By Jack Fitzpatrick
Mascots are an integral part of every sporting event no matter where you are, the constant is looking to the sideline and seeing a mascot putting on a show. The CAA is no exception, except for the fact that they’ve had some, let’s say, interesting mascots, grace the sidelines. From the Spider from Richmond that can keep you up at night or the loveable Duke Dog there is a little bit of everything.
The CAA is rich in history both on the hardwood and the football field. However I don’t care about what has happened between the lines, what I want to dig deeper on is what has happened just a few feet away from those lines. The best, the worst and quite possibly the weirdest mascots to see the light of day in the CAA.
CAA Mascot superlatives
Cutest couple- Hofstra
Kate and Willie Pride are the only mascot tandem in the CAA which brings them this honor.
The lion couple has not been a mainstay on the Hofstra sideline. They came to Long Island in the ’80s and were part of probably one of the most interesting pairings in all of mascot history. During the ’80s Hofstra had a duck, a Dutch girl and a lion as their three mascots. (At the time the school’s unofficial mascot was the Flying Dutchmen hence the Dutch girl, and Long Island was home to duck farms at the time hence the ducks). Then in the late ’80s, it was decided to just go with the powerful Lioness and Lion named after the school’s founders.
Now Kate and Willie have been at the school for about 30 years and have become a mainstay and represent the Pride Hofstra has in its school.
Best Smile- Duke Dog
This is talking about the current JMU Duke Dog and not the ones of the past. The ones of the past were, um, a little scary to say the least. I mean look at it.
Heck, the old ones even got into a fist-fight with the Chanticleer from Coastal Carolina and hit a police officer.
But not the newest iteration of the Duke Dog. He is warm and welcoming and the happiest of all people even throughout a disappointing men’s basketball season.
The new Duke Dog has the most inviting smile and wants you to take a picture with him.
But the question everyone is asking, how do you get a smiling bulldog out of “Duke”?
In 1947 JMU had started admitting males into Madison College and started their male athletic programs, so they struck up a deal with former JMU president Samuel Page Duke. If he gave them equipment and towels for the men’s basketball program they’ll name their mascot after him and thus the Dukes were born. In 1972 the bulldog was added to make it the Duke Dog. According to a Breeze article, the reasoning for choosing a bulldog to represent the university was because of British Royalty, or a Duke, owning bulldogs.
Best Style- UNCW
I’ll be honest, this one was picked just because of my personal taste. The Seahawks have some of the best colors in the CAA with their navy, teal and gold. Also, their mascot is named Sammy C. Hawk, now that is clever.
The original Seahawk in the ’60s was a sight to behold.
Through the years UNCW has been proactive in making the necessary changes to be able to take this honor home. In 1986 they added a sailor’s cap to the Seahawk and was thankfully redacted in the 90s. And in 2004 they had a student naming contest which had Sammy C. Hawk come out on top, and since then there has been no looking back for the ‘Hawks.
Most Fictitious- Drexel Dragons
Dragons aren’t real.
For that and that alone, Drexel is the best and most fictitious mascot. Normally when teams have a Dragon or something of that sort they make it a cartoon look rather than a more menacing look. Drexel went for the latter and it worked out well for them. They found the perfect middle ground between intimidating and welcoming, and it really helps that his name is Mario the Magnificient.
The Dragon was first mentioned in print in 1928 and the following year found its way onto the men’s basketball jerseys, making it one of the oldest mascots in the CAA. The Dragon was then named Mario the Magnificent years later in honor of a Drexel alum and Board of Trustees member, Mario Mascioli.
Drexel is upfront about being fictitious as well. On their student life page, they even say, “there seems to be no special reason for its selection other than its obvious alliterative appeal.” So when it comes down to the two fictitious mascots in the CAA Drexel does it the best.
Most questionable- Richmond
Everything about this mascot is questionable. First off they are the Richmond Spiders and if I remember anything from elementary school it is that spiders have eight legs, the Richmond spider must’ve had two pulled off by their students because it only has six. Secondly, the odd side smile just makes what would be an intimidating mascot and makes it almost laughable.
The spiders have been the namesake for the University of Richmond since 1894, and before that, they were the Colts. According to the University, a Richmond Time Dispatch writer described pitcher Puss Ellyson’s lanky arms and stretching kick as a spider-like. So the Richmond Spiders were born.
This new iteration of the mascot though is a vast improvement over their old one which was all red and hardly resembled a spider. The key to a great mascot is one that is intimidating but can also take great pictures with the fans. The spider is trying too hard to be intimidating and doesn’t account for the ability to take good fan pictures.
Richmond is the only school in the country with the nickname spiders so that may be why they have a questionable mascot, they have nothing to base it off of.
Best nickname- Seawolves
C’mon, the Seawolves?
I guess this mascot could go under the fictitious category since a seawolf is a mythical sea creature that grants good luck on to those lucky enough to see it, but a Seawolf just sounds so menacing and fits well into Long Island.
This mascot is the perfect way to make a Seawolf. Since it is a mythical creature there is nothing really to base it off of, unlike the Spiders or Duke Dog or a Tiger. Stony Brook makes this guy look almost cool, dressed in his red baseball cap and jersey he is ready to go at all sporting events.
A big reason why this is one of the best nicknames in the CAA is because of the fact it went through a rigorous set of trials to become the fourth nickname for Stony Brook. Out of 200 possible new names, a committee of 32 students, alumni, faculty and administration settled on the Seawolves.
Now, his popularity has bled over into the community and is a local celebrity in the long island area.
The CAA along with CAA football have 17 teams combined, and like in the high school yearbook superlative section only a few have been picked and have left out a good majority of very deserving mascots. So, let’s look at some honorable mentions.
Elon Phoenix- 2nd best fictitious
“Please refer to the Phoenix in the singular since there can only be one Phoenix in existence at a time.”
That is a line out of game notes from Elon. This is one of the best mascots in theory for a college, it unites everyone and makes everyone one as a singular Phoenix.
The Phoenix came into existence in 2000 when Elon changed their name from the Fighting Christians. The name is in reference to a fire in 1923 that practically destroyed the entire campus, but Elon, like the Phoenix, rose from the ashes and rebuilt the school into what it is today.
There are two reasons this mascot was beaten out by the Dragons.
- The mascot itself is cartoonish and looks like any other bird. They could’ve made this mascot really BA but instead, it looks like a rooster.
- There can only be one Phoenix in existence at a time and there are a lot of school’s with Phoneix as their mascot so something isn’t adding up.
Delaware Blue Hens- 3rd best fictitious
Yes, I know Blue Hens aren’t fictitious and this is why they are third in this category. The Blue Hen is the state bird of Delaware and hence it is the mascot of the University of Delaware.
A blue hen is a good, not great mascot choice. They are known as fierce fighting birds and because of that, according to legend, were taken into the Revolutionary war with Captain Jonathan Caldwell’s men recruited from Kent County.
That is really all there is to the blue hens, it is almost a formality for the University of Delaware to be named after their state bird.
Northeastern University- the Best mascot for the area
What do you think of when you think of Boston? Cold, Red Sox, rough, loud and history just to name a few. What about when you think of a Husky? Cold, tough and Iditarod. Really the only thing that lines up between the two is the cold and tough but both go a long way to describe the two.
The Siberian husky was introduced as the official mascot of Northeastern in 1927 making it one of the oldest mascots in the CAA along with U of R and Drexel. In 2003 they announced the addition of Paws, their official costumed mascot.
Along with the costumed mascot Northeastern has a long lineage of live husky mascots dating back to King Husky who stepped his first paw on campus in March of 1927. Since then they’ve had 12 different dogs all descending from the same bloodline.
Towson University- Best Big cat
Tigers are greater than Cougars so they take home this honor.
The Tigers found their name in roughly 1961 straying away from the Golden Knights, which, at the time, was the most popular name for a sports team. So they got to the Tigers and now they have a great personification of a Tiger.
College of William and Mary- Smartest re-brand
William & Mary recently changed their logo and have found their way to having a Griffin as their mascot. A griffin is the head of an Eagle and the body of a Lion. Another name for a group of Eagles is a Tribe so naturally, they landed on that, which was a very smart move.
Before the Griffin, their mascot was different students dressing up as Native Americans. Even before they were the Tribe they were the Indians. However, they got in front of all the bad PR that could come with your students dressing up in Native American wear and having a potentially offensive name and logo and switched it up.
The Griffin, another mythical creature (I had no idea the CAA had this many mythical beings in it) is an ode to William & Mary’s connection to Britain and the monarchy who used a lion as their symbol and America, whose national bird is the Eagle.
This overall was a great way to re-brand, make a good new logo through the years and switch up what the school is known for.
Mascots around the CAA are steeped in history, from the Dragons of Drexel to the Spiders of Richmond, they personify what the schools stand for. Now, next time you are watching a CAA conference game and they show the mascot dancing their heart out on the sideline, you’ll know a little bit on how they got there and what they won in the JMUSN superlatives.