Bullies, controversy, fighting chickens, and a little bit of Civil War history. Always expect the unexpected in the Southeastern Conference, especially when it comes to mascots.
- Mississippi State University—Bulldogs The current MSU Mascot, Bully XXI (also known as Jak), took over for his father in 2015 (photo courtesy of Mississippi State University)
While Mississippi State has been known as the Bulldogs “officially” since 1961, the nickname goes back to 1905. Back when they were Mississippi A&M, the football team played as the Aggies. Coincidentally, another SEC team, Texas A&M, still proudly plays under this moniker commonly used for students of agricultural (Ag) colleges. But the Aggies are another day, so back to the bulldogs.
It was November 30, 1905. Mississippi A&M had just beat their rivals, the University of Mississippi, in a tough game that ended in an 11-0 victory. Following the game, players and students had a mock military funeral procession for the rival team’s “dead athletic spirit.” A stuffed bulldog pup was placed on top of a coffin and paraded down Capitol Street in Jackson on the shoulders of cadets. The bulldog has had a place in the hearts of students and fans ever since.
While most State fans recognize a live bulldog, Bully, as the school’s mascot, he’s actually from a long line of Bullies (currently they’re on number 21, aka Jak). The first live bulldog chosen by Mississippi State was in 1935. Ptolemy was chosen after the team sent their coach, Major Ralph Sasse, to acquire them a bulldog mascot. Ptolemy had a short reign, and one of his litter mates was chosen later that year. Bully I was a campus favorite, loved by all until his death in 1939. Bully I was buried on the football field, under a bench at the 50-yard line. A half-mile funeral procession accompanied him to his final resting place.
- University of Mississippi—Ole Miss Rebels After a vote including students, faculty, alumni, and season ticket holders, Rebel the black bear was voted in as the new mascot in 2010, after going without a mascot since 2003Perhaps the most controversial of all the SEC Mascots, Ole Miss gave the boot to Colonel Reb in 2003, going sans mascot until 2010.
Before 1936, Ole Miss was known as “The Flood” (similarly, Alabama is the Crimson Tide). But that year The Mississippian student newspaper sponsored a contest to give Ole Miss athletics a new nickname. Five suggestions from 200 proposed monikers were sent to forty-two sports writers. Of the twenty-one writers who responded, eighteen voted for “the Rebels.” Shortly after, Colonel Reb, an older gentleman resembling a plantation owner, made his debut appearance in the 1937 yearbook. He quickly became the image of Ole Miss, but didn’t quite come to life until 1979, when a costumed Colonel Reb riled up the crowd during games.
In 2003, administration didn’t feel Colonel Reb properly represented Ole Miss athletics anymore and removed him from official university events. Another contest ensued for a new mascot, and the athletic department narrowed it down two finalists: Rowdy Rebel and Rebel Bruiser. A student body still devoted to Colonel Reb showed little support for the contest and it was cancelled. Ole Miss went without a mascot until 2010 when students led the search for a new mascot resulting in the newest Ole Miss alum, a black bear named none other than . . . Rebel.
- University of Missouri—Tigers Truman, named for Missouri born President Harry S. Truman, rides his taxi, a yellow fire truck. The University of Missouri Tiger was named in a contest in 1984. (Photo courtesy of The University of Missouri)Not many teams can claim a mascot that goes back to their roots quite like Mizzou. Unlike many universities that have changed names over the years, the University of Missouri has proudly been the Tigers since just after the formation of their first football team in 1890.
During the Civil War, classes at the University of Missouri were cancelled for ten months due to the Union troops that occupied the buildings and grounds, and because much of both the staff and students had joined the military on either side. During this time, a group of Columbia residents formed what became known as the “Fighting Tigers of Columbia.” The militia group aimed to protect the city from Confederate guerilla William “Bloody Bill” Anderson. In honor of the group that risked their lives for Columbia, the athletic committee adopted the Tiger as their mascot.
There have been several costumed Tigers over the years at Mizzou, dancing and growling as far back as the 1940’s. For several years two mascots represented the school at games, a male and a female tiger, but none of the tigers were ever named until 1984. During a contest to name the Mizzou Tiger, a student submitted the winning name, Truman, named for Missouri-born President Harry S. Truman.
- University of South Carolina—Gamecocks The University of South Carolina has been the Gamecocks for more than 100 years. Their current costumed mascot, Cocky, is the third for the university.Likely one of the more unusual names of the SEC, or college football in general, the nickname of the University of South Carolina has been a university tradition for more than 100 years. Right around 1900, after a string of short-lived nicknames, USC became known as the “Fighting Gamecocks.”
Oddly enough, South Carolina has a long history of breeding and training game cocks, that is, roosters bred for fighting. Let’s insert here that throwing roosters in a ring to fight to the death is a felony in South Carolina. But it hasn’t always been. General Thomas Sumter, a brigadier general in the South Carolina militia and a former United States Representative, was nicknamed the “Carolina Gamecock” for his fighting style during the Revolutionary War.
USC got its first costumed mascot in 1971 with “The Rooster.” A student that would later go on to be a biology professor at the university donned the first fowl costume. Upon the Rooster’s graduation, “Big Spur” took the field from 1974–79. His son “Cocky” took over in 1980. But perhaps what really stands out at a USC game isn’t the giant dancing rooster, but the live rooster that attends even away games. “Sir Big Spur,” as he is known, has been strutting at USC sporting events since 1999.
SEE ALL “MASCOTS OF THE SEC PART THREE” PHOTOS HERE