While the Big Ten is the pinnacle of many college sports, one area it doesn’t excel in is the mascot department where cute creatures and ugly, plush headgear abound. As Penn State prepares to play the team with the worst mascot in all of college sports this weekend, we decided to power rank the Big Ten’s awful mascots in the order of how much they suck.
Few stereotypes will ever be confirmed better than Nebraska naming its team after its No. 3 most exported good. We get that y’all really, really like corn (We do too. but to an extent.), but leave the angry grocery store shoppers and farm folks complaining about how silky this year’s harvest is back home in the Heartland.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Here. We. Go. Again. It’s a nut, albeit a creepy and poisonous one. But still, a nut.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Goldy Gopher epitomizes “Minnesota nice.” When he runs out of the tunnel, my first thought is, “He’d make a much better sidekick to Yogi Bear than Boo-Boo Bear,” not “Wow, I should really feel intimidated. I sure hope the Golden Gophers take it easy on us.”
Little known fact: Maryland’s mascot’s name is “Testudo” (a genus of tortoises) and it’s probably better off staying a little known fact because I don’t even want to think about what exactly it sounds like. Testudo, the logo, resembles a rejected Pokemon more than a Power-Five conference mascot. Testudo, the mascot, looks like what Barney was supposed to look like before the studios decided that, ya know, dinosaurs > turtles.
— Joe (@JoePick29) October 27, 2017
There’s just something that doesn’t seem right about inanimate objects being team names. Boilermakers is so bad that it doesn’t even earn a mention in Hail To The Lion; the lyrics are just “Purdue its gold and black.” Furthermore, there’s just something that seems even wronger about Purdue Pete and his cold, piercing eyes that rip into your soul and seem to follow you.
Bucky Badger is quite the terror, provided you’re campers worrying about your food supply being raided by this pesky sweater-wearing rodent. We know that the best time to wear a striped sweater is all the time, but the stripes should at least be horizontal!
Michigan has a great team name but no actual mascot or even depiction of it. As silly as teams’ portrayals get, the mascot is still part of the fun of college sports. Wolverines is as much of a blown opportunity as Michigan’s 17-7 third quarter lead against Ohio State last November that could’ve punched its ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game. Indianapolis was fun, FYI.
Any team name that lends itself to a “Hoosier Daddy?” Instagram caption should be immediately nixed.
Talk about unoriginal. There are ten Division I teams that call themselves the Wildcats. We get that Lions is nearly as common, but at least Penn State differentiates itself at least a little bit! What really killed the name Wildcats though is High School Musical, not the other nine teams calling themselves that.
“Oh boy, here comes Troy Bolton’s old squad. They always got their heads in the game.”
There’s a lot of local heritage behind the name Hawkeyes and while we applaud Iowa’s efforts to avoid racial stereotypes (Iowa is The Hawkeye State), what hurts it is the fact that it rebranded itself as a bird who’s using his tongue to pick some corn kernels out of its teeth; it’s an even more prominent resource in Iowa than in Nebraska.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Props to Rutgers for not completely screwing something up and having a decent mascot, moving from a Walmart-brand Michigan State Spartan to a respectable knight in shining armor riding a real horse. There will always be a place for live animals in college football.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Like Iowa, Illinois traces its heritage to a local Native American tribe and has distanced itself from sensitive depictions. Although like Michigan, there is no official portrayal of what exactly a Fighting Illini is since Chief Illiniwek was retired in 2007, the local significance and the adjective “Fighting” give Illinois the most distinctive team names in the country. If only the Illini actually were “Fighting.”
Michigan State Spartans
They’re named in honor of the most badass Greek city-state where mothers told their sons to either return with or on their shield. Say no more.
Penn State Nittany Lions
No surprise here. He may not be a real species, but the stately Nittany Lion truly stands the test of all the honored idols, showing just how bad this conference’s mascots are. Not only does the Mascot Hall of Famer suck the least, he is a fierce, yet friendly timeless classic, with his cult-following, one-armed pushups, lovable Twitter presence, sharp-looking scarf, and monstrous roar through Beaver Stadium’s speakers on game day. Truly a symbol of our best.