March Madness Mascot Rankings
March Madness is more than brackets, upsets and Cinderella tales. It's about mascots, the proud, the beautiful and the downright awkward.
Beyond the buzzer-beaters and just past the team of cheerleaders lay a world of mascots just itching to remind fans when it's appropriate to cheer.
Let's doff our caps the Internet way with a breakdown of the 68 crazy characters representing each team in the NCAA tournament. (We hope you like alliterative naming schemes and wildcats.)
Of course, such endeavors like ranking fictional characters is bound to cause the normal kind of outrage you can expect, so feel free to completely annihilate my thoughts in the comments section below.
These are mascots after all, and they mean everything.
For these we are grading on a few things, but most importantly the look and feel of the mascot. Tradition is important, which you will see in time. But we really like nods to originality, style and mascots that don't look creepy.
So to recap:
- Looks: Life is all about looks. I am sure some of these mascots have amazing personalities, but those that tumbled from the ugly tree will fall in the rankings.
- Originality: If you adore wildcats, cats that aren't wild and dogs, boy are you in luck! The only caveat to this is having your mascot as a tree, because that's dumb.
- Style: This might be the most important, and it really separates some of the similar mascots.
- Tradition and Popularity: Some of the more iconic get a bump because when it comes to mascots, we are bandwagon fans.
68. Harvard (John Harvard)
67. Manhattan Jaspers
The Manhattan Jaspers are another team devoid of a cartoonish character for their mascot, instead choosing to stick by their namesake in name alone, refusing to dress up a dog or some other animal and call it Jelly the Jasper Hound.
For the curious or just plain nosy among you, the school's website dishes an assist with the name's origins:
The unique nickname of the Manhattan College athletic teams, the Jaspers, comes from one of the College's most memorable figures, Brother Jasper of Mary, FSC, who served at the College in the late 19th century.
The article also notes that Brother Jasper was the school's first baseball coach. There. Now you can sound a little more intelligent when you toss your busted bracket later in the weekend.
66. Wichita State Shockers (WuShock)
You know that piece of corn that gets stuck in your teeth when eating a really juicy corn on the cob? Well, Wichita State apparently decided to craft its mascot after it.
We know—WuShock is supposed to be a bundle of wheat. We were just unaware that bundles of wheat could manage so many years with a face that screams this character is suffering from some sort of horrible allergic reaction.
Someone please get him some Benadryl and a back room—hopefully somewhere dark.
65. Stanford Cardinal (It's Just a Weird Tree)
If you weren't aware, Stanford is the epicenter of nerd culture and wacky sports mascots, and it is going to force feed you that sentiment like a goose getting the foie gras treatment.
At some point we really have to ask whether it's still humane to run The Tree out there every game when it's in obvious pain.
The entire costume looks like it was made by a crack team of six-year-olds on an arts and crafts bender. And, as we know, six-year-olds are horrible at making anything.
64. Michigan Wolverines (None)
As we all know, Michigan doesn't have a mascot, something it is very proud of. Yes, we are going to say no mascot is better than some mascots, because Michigan could have a manic tree running around the court.
Nobody wins in that scenario.
63. North Carolina Central Eagles
Not much is known about the Eagles mascot other than it appeared in the saddest mascot battle in the history of the universe.
Don't bother to fact check that.
If the Eagles mascot were any more plain it would be a Bill Pullman rom-com.
62. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
The Lumberjack is here to drink Molsons and steal your girl, and he is all out of Molsons.
We applaud the program for successfully mixing some sort of a Thunder From Down Under Las Vegas show and MacGruber, but we are going to leave before things really get weird.
61. Providence Friars
Thanks, Padre. Now I will have terrible nightmares for the entirety of March because of you. The Friar is essentially what Jim Henson would have thought up if he ever wanted to do a mashup movie of The Dark Crystal and The Exorcist.
Providence's father looks to be forever locked in the middle of some ominous warning, as if making the tournament were a bad thing.
We just feel awful that the Friar here couldn't find the time to grow out any facial hair.
60. New Mexico State Aggies (Pistol Pete)
If you are looking to create a nifty mascot, just head over to the discount Halloween store during October and pick up the cheapest cowboy outfit.
59. Virginia Cavaliers
We understand Virginia wanted to make a cavalier gentleman to invoke some school spirit, but it just managed to produce the lamest looking superhero in the universe.
It's the kind of character that gets left behind at Justice League headquarters to make coffee and collate all the paperwork produced by nefarious super villains.
58. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Captain Cane)
This is the guy the Justice League leaves behind to answer phones and watch that creepy new guy with the goatee and cavalier costume.
57. Weber State Wildcats (Waldo)
Someone should have stopped looking for Waldo.
You know that mangy cat that shows up on your street from time to time, looking for scraps and hiding under cars?
Weber State saved it and made the thing its mascot.
56. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (Chauncey)
First off, don't embarrass yourself by pronouncing the school's mascot incorrectly. As its website states, "The proper pronunciation is SHON-ti-clear," which we presume is only uttered while sipping on tea with your pinkie out.
As to what the heck this blue bird actually is, we yield to the website's description:
Chanticleer comes from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. More specifically, he comes from the Nun's Priest Tale, a story within Canterbury Tales. The Chanticleer is a proud and fierce rooster who dominates the barnyard.
The only thing more awesome than using Chaucer for your mascot's origins might be using anything Frank Miller could come up with.
55. Kansas State Wildcat (Willie the Wildcat)
We are guessing poor Willie was a student who agreed to genetic experiments that went horribly awry, resulting in a half-man, half-wildcat hybrid that has the undying need to lead students in cheerful jubilation.
Sadly, we can only give half the points when you are missing half the costume.
54. Albany Great Danes
The Great Dane will not stand for any of your guff. In fact, guff to him is on par with being walked on a leash and having to figure out who is pointing that damn laser pointer.
We rather enjoy the look of this mascot; it just seems like the most serious fictional dog ever imagined—as if tax season to him is what Mardi Gras is to us.
53. Cal Poly Mustangs (Musty)
Musty is a mustang, which greatly diminishes his ability to land a gig in this tough job market. Fortunately, he does a fine job for a program that just so happens to wear the Mustang moniker proudly.
Although, someone should inform Musty that his name and his propensity to go shirtless is wearing thin on the coeds.
52. Texas Southern Tigers
For those who are into mascots, tigers, dancing or mascot tigers dancing, feel free to enjoy the YouTube link that depicts Texas Southern's felines getting down with their bad selves.
We wish we could rank them higher, but there are about as many cats on this list as drunk kids at Chico State, so these costumes just aren't going to cut it.
51. George Washington Colonials (George)
Take Mrs. Doubtfire and give her a snazzy hat and you have George, the aptly named mascot of the George Washington Colonials.
We like George; we really do.
However, his suggestive look has us thinking he wants us to either join his merry band of military gentlemen or join them for a drink at the hotel bar. We would rather just watch the game if it's all the same.
50. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Pistol Pete)
There is a reason marionettes aren't as popular as they once were: They are extremely creepy. There is also a reason it's inadvisable to craft a life-sized doll: It would end up looking like Pistol Pete.
Little-known fact: Pete here is actually 25, but years of tobacco use and the NIT have left him ragged and just a bit grumpy.
49. UCLA Bruins (Joe)
Joe Bruin is what you might call a safe mascot. There isn't anything wacky or polarizing about his outfit, and if you look for more than a few seconds you start to nod off.
OK, let's just say he makes Tim Duncan look like Dennis Rodman.
48. Pittsburgh Panthers (Roc the Panther)
Lost amid mountains of bracket research, we failed to realize that a domesticated panther could become so adorable.
Science really is amazing.
47. NC State Wolfpack
The Wolfpack's costumed mascot falls flat in my book, which is a book I am sure will be torn asunder by many of you.
Their live mascot, however, is an awesome Tamaskan named Tuffy. Sadly, Tuffy lacks the bipedal locomotion necessary to hold down a job as a mascot.
46. Tennessee Volunteers (Smokey)
Smokey has the droopy face, dead eyes and floppy ears you would imagine from someone or something named Smokey, so Tennessee knocked this one right out the park.
45. Mercer Bears 'Toby the Bear'
While listing off a bunch of fictional animals, I might as well explain that I am a big dumb animal myself, so things like mascots riding on motorcycles rank fairly highly with me.
It's right up there with long walks on the beach, chili dogs and walking while eating chili dogs (beach optional in this scenario).
44. Mt. Saint Mary's Mountaineers (Emmit)
Emmit S. Burg's hobbies include, "Camping, Hiking, Service Trips and Supporting Mount Athletics." That's, of course, via the school's website.
It did fail to mention his enjoyment of shotgunning Red Bulls before hitting up Denny's late night for "piles of pancakes."
This is a mascot built to party.
43. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (Cayenne)
Like your buddy who won't shut up about Boy Meets World, Cayenne is clutching to every last ounce of the 1990s, and you will have to rip it out of his cold dead pink hands if you want him to let the decade go. He's the Vanilla Ice of sports mascots.
In a world of cats, wildcats, dogs and racially insensitive mascots, we rather admire a school saying to hell with it and adopting food for its beloved character.
We would like to start our own school and dub its mascot Bob the Very Delicious Burrito.
42. New Mexico Lobos (Lobo Louie)
Lobo Louie is precisely what every last one of us looks like three days into a Las Vegas vacation.
The eyes are wild with far too many hours spent in extrasensory overload. The tongue is now trying to leave the body from an overexposure to discount steak and egg breakfast meals. And the hair is as unkempt as you can expect when ditching personal grooming for an inordinate amount of time.
Lobo Louie: He's seen some things.
41. Saint Louis Billikens
If you want to know with certainty what a Billiken is, good luck. The school's website has a rather intriguing history of the mascot, which details the Billiken as a novelty before it became a treasured item tied to the school's sports program.
The uniting of SLU and the Billiken seems to have happened sometime between 1910 and 1911 at the height of Billikenmania.
Each story of the Billiken connection with Saint Louis University stems from SLU law student and football coach John Bender and his remarkable likeness to the image of the Billiken.
A century later, we simply have to thank the awkward-looking Bender for looking like a troll doll, because it has broken the monotony of dog and cat mascots.
Cheers, ol' buddy.
40. Western Michigan Broncos (Buster Bronco)
Buster Bronco has either been studying for two weeks or is on the tail end of a collegiate bender. Either way, he looks exhausted.
Someone get this guy some coffee and Visine for those bloodshot eyes.
39. Arizona Wildcats (Wilbur and Wilma)
Wilbur and Wilma are the Wildcats, proving once again that there is nothing on this earth more wild than monogamy.
These two must wait all week, going to bed at a sensible hour, waking up early to make the kids their lunch, so that they can really let loose on the weekend, checking out that new sushi restaurant before going to see that Bradley Cooper movie they heard so much about.
As always, if there's time they may hit up Bed Bath & Beyond.
38. Colorado Buffaloes (Chip)
This is as middle of the road as it gets from an adorable perspective. If such a thing exists. Actually, it has to, because Jonathan Lipnicki hit that mark years ago.
However, Colorado's live mascot Ralphie may very well be the best live mascot in sports.
37. UConn Huskies (Jonathan the Husky)
The UConn Husky looks exactly like that plush doll you might win at a carnival. Little-known fact: Nobody actually wants to win that thing.
36. Oklahoma Sooners (Boomer and Sooner)
The Oklahoma Sooners are the first to actually produce a mascot that is on the right side of creativity. Then again, we may just be happy that they managed to capture Blake Griffin's face if he were a cartoon horse.
35. Dayton Flyers (Rudy Flyer)
Get it? The Dayton Flyers fly, so their mascot is Rudy Flyer, whom we imagine is also keen on flying.
Ugh, it's best to just move on because creating a mascot takes as much imagination as Michael Bay deciding which project to work on next.
34. Kansas Jayhawks (Big, Baby and Centennial Jay)
The Kansas Jayhawks have the pleasure of owning a Pez dispenser as their mascot, which is great because we absolutely love that stuff.
Unfortunately, like ChapStick, nobody has ever finished Pez without losing it first.
33. VCU Rams (Rodney the Ram)
Now this is how you create a ram. The costume fits well. There isn't a disproportionate head to make fun of. The face is actually menacing without looking like a constipated Goofy.
In fact, this guy here is, well, boring. So we place Rodney here.
32. Memphis Tigers (Pouncer)
This is Pouncer, the Tigers mascot who got its name by pouncing, we assume. This is far different than his close cousin Tigger who tiggles.
31. American University Eagles (Clawed)
American University's colors are red, white and blue, and it has an eagle named Clawed as its mascot. We imagine Clawed is also into getting thirds at buffets, driving in an SUV and stock car.
We can hang with Clawed.
30. Milwaukee Panthers (Pounce)
Pounce, a popular name for mascots, is kind of creepy. The furry animal just can't abide by the first rule of videobombing, which is not to get noticed.
However, we have to give him some points for being an actually engaging and festive mascot—albeit one not gifted the ability to speak.
29. Wofford Terriers (Boss)
Boss is the Guy Fieri of mascots, wearing far too many accessories than is necessary for his craft. We imagine his other costume features another headband, wristbands and a huge watch with chrome all over it.
Maybe Boss should consider bleaching his hair too.
28. Iowa State Cyclones (Cy the Cardinal)
Cy has a very Spy vs. Spy thing going on, which we dig. Also, we give brownie points for understanding that Cyclones would make for a horrible costume, deciding instead to go with something else entirely.
Even more points for not making that a tree. Ahem, Stanford.
27. Creighton Bluejays (Billy the Bluejay)
26. Villanova Wildcats (Will D. Cat)
Will D. Cat is what happens to poor mascots when they decide Breaking Bad seems like a good idea and dive into that unseemly world.
He is also, and we can't be sure, what MC Skat Kat became in later years.
25. Baylor Bears (Bruiser)
Bruiser is the sensible party type—a bear that knows there is a time to party and a time to study. In between those times there is a moment to brush and coddle his remaining teeth.
24. Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens (YoUDee)
Everybody loves YoUDee. YoUDee knows all the cool bars and where you can get a yummy late-night meal on the cheap.
If you are looking for notes for that awful Sociology class, YoUDee is your chicken. Just don't ever challenge YoUDee to a dance off, because you will be served, and you will be served hard.
23. North Dakota State Bison (Thunder)
Nobody tell Thunder he goes to North Dakota State, because Thunder looks to be having a swell time and it may just break his heart.
22. Louisville Cardinals
The familiar Louisville Cardinal is either disgruntled about the program's seeding heading into the tournament or just found out you decided to wear the same red outfit.
He hates that.
21. San Diego State Aztecs (Aztec Warrior)
Great. Now I have to go home and change my loin cloth. How the hell did I know someone else would be wearing a similar one?
Let's just be glad the school's mascot wasn't the Diaper Dandy, because this could be even more revealing.
20. Cincinnati Bearcats (the Bearcat)
Let's just say what's on everybody's mind: The Bearcat dyes his eyebrows, which is nearly as creepy as Scott Spiezio dying his soul patch.
Whatever, the women love it.
19. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Spike the Bulldog)
Ah yes, the best way to make a mascot terrifying and menacing is to give it a horrible underbite.
18. BYU Cougars (Cosmo the Cougar)
It's tough leading a life with a name like Cosmo. Some might even choose to go with their last name for fear of being scorned by friends.
This Cosmo, well, life is a breeze for him.
17. Massachusetts Minutemen (Sam the Minuteman)
Dude looks like a lady. No, seriously.
The Massachusetts Daily Collegian reports, "Emily Goonan, a freshman sustainable food and farming major, is currently taking on the role of Sam."
Sam is that much cooler now. Rock on, Emily.
16. Xavier Musketeers (D'Artagnan the Musketeer)
There is very little not to like about the iconic D'Artagnan, who has it all when it comes to mascots that are also musketeers, which is kind of limiting in the grand scheme of things.
He has the facial hair, sweet hat and awesome gloves. We just wish someone would give him back his sword.
15. Eastern Kentucky Colonels (The Colonel)
In my book there is only one colonel and he goes by the name Sanders and has a mighty delicious recipe for fried chicken.
Eastern Kentucky's Colonel seems more like the weird uncle who has no clue that he is far too old to be dropping party drugs and drinking with his nephew's college buddies.
The guy is a regular at last call, and his liver is now more of a hardened Jack Daniels bottle than anything else. The Colonel is a party animal. Nay, a party legend.
14. Syracuse Orange (Otto the Orange)
It's an orange, people.
Let's go ahead and say Syracuse managed to work some sort of dark magic by making something as forgettable as an orange and turning it into a recognizable figure.
Now if it can rhyme it's name that would really be something.
13. Arizona State Sun Devils (Sparky)
Never agree to any contract with Sparky. In fact, it's best to just ignore anything Sparky has to say altogether.
As diabolical as he might be, the Sun Devil is one of the coolest looking mascots in the sport.
12. Kentucky Wildcats (The Wildcat)
The Wildcat is one of roughly a million wildcats comprising the collegiate landscape. We have seen the svelte, the mangy and some that are just plain boring.
This cat is how you do wild well.
11. Iowa Hawkeyes (Herky the Hawk)
Hey, everybody! It's Frankie Carbone from Goodfellas.
Armed with eyebrows that would make Anthony Davis blush, Herky the Hawk is a mean bird with a passion for basketball.
Seeing his face just reminds us of the frustration of bracket season, and that is comforting somehow.
10. Ohio State Buckeyes (Brutus Buckeye)
For having such a plain face, there is hardly a more polarizing mascot in sports. We like to err on the side of familiarity and fan appeal.
Brutus is as iconic as they come.
9. Texas Longhorns (Hook 'Em)
Let's give some credit to one hot outfit.
Retro Brand spent some time with Hook 'Em and found out some interesting tidbits, including the following:
The suits can get incredibly hot, upwards of 120 degrees during football season. If you want to get specific, we have 4 suits and two styles of suits, two of each style. One is more high-tech, and is made with mesh lining and is a more fitted design. This gives us much more freedom of movement and makes us more dynamic, but unfortunately this suit is noticeably hotter and is a little harder to see out of.
It seems far easier just to be one of the star athletes instead.
8. North Carolina Tar Heels (Rameses)
Let's sing something to Rameses!
We just want to start a mild war for you North Carolina fans that will now click with the ferocity of Michael Jordan driving to the basket to see where the Blue Devil lands.
7. Wisconsin Badgers (Bucky)
People absolutely love Bucky and consider him one of the best mascots in sports. However, we just couldn't put him any higher, because his beady eyes creep us out.
However, he can Bucky like nobody's business.
6. Nebraska Cornhuskers (Herbie Husker and Lil' Red)
If being adorable were food, Herbie Husker and Lil' Red would be a 72-ounce steak at a local Nebraska steakhouse.
In fact, Dennis Rodman should just take these two with him to North Korea next time. Perhaps we'd get things done.
5. Florida Gators (Albert Gator)
People aren't born legends. They are made with fabric and sown together with imagination. They also look like Barney the Dinosaur as a freshman.
4. Duke Blue Devils
It's as if Christian Laettner is going in for a fist bump. At first you recoil in horror but remember 6'11" men who once played for Duke are human beings too.
So you give knuckle kisses and move on without breathing a word.
3. Oregon Ducks (Puddles)
2. Michigan State Spartans (Sparty)
Rumor has it they wanted Sparty for the movie 300, but his abs were too ripped and he was far too busy being generally awesome.
1. St. Joseph's Hawks
Yes, we chose to place the ugliest thing in the world at No. 1, but with good reason.
Hawk, as many of you know, is always moving, always flapping, which is beyond commendable when you consider just getting up to get a beer during the game can be exhausting. And Hawk has serious style.
Also, this proves that looks aren't everything, and there is something very important about that lesson.