What’s in a Name? A Look at How BC Got Its Mascot and Colors

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July 9, 2014 by conteconfidential

“Eagles” is the most commonly used nickname in all of college athletics.

More than 70 four-year universities claim America’s national bird as their mascot. In Division I alone, 10 schools have adopted the Eagle, spanning from New England to Washington and representing conferences from the ACC to the MAC. Adding in monikers like “Golden Eagles” and “Purple Eagles,” this number moves to 15, making the Eagle, and its multi-colored variants, the most common D1 mascot.

Boston College may be one of many, but it’s not just part of the flock, pun intended. The nickname was adopted in the 1920s after a local newspaper ran a cartoon depicting BC’s track team as a common cat cleaning off a plate of its rivals. This didn’t sit well with Father Edward McLaughlin, who penned a letter to the fledgling student newspaper (The Heights was founded in 1919) demanding that BC adopt a more majestic creature who inhabited the “heights.” And, thus, the Eagle came to represent…

Not so fast. Alternatives were raised, including “Owls” – the bird of choice of Temple University, where Steve Addazio held his first head coaching job – and “Antelopes.” Yes, Antelopes, which today is the mascot of only two colleges, Grand Canyon and Nebraska-Kearney. While the pronghorn antelope is the second-fastest land mammal, capable of running at just over 53 mph, it doesn’t exactly inspire fear, possibly explaining why UNK opts to truncate the unwieldy, but unique, name to “Lopers.”

At first, BC’s Eagle logo didn’t look all that majestic but did earn a few intimidation points. Some have said it looks more like a vulture, and we can all agree that vultures are pretty scary, albeit in a creepy sort of way. In the 1960s, BC updated the logo, getting its eagle off the ground and into the air while also introducing the interlocking BC. Then, at the turn of the millennium, the school revamped its entire line of athletic logos to create a unified image for the department. While the Eagle was modernized and the interlocking BC was italicized, the greatest change was seen in the gold, which became more metallic. Fans of the earlier “gold” likely appreciate that the Under Armour Superfan shirts (class of 2014 onward) could be seen as a similar yellow.

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(photo credit: Jen Dobias)

Speaking of colors, maroon and gold were adopted in a similar fashion as the Eagle. In the mid-1880s, an editorial pointed out that “a college man going to the games” couldn’t distinguish “‘fair rooters’” in the crowd at athletic events because BC had yet to adopt a color scheme. A student-led committee, headed by T.J. Hurley, who notably composed both “For Boston” and the alma mater, first looked at the colors of BC’s fellow Jesuit universities before deciding on maroon and gold, two Papal colors.

Much to the chagrin of BC alumni and fans, journalists and bloggers occasionally add “Golden” to “Eagles,” evidently confusing BC with Marquette or Southern Mississippi and displaying an inability to master a simple Google search. Granted, BC’s school colors are maroon and gold – and its original Eagle mascot was named “Margo” in reference to them – but “Golden” doesn’t appear as part of any word mark or on any official page. Unless the hapless writer stumbled upon the Golden Eagles Dance Team webpage, that is. Personally, as a proud alumna of the BCMB, I’m waiting for someone to mistakenly refer to one of BC’s former hockey stars in the NHL or AHL as a “Screaming Eagle.”[1] That’ll be the day.

BC may not boast a one-of-a-kind nickname within the NCAA, like South Dakota State University (Jackrabbits), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (Mastodons) or, most notoriously, UC Santa Cruz (Banana Slugs).[2] And other Eagles have made their mark in collegiate athletics.

Marquette – one of those “Golden Eagle” squads – has been to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament 31 times, winning it all in 1977. It is also the only school to spurn an invite to the big dance; in 1970, head coach Al McGuire took his No. 8 Golden Eagles to the NIT instead to protest having to travel to the Midwest regional. That incident, in part, helped spur the NCAA to rule that teams can’t turn down invitations. In 2013, Eagles, donning emerald, cobalt blue and gold, became the latest Cinderella team to make a run in this tournament. Better known as “Dunk City,” Florida Gulf Coast University became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen.[3] On the hockey front, Niagara University, the odd “Purple Eagles,” has twice posted 22-game unbeaten streaks on their home ice, the fifth-best mark in NCAA history.[4]

That list can continue, but none of it matters anyway. BC has Doug Flutie and the Miracle in Miami. It has Matt Ryan and a second-ranked football team. It has five men’s ice hockey national championships, including three in the span of five years from 2008-12. It has Alejandro Bedoya, who represented the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup. And Baldwin, not any other Eagle, has a SportsCenter commercial to his credit, although part of me has always resented the fact that he was the “dumb” bird who ran into the glass not once, but twice.

This list, too, can go on, and on. It will change, depending on who you ask. That’s the beauty of it. BC’s students, alumni and fans will always see themselves as Eagles. And it’s those moments, those memories, which make our Eagles, eternally adorned in maroon and gold, unique.

By Jen Dobias

[1] A QMJHL team in Cape Breton is called the “Screaming Eagles.” Given a reporter once referred to Thatcher Demko as a “Boston College Terrier,” I think “Boston College Screaming Eagle” is possible in a hockey context. I’m still waiting, though…

[2] The Summit League actually boasts four schools with nicknames unique to D1 athletics: SDSU, IPFW, Western Illinois (Leathernecks) and the University of South Dakota (Coyotes).

[3] Interestingly enough, FGCU also boasts a thriving ice hockey team. Founded in 2002, FGCU plays in the ACHA. The Eagles fell to the University of New Hampshire in the 2014 ACHA Division II national title game.

[4] Niagara’s first home unbeaten streak began on Feb. 11, 2006 and ended on Nov. 17, 2007. Its second ran from Feb. 1, 2012 to March 16, 2013. Niagara is also the first Atlantic Hockey team to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, turning the trick in 2013.

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