The NCAA March Madness Tournament is in full swing with the final four teams being set. Unfortunately, the Lawrence University Vikings were left out of the big dance. When asking the selection committee as to how the Vikings can improve their chances of making future tournaments, they offered this advice: change up the mascot. While a good basketball resume, solid record, signature wins, and a strong schedule are key to making the tournament, what really sets teams apart is their mascot.
For the teams that made it to the final four, their mascot is the key component to their success on the basketball court and in the tournament. The Cinderella-story of the tournament, 11-seed Loyola University – Chicago, are the Ramblers. The mascot goes back to the 1920s when football was the most popular sport at the university. Even after football was dropped as a varsity sport, the name stuck around. In the 1980s, Loyola used “Bo Rambler”— short for “Hobo”— as their mascot, but ended this tradition in 1990 and instead switching to the wolf we see today. Either way, the story is thick with intrigue and fascination, thus pushing the team through its magical run to the Final Four.
Their opponent in the tournament’s Final Four matchup, the University of Michigan, boasts one of the most well-known nicknames in college sports, the Wolverines. While the team no longer supports a mascot at games, they did back in the 1920s and 30’s. Michigan football games featured live wolverines, but the animals became too ferocious and thus the tradition ended. Despite this, the mascot of the wolverine stands out in the Big 10 as one of the conference’s best and brightest, giving Michigan the extra push they needed to return to the Final Four.
Villanova, like the other two teams, supports a storied history in its mascot tradition as well. The Wildcats was chosen after a school-wide vote in 1926. They also held a wildcat in a cage at the fieldhouse for football games for a few years in the 1930s and 1940s. The current mascot, Wild D. Cat attends all homes games and even had a legend written about him in 1996. Villanova’s mascot is another intriguing story that the selection committee just could not ignore when creating this year’s bracket.
Finally, the University of Kansas supports the oldest mascot, the Jayhawks, which dates back to 1848 when the term was first coined. It is a reference to a bird which is a combination of the bluebird and a sparrow hawk that was found throughout the Kansas territory during its settlement in the 1850s. The name Jayhawk became synonymous with the people of Kansas and was first featured in the Rock Chalk cheer in 1886 before being adopted by the University of Kansas football team in 1890. Today, the University features two Jayhawks in costume, Big Jay and Baby Jay. The costume for Baby Jay was even bird-napped and returned right in time for homecoming in September 1978. The University of Kansas is one of the most storied and historic mascots. As the selection committee claims, this was an essential piece to making the NCAA Tournament.
For Lawrence, our mascot story of the Viking is simply not interesting enough. The selection committee recommends boasting a live Viking, featured at our home games, or some mascot thievery involved to create an enticing mascot legend. This, reportedly, would allow the basketball team the opportunity to play in the big dance.
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