Worst School Mascots in Sports History
Many school teams, especially those at lower levels whether it be high school or smaller colleges, sometimes like to think “outside the box” when coming up with their team names and mascots. You can understand why, as having a traditional name like the Tigers, Hawks or Eagles doesn't make them stand out on the field.
But being different isn’t always a good thing, as these 12 teams would attest. Here are the best of the worst team mascots and names in school sports.
12. Key School Obezags
Bottom line: What’s an obezag? It’s literally nothing, as it’s a made-up word. It’s an anagram of gazebos, which are commonplace on campus at The Key School, which is a private school in Annapolis, Maryland, for pre-K thru 12th grade.
For years, the school had no mascot, but sportswriters constantly urged Key School to pick one to make their jobs easier. After years of pushing back, members at the school finally gave in and chose obezags as their unofficial mascot. Key School administrators haven’t fully adopted the team name and say there is no official school mascot. However, locals use obezags, and now, sportswriters do, too.
11. Cornell Big Red
Bottom line: For the first 40 years of Cornell’s existence, it didn’t have a nickname. Then, a graduate of the school wrote a song about the football team with the lyrics of “the big, red team.” Thus, “Big Red” was born, for better or for worse.
The issue with this nickname isn’t that it is abstract, but that it seems to be a rip off of fellow Ivy League school Harvard. Their nickname is Crimson in honor of the school colors, and it almost seems like Cornell is trying to one-up Harvard by being a bigger version of their red.
As for Cornell’s mascot, it is called the Big Red Bear and is currently a student dressed in a bear costume. The school went through four real-life bears as the mascot before transitioning to a costumed bear — and we're all grateful for that.
10. UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs
Bottom line: The Banana Slug is either one of the greatest or one of the worst nicknames in sports, depending on your perspective. But it almost never came to be; in 1986, the then-chancellor of UC Santa Cruz declared the sea lion as the school’s mascot. Students pushed back and voted to make the Banana Slug the team name, to which the chancellor rejected and said the athletes should be the ones who decide the nickname. A poll of athletes at the time then showed that they favored the Banana Slug, and it’s stuck ever since with Sammy the Slug as UCSC’s mascot.
9. Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes
Bottom line: A junior college located in the Phoenix metro, Scottsdale Community College has taught famous alumni such as former NFL running back Charlie Garner and comedian Bill Hader of SNL fame. Both were Fighting Artichokes, which seems like an oxymoron considering an artichoke is a benign plant.
The school’s mascot is Artie the Artichoke and came about during a time of student unrest in the early 1970s. Students attempted to embarrass the school’s administration by adopting the artichoke as the mascot. However, it proved to be extremely popular in the community, and the name has stuck ever since.
8. Arkansas School for the Deaf Leopards
Bottom line: This is not a drill. There is really a school in Arkansas called the School for the Deaf Leopards, and they adopted their name over 30 years before the rock band Def Leppard even formed!
In 2016, a petition was launched asking Def Leppard to visit the school, and while it fell short of the desired goal, the petition still got the band’s attention. Thus, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers paid a visit, met some of the students and posed for pictures. As for the Deaf Leopards on the field, they’ve won dozens of state championships, including the 2007 8-man football National Deaf Prep Title.
7. Poca High School Poca Dots
Bottom line: Tell us a more intimidating mascot than a polka dot. We’ll wait. While the nickname may not inspire fear, how the school got the name does have a nice backstory. The school was originally called Pocatalico District High School, and the mascot was originally the “Dots.” But in 1928, the students stormed the football field after a big win and a reporter exclaimed, "They look like a bunch of red polka dots running around the field!”
The name caught on and the school eventually shortened its name to Poca High, and the team name became the Poca Dots.
6. Punahou Buffanblu
Bottom line: Located in Honolulu, Hawaii, Punahou School is one of the most famous prep schools in the nation. Some of its alumni include President Barack Obama, Manti Te’o and Michelle Wie, all of whom were Buffanblu. The team name is a combination of the school’s colors — buff, which represents the sand, and blue, which represents the ocean.
Punahou School doesn’t have an official mascot, but the Buffanblu has been adopted as the nickname. The Buffanblu have won over 500 athletics state championships, which awarded it the honor as the best high school sports program in the nation by Sports Illustrated.
5. Chattanooga Central Purple Pounders
Bottom line: Innuendo aside, former football coach Cortney Braswell accurately summed up why Central High School’s nickname is so special. “There are a million tigers out there. There are a million hawks and bears and all of those things out there,” said Braswell. “But there’s only one Chattanooga Central Purple Pounder. So, when you put that jersey on, it means something.”
The nickname was originally the Purple Warriors but somehow morphed into the Purple Pounders, which undoubtedly makes the teenage student body chuckle. As for the Purple Pounders mascot? It was named after legendary coach Stan Farmer and is affectionately known as Stan the Pounderman.
4. St. Louis College of Pharmacy Eutectic
Bottom line: Only a bunch of pharmaceutical students would come up with “Eutectic” as the sports teams’ nicknames, considering what a eutectic actually is. It’s the process of combining two solids to form a liquid, which is quite common in pharmacological circles.
So, how do you translate eutectic into a mascot costume? Since translating a scientific process into a physical mascot is a little difficult even for pharmacy students, the mascot is simply a yellow, furry creature in a white lab coat.
To add to the medicinal theme, the school’s main gym is nicknamed “The Pillbox.” Also, when St. Louis plays Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the winner is awarded what’s known as the Apothecary Cup.
3. South Carolina Gamecocks
Bottom line: Perhaps no nickname has inspired more jokes and funny fan signs than the South Carolina Gamecocks. They were originally known as the Fighting Gamecocks with their female teams known as the Lady Gamecocks — which is a joke in itself. However, they discontinued the former to eliminate any connection to cockfighting and got rid of the latter to separate itself from any gender bias.
Thus, only Gamecocks remain, or Cocks for short. “Go Cocks” and “Cocks Rock” are just some of the sayings you can hear when walking through campus in South Carolina.
2. Fort Lauderdale High School Flying L’s
Bottom line: The original team nickname was The Fort Lauderdale L, but during a track meet in 1917, a reporter saw a student-athlete running to victory and remarked, “Look at that L fly!”
The city of Fort Lauderdale then held a vote and decided to change the nickname to The Flying L’s, and it’s stuck ever since. Today, of course, “L’s” are known as losses, as in “they took the L.” Fort Lauderdale High School is well aware of that fact but is still sticking to its name despite what has to be numerous taunts from opponents. As for if the school has taken many L’s over the years, apparently, it hasn’t. In fact, The Flying L’s have won over 60 state championships.
1. Centralia High School Orphans/Annies
Bottom line: Schools like Louisiana State University — which has the Tigers and the Lady Tigers — as well as Tennessee’s Volunteers and Lady Vols choose to distinguish their men’s and women’s teams. Why can’t high schools do the same? Centralia High in south-central Illinois is one of the few that does, as it calls its boys’ teams Orphans and its girls’ teams Annies.
We just can't even imagine why a school would use the nickname of a kid who lost both her parents? How is a teenager supposed to feel good about being called an orphan? Even worse, how would an actual orphan who may go to the school react? Centralia High, you can do better than that.