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Rules for Naming Your Team

Less Wildcats. More Hoyas. And Absolutely No Red Storms.

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In one of the biggest college basketball upsets in recent memory, tiny Gardner Webb beat mighty Kentucky.

The team names in that game were the farthest thing from a surprise.

Gardner Webb's team mascot is, predictably, the Bulldog. Just like 38 other college teams. 'Course, I shouldn't make fun... Kentucky is one of 25 "Wildcats".

C'mon folks -- a little creativity, please.

Perhaps this is an extension of the NCAA's ongoing crusade against offensive team nicknames. At some point in the next 5-10 years, they'll probably just divide up all the teams and let 'em choose... I can hear the conversation now.

"OK, Mr. University President... here's the deal. Your team name/mascot is deeply offensive to certain Native American people, animal lovers, a variety of household plants, and this hermit crab. His name is Steve. We won't force you to change it, but we'll forbid you from hosting any postseason events unless you guys start calling yourselves "Dancing with the Stars."

Because, dammit, everyone just loves that Dancing with the Stars."

If I was running the NCAA, every college team would have a nickname that references some obscure local tradition, historical figure or industry. No more Wildcats, Bulldogs, Tigers or Eagles...

More Tar Heels, Hoyas, Hilltoppers, Jaspers and Lord Jeffs.

To eliminate any confusion, I've come up with a few helpful guidelines for selecting team names.

Local/Regional

Encouraged: Names with specific local/regional significance. Colleges are already great for this... Tar Heels, Hoosiers, Sooners, Cornhuskers, Longhorns, Buckeyes, just off the top of my head. From the pro ranks, you've got Knickerbockers, Steelers, Pistons, Packers, Rockies. Good stuff.
Unacceptable: Names with specific local/regional significance... for a region other than where the team plays. Happens most often after a team moves -- Los Angeles Lakers. Utah Jazz. Los Angeles Dodgers.
Corollary to the "Local/Regional" rule: When a team moves, the name should stay with the city. The Browns moved to Cleveland and became the Ravens. The new team in Cleveland became the Browns. When the Senators moved away from DC, they became the Minnesota Twins... and the Texas Rangers. By this logic, the Timberwolves should be known as the Lakers, the Hornets should be the Jazz, and the Texans should be called the Oilers. Kobe Bryant's team can be the "Plastic Surgeons" or some such.

Animal Nicknames

Encouraged: Again, animal nicknames with some sort of logical connection to the city/region where the team plays. Florida Gators, Wisconsin Badgers, Florida Panthers, Baltimore Orioles.
Acceptable: Teams named for animals that just look/sound cool. Here's where you find all your Tigers, Wildcats, Lions, Bears, Eagles, Cardinals, etc. Extra points for adding a descriptor to make the name sound unique... i.e., "Nittany Lions."
Unacceptable: Made-up animals. This is one you'll see pretty regularly with Minor League Baseball teams... I recently attended a game featuring the Tri-City Valley Cats. What in heaven's name is a Valley Cat? Is the animal kingdom really so limited that they couldn't find an acceptable mascot anywhere therein?

Place Names

Acceptable: Teams named after the city/area where the team plays. New York Islanders. (Please note... team name good, angry Gorton's Fisherman logo BAD.)
Unacceptable: Teams named for cities/areas that do not actually exist, are cutesy nicknames for the city/area where the team plays, or attempt to align the team with another, larger area. For example: Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Devil Rays (thank you Gregg Easterbrook), Golden State Warriors (attention Chris Cohan... your team plays in Oakland), Anaheim/California/Los Angeles Angels, the aforementioned "Tri-City" Valley Cats (who play outside Albany, New York) and the "Hardware City Rock Cats" (who play in New Britain, CT).

Corollary to the "Place Names" rule: The team does not need to play within the geographic boundaries of the city for which it is named, so long as its home stadium is within a reasonable distance. As such, "New York Jets/Giants" and "Detroit Pistons" are acceptable, even though those teams play home games in East Rutherford, New Jersey and Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Purely Descriptive Names

Acceptable: This is a concept mostly seen with very old franchises, named after their own uniforms -- Red Sox, White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Harvard Crimson.
Unacceptable: Bastardized versions of descriptive names -- usually created to replace far more traditional and historic names that have been deemed "offensive" by the powers-that-be. Best example is the St. John's University "Red Storm" (Redmen wasn't a Native American reference, it was based on their uniform color. Once the Big Chief mascot was eliminated, there shouldn't have been any need to change the team name).
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