Phil Pash's Simply Sports: Much ado about nothing… but a nickname

The Marquette Gold … what a dorky nickname. Sounds like some kind of marijuana or an arena football team.

But at least they woke up before it was too late, and they’re going to take another vote (sounds like Chicago, vote until it comes out right). Students, alumni and faculty will vote via the Internet, said university President Father Robert A. Wild.

Wild said there will be 10 name choices, and Warriors will not be among them. Marquette used to be the Warriors before the dawn of political correctness.

They were the Warriors during the golden (oops!) years when Marquette won the NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1977 under legendary coach Al McGuire.

They became the Golden Eagles because the Warrior name and logo offended some American Indian groups. But some alumni and students of the Jesuit university couldn’t buy into Golden Eagles.

The nickname debate came out in the open at commencement last May, when board Vice Chairman Wayne Sanders said he and another unnamed trustee would offer $1 million each to the school to restore the Warriors name. Wild immediately rejected the offer, but agreed to have the board discuss it.

Then came the Marquette Gold, which ticked off some students and apparently many alumni. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “More than 100 Marquette University students rallied in the rain (May 6), ridiculing the school’s newly chosen nickname, Gold, declaring that the school had been turned into a national laughingstock and shouting down Father Wild as the university president defended the decision.”

At one point, Wild asked whether the students could hear him, said the story. “Can you hear us?” one shouted back, echoing a common complaint that student wishes had been ignored.

Wild explained that Gold represented one of the university’s oldest traditions, its blue and gold colors, and also stood for the quality of its students and staff.

“We paid gold for this education,” shouted back Rachel Leman, an 18-year-old freshman studying biomedical sciences.

The students mocked Gold, calling it a nebulous name that neither offends nor inspires and a symbol of greed that runs counter to the school’s Jesuit principles.

“There’s never been gold, as far as I know, discovered in Wisconsin,” said Ryan Alexander, a 22-year-old junior majoring in political science and economics. “Gold is not rooted in our tradition. Gold is in conflict with a lot of our Jesuit values.”

Students said they had collected 1,000 signatures on a petition urging Wild to put the nickname decision to a campus-wide vote, which now is going to happen. Wild said the name change would take place when Marquette left Conference USA and joined the tougher Big East Conference on July 1.

The Web site lists some pretty strange college nicknames: Banana Slugs, Zips, Zias, Yeomen and Yeowomen, Violets, Vixens, Swedes, Student Princes, Squirrels, Spires, Soldiers, Little Johns (but no Robin Hoods), Setters, Vulcans, Wonder Boys, Saxons (but no Normans), Running Rifles, Paladins, Mastodons, Ichabods, Haymakers and Gorloks, just to name a few.

There also are 27 Warriors and 10 Indians, including Haskell Indian Nations University (I guess nobody told Haskell about being PC). Plus, eight Braves, including the Bradley Braves in Peoria.

There also are 15 Golden Eagles, including Northeastern Illinois and South Mississippi (Brett Favre’s school).

Rockford once had a semi-pro football team named the Golden Eagles, which is a little puzzling since the golden eagle is more of a Western bird than a Midwestern resident. But Golden Eagles has a nice ring to it.

There also are the Rock Valley College Golden Eagles, who used to be the Trojans until somebody said, “Hey, wait a minute, aren’t Trojans also condoms?” So the PC troops marched again. However, Southern California and Troy University did not rush to change their nicknames; they’re still the Trojans.

A lot of schools also have Eagles for their nickname and use the bald eagle as a corresponding symbol. Through exhaustive research, I could find only one that goes by the book and calls its teams the Bald Eagles. That’s the Lock Haven (Pa.) University Bald Eagles.

Most schools just use Eagles, or Soaring Eagles, or Screaming Eagles. Probably afraid they would be referred to simply as the “Baldies” if they went with Bald Eagles.

See how important a good nickname is. And to think I once wanted to go to Marquette (I think they were the Hilltoppers at that time). Of course, I just wanted to go for the parties.

And to be closer to Milwaukee Braves games. Oh, goodness gracious, Braves … what have I said. They even had a tepee in now-gone County Stadium. Boy, were they politically incorrect.

From the May 18-24, 2005, issue

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