What is a Billiken?

June 3, 2004

Judge Evans' opinion in Crue v. Aiken features an interesting analysis of college nicknames and mascots:

In the Seventh Circuit, some large schools—Wisconsin (Badgers), Purdue (Boilermakers), Indiana (Hoosiers), Notre Dame (The Fighting Irish), DePaul (the Blue Demons), the University of Evansville (Purple Aces), and Southern Illinois (Salukis)—have nicknames that would make any list of ones that are pretty cool. And small schools in this circuit are no slouches in the cool nickname department. One would have a hard time beating the Hustlin’ Quakers of Earlham College (Richmond, Indiana), the Little Giants of Wabash College (Crawfordsville, Indiana), the Mastodons of Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne, Indiana), and the Scarlet Hawks of the Illinois Institute of Technology....

For major universities, one would be hard pressed to beat gems like The Crimson Tide (Alabama), Razorbacks (Arkansas), Billikens2 (St. Louis), Horned Frogs (TCU), and Tarheels (North Carolina). But as we see it, some small schools take the cake when it comes to nickname ingenuity. Can anyone top the Anteaters of the University of California-Irvine; the Hardrockers of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City; the Humpback Whales of the University of AlaskaSoutheast; the Judges (we are particularly partial to this one) of Brandeis University; the Poets of Whittier College; the Stormy Petrels of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta; the Zips of the University of Akron; or the Vixens (will this nickname be changed if the school goes coed?) of Sweet Briar College in Virginia? As wonderful as all these are, however, we give the best college nickname nod to the University of California-Santa Cruz. Imagine the fear in the hearts of opponents who travel there to face the imaginatively named “Banana Slugs”?

Footnote 2: "What in the world is a 'Billiken'?"

St. Louis University attempts to clarifiy: What is a Billiken: "Everyone agrees that the Billiken is a good-luck figure who represents 'things as they ought to be.'"

Random Mentality actually examines the substance of the ruling: Weird Things You Learn in the Law

Though not the most ingenious nicknames, as a conference, NESCAC probably has the highest percentage of odd team names with the Jumbos, Polar Bears, White Mules, Bantams, Ephs and Lord Jeffs.

Here is a comprehensive list of college team nicknames. Gregg Easterbrook highlights obscure team names as a running feature in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, such as in this column from Jan. 2001.

(via How Appealing, of course.)

Posted by Andrew Raff at June 3, 2004 05:44 PM
Trackback URL for this entry: http://www.andrewraff.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/2352

Nothing beats Virgina Tech for sheer oddity. The are of course the Hokies.
What is a Hokie? Nothin', just a made up word they use in a chant.

To make matters better, they use a Turkey as a mascot.

Posted by: frinklin on June 4, 2004 02:57 PM