Skip to content

How each of the Final Four teams got their nickname


This is it, what the whole shebang is named for, we're at the final four portion of the 2014 NCAA Final Four tournament.

The regional champions Kentucky Wildcats, Florida Gators, Wisconsin Badgers, and UConn Huskies are all that remain from the original field of 68 schools. All four of these schools utilize animals as their official team nickname, not uncommon for NCAA schools, but how did these schools choose these particular names?

Behold, the origins of the Final Four team mascots and color schemes.

Florida Gators

It was late 1907 and Phillip Miller, the owner of a drug/stationary shop which was popular meeting point for University of Florida students, got an idea. He'll start selling pennants and banners for the local university to those students. When he contacted the company responsible for the manufacturing of such items it was discovered the University of Florida both had no emblem nor an athletic nickname.

Miller reached out to his son Austin, a student at the University of Virginia, for assistance. Austin suggested the name "Alligators" as it was both native to the State of Florida while also being a very unique nickname amongst college teams. Austin leafed through the University of Virginia library until he found a suitable photograph of an alligator to use on pennants. The emblem were first sold on team pennants at the Miller's shop in 1908 and the college officially adopted it as it's mascot in 1911. The blue and orange color scheme was a combination of two nearby schools, the blue from Florida Agricultural College and the orange from East Florida Seminary.

Also noteworthy, in the mid 1960s a group of researchers at the university came up with a new drink created to better handle dehydration in athletes and subsequently tested it on the school's football team. The drink really aided the Gators, and thus "Gatorade" was born. Ta da.

Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky's official colors of blue and white were adopted before their Wildcats nickname, it was 1892 when at a meeting Uof K football player Richard Stoll held up his blue necktie and suggested they use that shade for the official school color. Initially the colors were blue, light yellow, and white but the yellow was dropped for aesthetic reasons in 1893.

Sixteen years later, still without an official team name in 1909, Commandant Philip Carbusier - head of the military department at State University, told a group of students after a 6-2 Kentucky football win over Illinois that the team "fought like wildcats out there!" From that one statement the association of the team and wildcats became really popular with Kentucky students as well as the local media and the school eventually adopted Wildcats as their official team name.

Wisconsin Badgers

The State of Wisconsin was commonly dubbed the "Badger State", but it had nothing to do with the animal. "Badgers" were a popular nickname for lead miners, which the state was known for during the early part of the 19th century. The nickname was due to the miners need to live like badgers, tunnelling into the hillsides during the cold winter months.

With such a strong association already formed between Wisconsin and the badger nickname it was natural for the University of Wisconsin to adopt "Badgers" as their official mascot, which they did in 1889. For several decades a live badger was kept in a cage on the sidelines at football games until it started to escape, repeatedly. One such incident forced the stoppage of a game for several minutes until a member of the sideline crew tackled the animal. In the late 1940s it was decided to stop endangering the lives of everyone who attended or played football at Wisconsin and the badger was donated to a local zoo.

In 1946 a logo showing a badger standing upright wearing a sweater was designed by Bill Shafer, the mascot had several names in the subsequent years... Benny, Buddy, Bouncey, Regdab, before the school made Buckingham official in 1949, students shortened it to "Bucky" and he's had that name ever since.

UConn Huskies

The Connecticut Huskies didn't get their name until 1934, shortly after the school had changed their name from Connecticut Agricultural College to Connecticut State College. Under their previous name the school teams had been known as the "Aggies".

When the editor of the student newspaper pointed out that their rivals at the University of Rhode Island had a mascot (the Rams) but they did not it was decided a name would be adopted. "Huskies" was chosen shortly after due to the "frigid hills" of the Connecticut campus. 

Connecticut's husky mascot is named Jonathan, after 18th-century Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull.

While we're here, let's update the tournament jersey stats from last week...

It's no surprise that as the skill level of the lower seeds improves, the occurrence of the higher seed (or the team in the light jersey) losing increases. In the two rounds played since our last post, the team in white were 4-6, winning only 40% of the games, a far cry from the 31-13 record they put up over their first 44 matches. The final yellow team remaining was eliminated as the color suffered it's first defeat when Michigan lost to Kentucky, yellow finishes the tournament with an impressive mark of 5 wins, 1 loss.

On the dark side, blue was the star in the Round of 16 and Elite 8, going 4-1 after a terrible 3-10 start. Red was the king of the upset early on with lower seeded teams in red winning over 50% of the time (5-4), that pace continued with Dayton and Wisconsin combining to go 2-1 whilst clad in crimson.

For the Final Four round we'll see two in blue taking on two in white. The ideal championship game matchup (from a color win-loss record point of view) would be Florida (white, 35-16) vs. Wisconsin (red, 7-5).

Chris Creamer is the creator and editor of You can follow him on twitter at @sportslogosnet.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox