loyno University since the 1920’s. It too originates from the Shield of Onaz-Loyola, a symbol of St. Ignatius of Loyola family’s lineage, that includes a pair of gray wolves. The Wolf Pack (which officially changed its name from Wolfpack in 2012), symbolizes Jesuit values: strength in numbers and pride in teamwork.
The Santa Clara University Bronco has been around since 1923 when a teacher at the Californian school proposed changing the name from the Missionites to the Broncos because, “The bronco is…hard as nails, and always game to the core.” Known as Benny the Bronco, the mascot had its first humanoid incarnation in 1976, then changed its name to Bucky in 1995, and today looks bigger and tougher than ever.
The Saint Peter’s University Peacock is the only peacock mascot in the NCAA Division I. (Upper Iowa being the only other college in the U.S with a peacock mascot.) This choice was made for several reasons. Primarily, the land on which Saint Peter’s now stands was once owned by a man named Michael Pauw, whose last name means “peacock” in Dutch.
The La Salle University Explorer is community-minded and currently in his 5th incarnation. Conceived in 1931 and officially unveiled in 1958 as a 17th century French Explorer, the space-obsessed era of the 1960’s turned the Explorer into an astronaut. In 1982 he resumed his original look until early retirement in 1997. 1998 saw him resurrected as a muscular superhero and voted Philadelphia’s worst mascot. In 2002 he became the Explorer that he is today.
The Belmont Abbey College Crusader is one of two “Crusader” mascots appearing in this year’s bracket contest, (the other being Holy Cross). What better mascot is there for this small, liberal arts college (home to a Benedictine monastery and founded in 1876) than a historic military soldier?
The Franciscan University of Steubenville Baron is the only collegiate mascot keeping alive the title of a revolutionary war patriot: Baron Frederick William von Steuben. The Baron has been around for the past 68 years when it’s rumored a veteran sports writer nicknamed the team because he found the name of the school too long to fit into headlines, or even his news stories.
The Merrimack College Warrior seems to have been conceived around 1949, two years after the college was established. In 2003, the Warrior received a new, revised look (a Roman soldier), most likely influenced by the upcoming NCAA ban and regulations on Native American mascots. Minimal web research shows no current use of any sort of soldier mascot, however.
The Emmanuel College Saint Bernard, nicknamed Halo and formerly a Swiss Alps rescue dog, has now gone on to win the Best School Mascot in Boston award for two years in a row. When he’s not cheering on his school, or checking his Twitter and Facebook feeds, he’s looking up to his hero, the Boston Red Sox’s Wally the Green Monster.
The Assumption College Greyhound has been around since 1933 when a priest remarked that the basketball team ran so fast it resembled a bunch of greyhounds. While there are tons of interesting facts about greyhounds to be found, the most appropriate one to list here is that they are the only breed of canine mentioned in the bible (Proverbs 30:29-31 KJV).
The University of Portland Pilot, nicknamed Wally, is a riverboat pilot because the school overlooks the Williamette river. The Pilot has been around since 1935 when the University of Portland changed its name from Columbia University (tired of being confused with that other school) and wished to embrace a more nautical motif.
The Mount Saint Mary’s University Mountaineer is the campus mascot of Mount Saint Mary’s University and head of the Mount Maniacs. Hailing from Emmitsburg, Maryland, the Mountaineer is actually named Emmit S. Burg. Always dressed in his coonskin hat, plaid, sleeveless shirt and a scruffy goatee, Emmit could easily be confused with an ironic hipster, however he authentically loves all things hiking and camping.