5 Strange College Mascots

A cardinal college mascot walks off the basketball court.

Photograph by Jacob Rice on Unsplash

5 of the Strangest College Mascots

It is March, and sports fanatics look to enjoy college basketball’s 68-team men’s and women’s tournaments. If you have ever watched a game or two, you might have seen a mascot interacting with the crowd or encouraging them to make noise. While watching a game, have you ever wondered, ‘what is that mascot?’ Let’s look at some of the strangest college mascots to arrive on the basketball court.

WuShock, the Shock-of-Wheat College Mascot

In 1904, R.J. Kirk, student football manager at then-Fairmount College, dubbed his school football team the Wheat Shockers. During the summers, many football players earned their tuition and board harvesting or shocking wheat. By 1948, the now-named Wichita State University officially recognized a wheat shock or stack as their sports mascot. While a collection of sheaves of harvested grain stalks is not the most intimidating notion for a mascot, the school has updated the creature’s look to be more menacing. The university website portrays their Shockers mascot as “a big, bad, muscle-bound bundle of wheat.”

Brutus Buckeye, the Nutty College Mascot

Ohio State University boasts one of the most accomplished athletic programs in the nation and has an anthropomorphized buckeye nut as its sports mascot. In October 1965, students Ray Bourhis and Sally (Huber) Lanyon co-created an unnamed mascot with papier-mâché. The pair debuted what would become Brutus Buckeye at the homecoming football game at the end of the month. The mascot grew in popularity with the students and soon obtained a name and a more durable costume. Brutus has received invitations to many of Ohio State’s sporting events across the country over the last 57-plus years. In 2007, the Mascot Hall of Fame inducted Brutus Buckeye into its illustrious family.

Peter the Anteater, the Docile College Mascot

Usually, when a school chooses an animal mascot for its sports teams, the selection is a large fierce creature. The University of California, Irvine, ignored that rule when they adopted the anteater as their mascot in 1965. One story posted on the UC Irvine athletics website suggests a fondness for the Johnny Hart comic strip, “B.C.” lead water polo student-athletes Pat Glasgow and Bob Ernst to recommend the anteater mascot to friends. The pair were able to garner enough support to win a school-wide vote. Other folklore published on the UC Irvine Libraries websites says Glasgow pondered the idea for an anteater mascot while working as a Newport Beach lifeguard. Whatever the origin is, the mascot is one of a kind at the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s Division I level.

Big Red, the Popular College Mascot

Western Kentucky University sports teams are named the Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers, so the nicknames allow some creativity when constructing a mascot. In 1979, WKU student Ralph Carey originally designed and built the bright red mascot, Big Red. In 2012, the Bowling Green Daily News detailed the mascot’s national and international recognition and described the strange college mascot as a fuzzy red blob. The university’s athletics website refers to its mascot as the Spirit of Western and claims Big Red to be one of the most celebrated at sporting events and cheerleading competitions.

The Tree Mascot That Won’t Leave

This last one has to be the strangest of college mascots. Stanford University has not had an official mascot since 1972, but that did not stop the student band from donning its own mascot. During the halftime of a 1975 rivalry game with UC Berkeley, the Stanford Band debuted the unofficial school mascot, The Tree. Student Christina “Chris” Hutson created the first costume, “a simple red homage to the ‘Palo Alto’ in the Stanford University crest.” Each year, a junior marching band representative designs a new version of the tree to wear at sporting events. With so many costumes, the Stanford University Archives decided to preserve former Trees in their library and encourage band members to check out the tree outfits for band events.

Mascots certainly exercise plenty as they entertain crowds on the court or field. For further insightful reading, discover tips on how to exercise consistently.

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About Joey Hinojosa

Joey Hinojosa graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in mass communications. He began working at Empower Brokerage in early 2022 and enjoys being creative in his writing, photography, videography, and other projects.

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