You cannot separate a university from its pet, the two are intrinsically and irreversibly connected. The generally cute, sometimes weird, but always iconic creatures that can be seen roaming the margins of any college football game at any given time. They are often animals, usually in costumes and sometimes animal costumes. They embody the history, traditions and values of the school they represent and can lead crowds of passionate alumni to their unwavering defense on countless sporting grounds. There are tons of them, thousands if you consider all the universities, community colleges, high schools, and even professional teams, but the most passionate of all are college mascots. Some origins are obvious, but many have some pretty interesting stories behind them. Here are some.
From the “what were they thinking?” category we proudly present to you Brutus Buckeye, Ohio State Buckeyes. Brutus has a big round head that looks like one of those Little Debbie chocolate brownie things, you probably have no real idea what it’s supposed to be. Here’s the kicker, the horse chestnut is a tree that grows in the Ohio region, and the term “horse chestnut” was a reference to the pioneers who originally settled in the area. Brutus is said to resemble the nut of a Buckeye tree, said to be the keyword, but whatever the case, he is a very unique pet with quite a bit of history.
If you live in the South, you’ve probably heard the phrase “tide, roll,” it’s “Crimson Tide” from the University of Alabama. What more would you associate with rising ocean tides than an elephant? Why not? We give you “Big Al”, the mascot behind the famous and legendary University of Alabama.
Its origins date back to the 1930s in a surprisingly simple way. A sports reporter wrote that during one game he heard an Alabama fan yell “hold your horses, elephants are coming,” in reference to the roar of the first team running across the field. The idea of the elephant took root. In the 1960s, Melford Espey Jr. wore an elephant head costume in a game. I’d probably wear a costume if that was my name too. However, Melford later became a school administrator and was asked to create a mascot to represent Tide. They chose the elephant. The students put it to a vote and the best name they came up with was Big Al. Thus a legend was born.
Then there is Bevo from the University of Texas. UT is known as “the long horns” so it is so natural that they use a long horned cow to represent them. Okay, there’s nothing strange about that, but what’s interesting is how it got its name. Originally, “Bevo” was called “Bo” and no one knows for sure why it was changed, but the legend says so. In 1916, Texas archrival Texas A&M beat the Longhorns 13-0. Four A&M students reportedly kidnapped Bevo and scored 13-0 for his side. When UT retrieved it, it was said that the students turned the 13 into the letter “B” and added the “e” and “v” in the middle to make Bevo. While this story has never been proven, it is more interesting than the more recent theory that Bevo is derived from the term “beeve,” which used to describe cattle heading to meat markets. Oh one more thing, the current Bevo is the 14th Longhorn to hold the title.