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Origin of College Nicknames

Syracuse defeated Wisconsin Thursday night to advance in the NCAA Tournament (Getty Images)

I was watching the Syracuse against Wisconsin basketball game last night and wondered why they’re known as the Orange and the Badgers. For Syracuse, the university nickname was changed to Orangemen in 1890.  No other college team wore orange at that time so they began wearing that color. Just a few years ago they went from Orangemen to Orange to make it gender neutral.

The Badgers are named after the lead miners in the 1800’s who lived in tunnels to protect themselves from the harsh winter weather – just like a badger would.

Ohio State Buckeyes named after the oak tree acorn that some say looks a little like a deer’s eye.

Nebraska Cornhuskers – the team experimented with Tree Planters, Bug Eaters and Rattlesnake Boys. Sportswriters preferred Cornhuskers.

Oregon Ducks were originally the Webfoots named after the first Oregon settlers. When a duck was brought to games as a mascot, the school became the Ducks.

Michigan State Spartans were originally the Staters. A local sportswriter didn’t like the name and kept calling them Spartans. (How about that for the power of the pen?)

Florida State Seminoles – named after the Indian tribe native to Florida.

Oklahoma Sooners – named after the settlers who staked their claim in the Oklahoma territory before the official claiming period began in 1889.

Alabama Crimson Tide – the observation of a reporter who noticed the uniforms of the football team were stained red from the red clay mud they played in during a game with Auburn.


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