Now I don’t pretend to be a March Madness aficionado much past knowing it has to do with college basketball. But had I known how prevalent dogs are in college sports I might have paid more attention! Over six teams competing in the brackets this year have a dog as a mascot. That seems like good luck, doesn’t it?
Below is a bit about each of the March Madness teams that have some sort of dog mascot. Spoiler alert, there is a large bulldog presence!
Albany Great Danes, University at Albany (NY)
The Great Dane was chosen by the student body as a mascot for the University at Albany in 1965. Nicknamed Damien, the mascot was chosen for its qualities of strength, courage, stamina, and speed. In 2003, a “baby” Dane mascot joined Damien; it’s name chosen by contest was Lil’ D.
Butler Bulldogs, Butler University (IN)
When founded in 1855, the Butler University mascot was the “Christians.” In 1919, while a coach was trying to think of a way to fire up the crowd, a bulldog owned by one of the fraternities wandered into the athletics office. Soon after, a cartoon was drawn showing the bulldog taking a bite out of the competition, and the moniker stuck. For about 80 years Butler had unofficial bulldog mascots owned by fraternities, until 2000 when a live bulldog became the school’s first official mascot.
Georgetown Hoyas, Georgetown University (D.C.)
The bulldog mascot was adopted by Georgetown University in 1962 after students lobbied for the move, arguing its athletes were tenacious like bulldogs. A bulldog was adopted, and after trying to re-name him “Hoya,” the dog would only respond to his given name of “Jack.” The name “Jack” for the mascot stuck even though the live mascot tradition quickly ended. In 1999, students began a “Bring Back Jack” campaign and succeeded in bringing back a live mascot in addition to the costumed “Jack.”
By the way, wondering what a “Hoya” is? The term Hoya is a combination of the Greek and Latin terms “Hoya Saxal,” which translates to “What Rocks.”
Gonzaga Bulldogs, Gonzaga University (WA)
The bulldogs moniker was chosen for Gonzaga University sports teams in 1921 after a reporter wrote that Gonzaga fought tenaciously like bulldogs. A human mascot (in costume) replaced actual bulldogs in 1980.
James Madison Dukes, James Madison University (VA)
The men’s basketball team at James Madison University was formed in 1947 and initially called “The Dukes.” Some years later it was thought that a stereotypical pet for British royalty, such as a Duke, would be an English Bulldog – therefore, “Duke Dog” made his first appearance in 1972, first as a cartoon and real bulldog, then as a mascot in 1982.
NC A&T Aggies, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NC)
Not much is officially known about why the mascot for North Carolina A&T State University is a bulldog, but stories tell of a bulldog that attacked a referee after a bad call in a football game in the early 1900s. Guess that’s as good a reason as any.
North Carolina State Wolfpack, North Carolina State University (NC)
Though technically the mascot for the North Carolina State Wolfpack is Mr. and Ms. Wuf, a wolf duo, an honorary mention goes to them for including a dog mascot, Tuffy, live on their field.
The University first adopted the term Wolfpack in 1921 when a disgruntled fan described the behavior of some of the school’s athletes as being “as unruly as a pack of wolves.” Mr. and Ms. Wuf, a duo of wolves were added as school mascots some time after that, and in 2010, the school decided they wanted a live mascot on the field. A wolflike breed of dog was chosen instead of a wolf, for obvious reasons. The Tamaskan is a breed of dog originating in Finland, with Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute ancestors. Bred to look like a wolf, the Tamaskan breed contains no wolf ancestry.
Mascot names and 2013 March Madness Teams were found here.
Additional research on team mascots, including history, and photos of all mascots, were found on their corresponding university websites.