College mascots represent school pride on gamedays but sometimes deliver unexpected surprises. What are the most bizarre and unconventional mascots adopted by colleges and universities? This guide explores the origins and legends behind the weirdest college mascots ranging from animals to anthropomorphic produce and beyond.
Banana Slugs – UC Santa Cruz
The slimy bright yellow banana slug serves as the official mascot for UC Santa Cruz:
- Endemic to the campus’s redwood forest ecosystem. Students voted it the school mascot in 1981 after local ubiquity.
- Fits the quirky progressive personality of Santa Cruz students and faculty.
- Slow, gooey, herbivorous nature contrasts with typical ferocious sports mascots.
- Sammy the Slug carries on official mascot duties of motivating teams and fans with antennas held high.
The bizarre nature of cheering for slippery banana slugs only heightens the pride.
Artichokes – Scottsdale CC
The Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes in Arizona selected their mascot via student election in the 1970s:
- Arizona is a top producer of artichokes in the United States. The community has strong artichoke agricultural roots.
- Students voted the Artichokes in over other nominations like the Rutabagas and Scoundrels.
- The mascot leans into the school’s butt of jokes underdog mentality to motivate athletes.
- Costumed mascot Artie the ‘Choke playfully taunts opposing fans between trotting the sidelines.
Lean, mean, and green, Artichokes stand out as one of a kind.
Fighting Okra – Delta State University
Delta State in Mississippi maintains an unlikely mascot:
- Okra thrives in the crops of the university’s surrounding agricultural region.
- After fans donned okra costumes as a joke during a 1985 baseball playoff run, it stuck.
- Teams now take the field led by Chomper the Fighting Okra, a fierce half-man, half-okra creature.
- The mascot’s giant okra head contains an eerie toothy grin visible through mouth cutouts.
Okra is just another Delta State vegetable turning competitors into garden variety chumps.
Stormy Petrels – Oglethorpe University
This small Atlanta liberal arts college boasts a unique mascot:
- Petrels are typically grey and white seabirds species living around Antarctica. Known for weathering intense storms.
- Ties into Oglethorpe’s Stormy Petrels mascot selected when the college opened in 1913.
- Legend says James Oglethorpe, the school’s founder, was inspired by petrels courageously landing on ships as storms raged during his voyages.
- Today “Stuart” the stylized Stormy Petrel flaps wings triumphantly to rally players and fans.
Neither foul weather nor opponents can ground Stormy Petrel pride.
The Fighting Pickles – North Carolina School of the Arts
Among the most absurd mascots, this arts college chose the pickle:
- According to lore, the origins trace to an ice hockey fundraiser selling pickles for 50 cents in the 1970s.
- Somehow the ironic novelty led students to later vote it the school mascot.
- Fans now wear green caps with dangling pickle ornaments and chant “Go Pickles!”
- The growling costumed mascot carries a giant wooden pickle “sword” into athletic battle.
With creativity like that, everything’s coming up gherkins.
Scottsdale CC Fighting Artichokes – Scottsdale Community College
See above entry for the full story on how this Arizona junior college came to embrace the vibrant fighting artichoke as their sports mascot.
Shoremen – Washington College
This small Maryland college uses the unique Shoremen mascot:
- Refers to “watermen” who sailed the Chesapeake Bay waters working in maritime trades.
- Salutes the regional history of fishermen, shipbuilders, crabbers, and oystermen.
- Previous mascot Captain officially replaced by the abstract Shoreman in 1993.
- No costumed mascot or imagery exists. The Shoremen name alone represents competitive spirit.
Saluting the school’s coastal roots, Shoremen capture regional sailing heritage.
The Nads – Embryo-Riddle Aeronautical University
This engineering-focused Florida university deployed a slightly risqué mascot:
- Short for “North Adams State” where the mascot originated – not male anatomy!
- After the Massachusetts college closed in 2020, Embry-Riddle adopted the tongue-in-cheek masco
- Previous mascots like Skyhawks and Eagles proved uninspiring to students. The Nads stirred passions.
- Logo features a Roman warrior with arms crossed wearing a laurel leaf crown.
With a rallying cry of “Go Nads”, their game is anything but soft.
The Poets – Whittier College
Whittier College in California employs an unconventional mascot:
- Mascot honors the college’s strong English, literature and law education traditions.
- Named for iconic poets like John Greenleaf Whittier who inspired the college’s 19th century founding.
- Costumed mascot dressed as a quill pen personifies the scholarly Poet ideals.
- More physique than physique, The Poets muscled their way atop bizarre mascot rankings for their mental acuity.
With wit sharper than any sword, The Poets turn clever rhymes into winning times.
Horned Frogs – Texas Christian University
The fierce horned frog represents this private Texas institution:
- Based on the Texas Horned Lizard indigenous reptile that shoots blood from its eyes as a defense.
- First became the school mascot in 1896 when football coach saw them around campus.
- Now embodied by mascot SuperFrog – a giant muscular amphibian wearing a cape.
- One of the most beloved and established alternative mascots, featured on merchandise and uniforms.
Channeling SuperFrog’s powers allows TCU fans to stare down any challenge.
Keggy the Keg – Dartmouth College
This Ivy League school maintains an unlikely mascot:
- Keggy emerges as a parody of typical mascots to represent Dartmouth’s healthy party culture
- An anthropomorphic beer keg initially drawn for the campus humor magazine in 2003.
- Keggy wildly cheers teams and heckles rivals while bouncing around the arena.
- The unsanctioned student mascot has been embraced but not officially adopted by the college administration.
Keggy brings fandom barreling at maximum proof. Bottoms up!
Weird College Mascot FAQs
Which colleges have food mascots?
Fruit and vegetable mascots include Scottsdale Fighting Artichokes and Delta State Fighting Okra. Only Dartmouth’s Keggy unofficially represents beverages.
Do any Division I universities use strange mascots?
Yes – UCSB Gauchos, UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, and Evergreen State Geoducks are all quite unconventional. But they fit the schools’ cultures.
What was Coastal Carolina’s original mascot before becoming the Chanticleers?
Coastal Carolina used to be the Trojans. But the controversy over the name forced them to get creative choosing the Chanticleer rooster.
Which mascots are considered the most bizarre by fans?
The Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes tops many rankings for weirdest mascot. The albino squirrel at Mary Baldwin University also elicits chuckles.
Do odd mascots hurt a school’s ability to build sports traditions?
Not necessarily – schools like UC Santa Cruz have parlayed quirky banana slugs into increased recognition and merchandising opportunities thanks to the unique branding.
How often do colleges change or update their mascots?
Mascot changes happen every few years usually when controversial names get retired. But most last decades before schools consider altering such integral traditions.
Have any other colleges considered using food mascots?
Yes – MTV’s University of Florida parody featured Mayor McCheese as a fast food mascot. Some colleges reportedly considered Potatoes or Rutabagas at points before selecting more conventional options.
Laughing with (and at) their school’s peculiar mascots builds lasting connections for students. These eccentric choices showcase higher education’s collective spirit, creativity and refusal to take itself too seriously while fostering indelible institutional pride.