The Pulitzer folks called and said I was under consideration for my record-breaking set of FBS nickname rankings. They said I needed to rank the FCS to further my consideration. Reluctantly, I agreed.
To give you a quick refresher from last week’s rankings, the criteria is simple. I judge each nickname on two factors:
Originality: The nickname is each team’s best shot at branding itself. What sets your team apart from everyone else? Why are you unique? Anyone can slap a stereotypically fearsome nicknames on themselves like the Tigers or the Lions can call themselves strong. News flash: You’re not. Know what takes true strength to choose as your school’s symbol? A turtle.
Versaility: A distinctive nickname is good. Know what’s even better? A nickname to the nickname, like how the Green Bay Packers are also known as the Pack, the San Francisco 49ers are known as the Niners, the Golden State Warriors as Dubs, and so on.
That said, we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us, so let’s roll up our sleeves and get right to it.
1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
2. Montana Grizzlies
3. Southern Utah Thunderbirds
4. Idaho Vandals — Props to Idaho for taking a unique spin on a common concept. Give me Vandals over Pirates or Raiders any day.
5. Sacramento State Hornets
6. Portland State Vikings
7. North Dakota Fighting Hawks — We’ve been over this one previously. Fighting Hawks isn’t bad, but it could have been so, so much better.
8. Montana State Bobcats
9. Idaho State Bengals — Idaho State wins points for the same reason as its in-state rival.
10. Cal Poly Mustangs
11. UC Davis Aggies
12. Northern Colorado Bears
13. Eastern Washington Eagles
14. Weber State Wildcats
1. Presbyterian Blue Hose — If you’re wondering what the heck a Hose is… it’s a sock. If the people that named Boston’s baseball team were around to watch Presbyterian’s early teams, they’d be the Blue Sox.
2. Campbell Camels
3. Charleston Southern Buccaneers
4. Kennesaw State Owls
5. Monmouth Hawks
6. Hampton Pirates — Hampton won’t officially join the Big South until 2019, but we’ll throw them in here anyway.
7. Gardner-Webb Bulldogs
8. North Alabama Lions — North Alabama also won’t join officially until 2019.
1. Albany Great Danes
2. Delaware Blue Hens — Delaware is the only Division I school to choose an explicitly female animal or occupation as its sigil.
3. Stony Brook Seawolves
4. James Madison Dukes
5. Maine Black Bears
6. William & Mary Tribe
7. Rhode Island Rams
8. Richmond Spiders
9. Elon Phoenix
10. Towson Tigers
11(a). Villanova Wildcats
11(b). New Hampshire Wildcats
1. Penn Quakers — It doesn’t get any more original or unique than naming your state-named school after the group that founded your state.
2. Cornell Big Red — Obligatory.
3. Dartmouth Big Green — Also obligatory.
4. Harvard Crimson — The Ivy League took my “just name yourself after a color” advice to heart.
5. Yale Bulldogs — Yale earns points here for embracing a secondary nickname that is entirely unrelated to the official nickname. Yale teams may also be referred to as the Elis, a nod to Yale University namesake Elihu Yale.
6. Brown Bears — Brown is the bears, but brown is also a type of bear. Meta.
7. Columbia Lions
8. Princeton Tigers
1. Howard Bison
2. Florida A&M Rattlers
3. Norfolk State Spartans
4. Delaware State Hornets
5. Morgan State Bears
6. North Carolina A&T Aggies
7. South Carolina State Bulldogs
8. Savannah State Tigers
9. North Carolina Central Eagles
10. Bethune-Cookman Wildcats — This was the exact opposite of the Big Ten because everyone is so generic.
1. Western Illinois Leathernecks — Western Illinois is the only non-military school in America to use a military nickname. The Navy granted WIU permission to use the name because of then-AD, football, basketball and baseball coach Ray “Rock” Hanson’s exploits as a member of the Marine Corps.
2. South Dakota State Jackrabbits
3. Indiana State Sycamores
4. Southern Illinois Salukis — What is it about the Midwest that leads its colleges to picking such great nicknames?
5. Youngstown State Penguins
6. South Dakota Coyotes
7. North Dakota State Bison — Remember, it’s not Bison, it’s BiZon.
8. Illinois State Redbirds — Who knew that a cardinal’s literal description would make for a better nickname than simply being the Cardinals?
9. Missouri State Bears
10. Northern Iowa Panthers
1. Robert Morris Colonials — Robert Morris was originally an accounting school known as the Pittsburgh School of Accountancy, but changed its name to honor Morris, who is remembered as the “financier of the American revolution.”
2. St. Francis Red Flash
3. Duquesne Dukes
4. Wagner Seahawks
5. Sacred Heart Pioneers
6. Central Connecticut Blue Devils
7. Bryant Bulldogs
1. UT-Martin Skyhawks — UT-Martin was originally named the Sky Pilots, an early 20th century term for preachers in that day, but as the years passed the school drifted from religious imagery to more literal, especially after World War II. “Hawks” is simply an outstanding suffix for any nickname: Skyhawks, Blackhawks, RedHawks, Seahawks, Groundhawks.
2. Austin Peay Governors — Fans attending Austin Peay games are free to shout “Go Governors” or “Go Govs,” but they are forgiven for bypassing those in favor of a sophomoric but much more fun cheer: “Let’s go Peay.”
3. Murray State Racers
4. Eastern Kentucky Colonels
5. Jacksonville State Gamecocks
6. Southeast Missouri State Redhawks
7. Eastern Illinois Panthers
8. Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles
9. Tennessee State Tigers
1. Georgetown Hoyas — Georgetown uses a bulldog as its mascot, but “Hoya” comes from a Greek word that GU students chanted at athletic events, and that somehow stuck as the school’s nickname. Doesn’t get any more original than that.
2. Lehigh Mountain Hawks — Mountain Lions? No, Mountain Hawks.
3. Lafayette Leopards — With how many big cat nicknames there are out there, it’s surprising so few teams go with Leopards.
4. Holy Cross Crusaders
5. Bucknell Bison
6. Fordham Rams
7. Colgate Raiders
1. Marist Red Foxes — Obscure animal beats obscure occupation every time. You can definitely picture a former Eastern Bloc nation naming its soccer team the Red Foxes.
2. San Diego Toreros — A torero, to answer the question you were too afraid to ask, is a Spanish term for a bullfighter.
3. Stetson Hatters — No one else could pull off calling themselves the Hatters, and no one else would even try.
4. Dayton Flyers — Though the Wright brothers first took flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., they pioneered their career as airmen at their childhood home on 7 Hawthorn Street in Dayton.
5. Jacksonville Dolphins
6. Valparaiso Crusaders
7(a). Butler Bulldogs
7(b). Drake Bulldogs
9. Morehead State Eagles
10. Davidson Wildcats
1. Western Carolina Catamounts — A catamount is essentially your standard issue wild cat, except named for the type that roamed the Appalachian mountains in the western portion of North Carolina
2. Wofford Terriers — Wofford chose to become the Terriers after its baseball team adopted a pit bull terrier named Jack in 1909.
3. Chattanooga Mocs — Another school that moved away from Native American imagery in the late 20th century, UTC moved to embrace Chattanooga’s history as a railroad town, but Mocs is actually a shortening of Mockingbird, Tennessee’s state bird.
4. VMI Keydets
5. Furman Paladins — A Paladin is kind of, sort of the French version of a knight.
6. East Tennessee Buccaneers
7. Mercer Bears
8(a). The Citadel Bulldogs
8(b). Samford Bulldogs
1. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
2. Northwestern State Demons — Plenty of teams call themselves the Devils and DePaul is the Blue Demons, but there’s something so… demonic about simply calling yourselves the Demons.
3. Nicholls Colonels
4. Sam Houston State Bearkats
5. Central Arkansas Bears
6. McNeese Cowboys
7. Houston Baptist Huskies
8. Southeastern Louisiana Lions
9. Abilene Christian Wildcats
10(a). Lamar Cardinals
10(b). Incarnate Word Cardinals
1. Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils
2. Alcorn State Braves
3. Southern Jaguars
4. Alabama State Hornets
5. Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions
6. Alabama A&M Bulldogs
7. Prairie View Panthers
8(a). Grambling Tigers
8(b). Texas Southern Tigers
8(c). Jackson State Tigers
And now, the overall top 10: