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College Football's Greatest Discontinued Nicknames


There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but there may be a name change.

After more than a decade as simply the “Warriors,” Hawaii announced Tuesday the school’s men’s athletic program would return to their original nickname of Rainbow Warriors. The women remain the Rainbow Wahine.

The “rainbow” was originally dropped for the football team at the start of the June Jones era, but now that it has returned, we decided to look back at some other college football nicknames that have been retired, perhaps never to return.*

These are the best retired and discontinued nicknames in college football history. Some schools retired names when the names of schools changed -- all those A&Ms that became State Universities dropped "Aggies" for something new. Normal schools (i.e. teaching schools) quit being the Normals, the Normalites or Teachers because who wants to be normal in college football anyway?

Other schools dropped names because -- unless you're Dan Snyder -- Redskins just isn't appropriate.

Some schools upgraded where others took a step back. Really, Arkansas State? You could have been the Gorillas instead of the Red Wolves?

Anyhow, here are the best of the best old college football team nicknames.

*with a little help from the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia.


Arizona State Bulldogs
Arizona State parted with Bulldogs in 1946 for the Sun Devils, giving us the mascot Sparky and then “Fear the Fork.” Good move.

Arkansas Cardinals
Arkansas changed its name to Razorbacks after coach Hugo Bezdek compared his 7-0 team in 1909 to a “wild band of razorback hogs.” Bezdek’s comment provided the impetus to never-ending “Woo Pig Sooie” enjoyment.

Arkansas State Gorillas
After going by Aggies, Gorillas and Warriors, Arkansas State opted for Indians in 1931. Indians stuck until it was no longer OK to be a sports team going by “Indians.” Arkansas State changed its nickname to Red Wolves in 2008. Fellow Sun Belt team Louisiana-Monroe also changed from Indians to Warhawks.

Army Cadets
Black Knights was an unofficial nickname since the 30s and 40s but changed in 1999.

Ball State Hoosieroons
In another time, David Letterman, Jason Whitlock and Papa John all would have been Hoosieroons.

Buffalo Bisons
The grammatically incorrect Bisons changed their name to Bulls in 1931 to avoid confusion with other Buffalo-based teams. That was fine until the Bills came along in 1960.

Kent State Silver Foxes
It’s true. Kent State changed its name from Silver Foxes to Golden Flashes in 1927. Strong.

Speaking of which, what’s going on in the MAC?
Bowling Green quit being the Normals in 1927. Eastern Michigan went form the Normalites to the Men From Ypsi to the Hurons before just giving up and going by Eagles. Akron shortened its name from Zippers to Zips. UMass went from Redmen to Minutemen. Miami (Ohio) went from Redskins to RedHawks. Toledo shortened its Skyrockets nickname. Ohio decided Green and White was not a mascot at all. Western Michigan went from Hilltoppers to Broncos. Northern Illinois cycled through Profs, Cardinals, Evansmen, Northerners and Teachers. Central Michigan went from the Normalites to the Dragons to the Chippewas. College football needs more Dragons.

FIU Sunblazers
Florida International started as the Sunblazers, giving us one great mascot. Golden Panthers was too much, so now they’re just the Panthers.

Maryland Old Liners
Old Liners referred to Maryland soldiers during the Revolutionary War. The school newspaper (The Diamondback) and the school yearbook (The Terrapin) inspired the name change in 1935.

Nebraska’s informal nicknames
Cornhuskers is perfect along with Big Red and Blackshirts, but shouldn’t we pine for the Treeplanters, Rattlesnake Boys, Antelopes and Old Gold Knights?

Nevada Sagebrushers and Sage Hens
Nevada had a two-word nickname long before the Wolf Pack.

North Texas Eagles
Got to love a program that changed its bland nickname to one that referenced its most famous players -- Mean Joe Greene -- in 1966.

Northwestern Purple and Syracuse Orangemen
This serves as proof that schools with great journalism programs are not great at picking team nicknames.

Notre Dame Catholics and Ramblers
When Grantland Rice wrote one of the most famous first paragraphs in sportswriting history:

Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.

The Four Horsemen weren’t even Fighting Irish. They were “Ramblers.” And before that, the would have been simply “Catholics.” What started as a derisive term from opponents, Fighting Irish became the school’s official nickname in 1927.

Oklahoma Rough Riders and Boomers
Oklahoma adopted its current name from the school pep club -- The Sooner Rooters -- in 1908. Like Notre Dame, Oklahoma took a put-down and turned it into a nickname. “Sooners” referred to settlers who left for the Oklahoma Territory before the Land Run of 1889. “Boomers” left when land was officially opened by President Grover Cleveland.

Rutgers Queensmen
The State University of New Jersey was originally Queen’s College, thus the Queensmen. Rutgers adopted Knights and later added Scarlet Knights. Although if Rutgers really wants to claim New York as its territory, it might not hurt to claim a borough or two.

Stanford Indians
After objections by the Native American community in 1975, Stanford dropped the Indians nickname but didn't adopt the Cardinal until the 1980s.

UCF Knights of Pegasus
Knights of Pegasus stood until 1993 when Central Florida became the Golden Knights. Boo.

USF Brahman Bulls
USF Bulls is dull for a moderately new football program. Brahman Bulls, in use before the school had a football team, wasn’t much better.

USC Methodists and Wesleyans
The two were retired by 1912 when USC adopted the Trojans name. Song Girls came decades later.

Texas Tech Matadors
Texas Tech retired the Matadors in 1932 for Red Raiders. A shame. Mike Leach would have had fun as a Matador.

Troy Red Wave
Like Hawaii, Troy backtracked. Troy went from the Bulldogs to the Teachers, to the Trojans to the Red Wave and finally back to Trojans in 1973.

Tulsa Yellow Jackets
The Yellow Jackets nickname had stuck by the early 1920s, but new coach Howard Archer wanted to change the name to Golden Tornadoes. Georgia Tech was using the Golden Tornadoes moniker at the time, so Tulsa settled on Golden Hurricane.

Originally, UCLA was nicknamed the Cubs as homage to the Cal Golden Bears. UCLA then played as the Grizzlies from 1923-28 before settling on the Bruins.

Utah State Highlanders
Arkansas State, Colorado State, Kansas State, Michigan State, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State all changed their names from Aggies. Utah State changed to Aggies. There can be no Highlanders.

Washington Sun Dodgers
Perhaps it wasn’t a great recruiting tool that it rains a lot in Seattle -- hence the Son Dodgers, maybe? If it wasn’t that, maybe the 1919 “Sunny Boy” logo just needed to go.

West Virginia Snakes
The Mountaineers made their first appearance in 1905. The nickname needs to return for someone, though, just so we can hear a 60,000-person crowd hiss on third down.