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Big Ten Expansion: Mascot Edition

by on June 23, 2010 9:00 AM

Hello to all of you Big Ten Conference fans like me out there.

For the last three-plus weeks, a lot of the college sports talk has been saturated with the changes and happenings to several of the college conferences – most notably the Pac-10, the Big 12 and our beloved Big 10.

There has been lots of speculation as to whose school is going where, when and why. The Pac-10 has added two schools, The University of Colorado and The University of Utah. The Big 12 has lost two schools, The University of Colorado and The University of Nebraska. The Big 10 has invited Nebraska and it has accepted. Now, for the first time in 20 years, the Big 10 has gone from 11 to 12 schools. As you all know, Penn State was the last school to be added to this conference until now.

Every conversation regarding this shift in conferences include speculations and notions of why all of these changes have taken place. This discussion includes one big underlying theme – money – though representatives of any of the universities involved have claimed it's mostly academic-related reasons.

I would like to give you my take on the whole situation, concentrating on our conference specifically. I don't think it's about the academics or the money. No, I think it has to do with the more important 'M' word: mascots.

The word "mascot" means a person, an animal, or an object believed to bring good luck. Mascots date all the way back to caveman days, with cave paintings in different parts of the world. Native Americans also had mascots in their totem poles and tribal statues. Historically, mascots have been the animals that men admired.

In the present day, through the admiration and symbolism of these creatures, we use mascots as a sign of the qualities we hope that our team possesses. So with that, I would like to review all of the current 11 teams in the Big Ten mascots, as well as our newest conference member, Nebraska.

In no particular order (this might be a (blue-and-)white lie) I am going to discuss mascots in our conference.

Illinois. The Fighting Illini. Although the fact that the origin of this came from a group of six Native American tribes is interesting, does anyone look good in orange?

Indiana. The Hoosiers. OK, so they have a great movie about them. But there’s no clear definition of what exactly a Hoosier is. I do love their basketball warm-up suits, though. Dribbling on…

Minnesota. The Golden Gophers. Are these Olympic medal-winning gophers? Why are they golden?

Wisconsin. The Badgers. Are gophers and badgers in the same family of mammals? If so, I have nothing more to say on this school's mascot. I'll start 'badger'ing the next school.

Michigan. The Wolverines. So this school and its mascot are pretty fierce. Besides having one of the most recognized helmets in all of college football, there is a really cool Marvel comic series with the name as well. But did you know that the wolverine is part of the weasel family?

Michigan State. The Spartans. Also pretty fierce. This is another school that has great movie (300), but that movie is not exactly about them.

Ohio State. The Buckeyes. An inedible nut-like seed of the horse chestnut. Appetizing.

Purdue. The Boilermakers. A person employed to make and repair boilers or other heavy metal items. Metallica is a good band so props to that boilermaker!

Northwestern. The Wildcats. Now this is more my style of mascot. I also don't want to diss them, as I'm pretty sure that they are related to the lion, though I need to mention that one of the school's colors is purple. I like the color purple (another good movie! Maybe I watch too many movies!) But I'm not sure any real wildcat would be caught wearing this color.

Iowa. The Hawkeyes. This term originally appeared in the book “The Last of the Mohicans.” Now, it is used to describe the people of Iowa. I like this mascot. In a couple more sentences down you will see why this mascot is so important.

PENN STATE. THE NITTANY LIONS. As I have previously written about the origin of our beloved mascot, we took the Nittany from the mountain that overlooks our town/university and paired it with the lion. Talk about character. Hail to the Lions! You gotta love our lions and our mascot. I’m biased, I know, but I don't care!

And now onto the newest team in our conference: Nebraska. The Cornhuskers. Often abbreviated to the Huskers, this school's original mascot was the Hawkeyes. This is to me the reason why Nebraska has joined The Big Ten – to reconnect with its former representative and get back to its roots.

Also, it is the fourth team bringing red as one of its school's colors. The Nebraska Cornhuskers will be a good name to play around with for upcoming football button contests.

Cornhuskers. Huskers of the corn. Corn that can't handle the heat is…

Popcorn. Grab yours. This conference is going to get even more exciting to be a part of and watch now.



Mike (The Mailman) Herr gives his stamp of approval to all visitors Monday through Friday at the University Park post office in the ground floor of McAllister Building, adjacent to the HUB. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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