They’re here to hype up the crowd, get fans involved, and offer a side of humor to go with your football game or pep rally—But, not all college mascots are made equally. From fuzzy ducks to seemingly-pointless boilermakers, there are some pretty outrageous mascots out there.
Here’s a list of 10 college mascots, ranked from worst to best.
10. The Stanford Tree
Lowest on the list is... a tree. Need we say more? The impressive Cali institution, Stanford University, has a less-than-impressive unofficial mascot for their basketball team: The Stanford Tree. What is a tree doing on a basketball court?
The mascot is a sentient, armless tree with a gaping red mouth, and eyes from your nightmares. To be fair, because of the mascot’s unofficial status, all costumes are made by fans—In that respect, they’re very impressive. Still though, I’d suggest some workshopping on that mascot choice. Their official mascot, the cardinal, is better all around. True, a tree makes its appearance on official Stanford Cardinal college gear, but it’s significantly less frightful than the team’s unofficial mascot in real life.
9. Purdue Pete
What says “college football” like a dead-eyed tradesman? Purdue University’s Purdue Pete is a boilermaker, depicted with dark hair, a hardhat, a sledgehammer, and frightening determination on his face.
Maybe boilermaking ultimately translates to touchdown making, but I sincerely doubt it. According to Purdue legend, Pete over there has a real skill: making boilers. While back a few decades ago, Pete used to tumble with the cheerleading squad, he now spends more time interacting with the crowd and brandishing his hammer.
8. Otto the Orange
Since 1980, the mascot for the Syracuse Orange at Syracuse University has been Otto, an orange, wearing a (very stylish) baseball cap. Fans and enemies alike must admit, Otto is pretty adorable. But as a college mascot? He isn’t the best choice.
Otto appears at all kinds of athletic events around the Syracuse campus, but is of course often found at basketball games. Despite his ridiculous and somewhat grotesque appearance, he still has quite a following at SU. School spirit can do miraculous things.
7. Traveler and the Trojan
Technically, a white horse named Traveler is the official mascot of the University of Southern California. Traveler always appears at home games, ridden by somebody dressed as a USC Trojan.
Yes, it’s pretty cool that their mascot is a real horse. But, I’m sorry, do you know what I think of when I think of ancient Troy and horses? I think of losing. The USC mascot is, quite literally, the ancient world’s symbol of losing. Is that who you want on your football team?
Traveler has been a part of USC history since the early 1960s. For the first 28 years of service, various Travelers were all ridden by the same Trojan who rode around the USC Coliseum in 1961, so there’s definitely a strong history of school spirit there. Still, though—a Trojan in a building called the Coliseum? Seems like you’re tempting fate there, USC.
6. Bucky Badger
Near the middle of the list, our mascots begin to straddle the line between the fully ridiculous, and the genuinely fearsome. Case in point: Buckingham U. “Bucky” Badger, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Mr. B. Badger is too cute to be intimidating. Who wants somebody so adorable representing their team? He’s usually depicted on Wisconsin apparel striding confidently towards the viewer. Unfortunately, that determined expression doesn’t accomplish all that much.
Fun fact—In the earliest years of intercollegiate football in the 19th century, Bucky was portrayed by a live badger, but the animal was too difficult to control, often escaping his handlers and menacing players and spectators alike. Unfortunately, the revamped, animated version of the mascot doesn’t achieve the same menace.
5. Testudo the Terrapin
No list of college mascots would be complete without University of Maryland’s hard-shelled hero, Testudo. Testudo isn’t your average terrapin. This turtle is surprisingly ferocious, looking like he just smacked you with a killer put-down.
With his sharp beak and University of Maryland-inlaid shell, Testudo has been a fixture of Maryland Football since the 1930s. While the mascot who appears at football games is mobile enough on his own, the bronze likeness of Testudo that presides over the campus has a long history of being defaced, stolen, and hidden, which drops him down in our ranking. That being said, he’s loved campus-wide at University of Maryland, and makes a pretty fantastic appearance on official university gear—that says something, right?
4. Brutus the Buckeye
Ohio State University took inspiration from Ohio’s noble state tree, the Buckeye, which grows—you guessed it—buckeyes. Several decades ago, Ohian students decided that the only possible mascot who could represent their school was, in fact, the nut native to Ohio.
Number four on our list, Brutus the Buckeye has a big buckeye head, with huge eyes that stare unblinking into the entire history of Ohio football. What does he see? What doesn’t he see? Why isn’t he himself the basketball? Ohio, tell me your secrets!
Brutus is deeply connected to the history of Ohio; Ohians identify themselves as Buckeyes, and have since at least the 19th century. This fact shows that Brutus belongs not only to the University, but to all of the citizens of Ohio, and he brings that power to the football field.
3. The Duck, a.k.a., Puddles
University of Oregon’s mascot, the The Oregon Duck (known unofficially to students as “Puddles”) has exhibited a tenacity throughout his history that few other mascots could attain.
Since he joined the team back in the 1920s, there have been various attempts to unseat the cuddly duck, to no avail. In the 1970s, there was a failed vote by the student body to replace Puddles with a less Donald-like duck named Mallard Drake, who had first appear in a comic in the student newspaper. The greatest and most terrifying threat to Puddles came, however, in 2002. Oregon decided to debut a darker, edgier, more cut mascot named Mandrake. This streamlined, tough-guy mascot, who was meant to represent a more skillful iteration of the Oregon football team, was immediately despised by the student body.
Puddles/The Duck retained unwavering support, while the Mandrake was dubbed “roboduck,” booed out of football games, and finally disappeared by the time the 2003 season rolled around. His classic charm and staying power is what earned Puddles his spot on this list, and his feature on much of Oregon’s college apparel.
2. Bevo the Longhorn
Bringing us into the top-two best college mascots is UT Austin’s Bevo. Bevo is a longhorn steer, who matches the school’s color scheme: burnt orange and white. Bevo—to be specific, Bevo XV, the current mascot—has the dual benefits of not only being a pretty intimidating creature, but much like Traveler, is also a living animal.
Since 1916, the University has maintained a series of burnt orange and white longhorn steers that have passed the honor along. Bevo is a pretty well-balanced mascot, all things considered, with the factors of both cuteness and fearsomeness clenched in his football-loving hooves. The steer’s big cow eyes and fuzzy face can be rendered to win the hearts of even the coldest members of the opposing football team’s cheering section.
1. And Finally… Big Al
The number one spot on our list of college mascots goes to an elephant: University of Alabama’s Big Al. Despite the fact that Al remained an unofficial mascot until the 1950s, he’s been a part of Alabama’s traditions for a lot longer than that. For example, in the 40s, a live elephant would carry Alabama’s homecoming queen onto the field every year.
Since the 1980 football season, however, Al’s been portrayed by a student wearing a costume, hyping fans from the sidelines, and on one rare occasion, getting into fistfights with opposing mascots. How’s that for intimidating the other team?
Despite the fearsome implications, Big Al himself is and always has been adorable; his current iteration features big blue eyes, floppy ears, and a very fashionable crimson T-shirt. If that doesn’t make you want to scream “Roll Tide,” then nothing will. Big Al was chosen to honor the Crimson Tide’s fearsome on-field history, but designed specifically to be cute enough that he’d be accessible to fans of all ages. For this reason, he’s beloved throughout the state. Whether or not you cape for the Crimson Tide, however, you can still appreciate the history, spirit, and fun that Big Al brings to the football field.