As we approach the Big Ten’s conference football slate, it’s important to look at what matters most: rankings. But not the rankings you would think.
It’s time to rank the Big Ten’s mascots. There are 11 teams in the Big Ten that have mascots (get your act together, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana). There are some good and some bad...
11. Penn State’s Nittany Lion
While we are led to believe that mascots are just students in costumes and not actually anthropomorphic animals, with the Nittany Lion, it’s easy to tell it’s just a guy with a cheap mascot costume on.
The Nittany Lion became a thing back in the early 1900s, when H.D. Mason, a senior at the school, made it up on the spot on a trip to Princeton. He later wrote about the mascot in the school newspaper, The Lemon:
“Every college the world over of any consequence has a college emblem of some kind—all but The Pennsylvania State College. Why not select for ours the king of beasts—the Lion!! Dignified, courageous, magnificent, the Lion allegorically represents all that our College Spirit should be, so why not 'the Nittany Mountain Lion'? Why cannot State have a kingly, all-conquering Lion as the eternal sentinel?”
Clearly, the mascot design was not created after reading his passage. The neck of the mascot is the worst part in my opinion, as it just drapes down onto the torso. Penn State would be wise to make it look like more of a seamless connection between head and body.
10. Purdue’s Purdue Pete
One question: What happened to your neck? The best part of Pete is also his downfall in my opinion. The mascot is essentially a head that can be donned over any Purdue uniform, thus making it easy for the mascot to represent each sport individually, but it also makes it look like Pete’s neck starts in the middle of his chest.
9. Northwestern’s Willie the Wildcat
Interestingly enough, there are two Willie the Wildcats. Both Northwestern and Kansas State have one, and while both have their merits, Kansas State's version is far more fierce. Yet if I had to pick between the two, Northwestern would take the edge because Kansas State’s mascot is a guy, with a wildcat head...
8. Nebraska’s Herbie Husker and Lil’ Red
Herbie is the thing nightmares are made of since his remodel in 2003. Prior to that, he was a fun-loving country boy in denim coveralls.
Oh, and was that a piece of corn in your pocket, or... Oh, it was a piece of corn…
Nowadays, he is a burly mascot with a smile bigger than a corn field that is oddly terrifying.
Lil’ Red is Herbie’s younger, bloated brother. Pros: He was designed to appeal to younger Husker fans. Cons: He cannot go near sharp objects.
7. Ohio State’s Brutus Buckeye
Ohio State’s anthropomorphic nut lands at No. 7 on the list. I have to give OSU some credit—while having a nut as your school mascot is lame, they did a decent job of creating a mascot with only a nut as the backdrop and they have come a long way since originally debuting the mascot in 1965, when it was a nut with legs.
However, nothing will ever be better than when Ohio’s mascot beat him up...
6. Iowa’s Herky the Hawk
While I am not the biggest fan of the mascot, Herky don’t play.
During a 1997 31–0 victory over Minnesota at a very cold Kinnick Stadium, a drummer from the Gopher band tapped Herky on the shoulder with his drum stick. Herky retaliated by throwing a glass of water in the drummer’s face. As Herky walked away, the drummer tackled him from behind.
As the drummer reached his hand out to help Herky up, Herky punched him in the face and broke his glasses. This escalated a bit at that point, and Herky’s 40-year-old helmet was broken. Iowa then had the helmet remade prior to the 1998 season. This time, it was made of kevlar.
5. Minnesota’s Goldy Gopher
Goldy the ground squirrel, Bucky Badger’s prey, is often the butt of Twitter jokes between the two mascots.
While Goldy is the mascot of our longest-tenured rival, he does pull off a good costume. Game recognize game.
4. Maryland’s Testudo
What can I say, I like turtles. You would think that a turtle would be a lame mascot, but Maryland actually pulls this one off with a simple design. Also, he’s rumored to be lucky if you rub his nose.
3. Michigan State’s Sparty
Looking at Nos. 2 and 3, it was a bit of a toss-up for me. Both Sparty and The Scarlet Knight are similar in design. However, there was one attribute that stuck out to me that I will share in the next entry. First, let me get back to Sparty. Dude is ripped. He makes the guys from 300 look like the Nittany Lion (yes, more shade thrown at the lion). Not to mention he’s man enough to wear a skirt.
2. Rutgers’s Scarlet Knight
We know that since their entry into the Big Ten, Rutgers has floundered a bit. I would not call this No. 2 ranking a pity ranking because I do honestly like the look of the mascot. However, it is hard to get to know him—his profile on the Rutgers website says he is “super tall,” his weight is “Private!” and his graduating year at Rutgers is classified.
We do know one thing: he’s single. The Knight lives in New Brunswick, N.J., so, ladies: If you’re into jousting, flexing in the mirror, long walks along the Jersey Shore, horseback riding, drinking chocolate milk, and keepin’ buff, look him up.
1. Wisconsin’s Buckingham U. Badger
As if there was ever any doubt, Bucky Badger winds up No. 1 on my list. And no, it's not because we share the same birthday, or because he is the namesake for this website. It’s because he is awesome.
Unlike the Nittany Lion, Bucky’s head is attached to his body and his head isn’t in a weird spot where he has chest-neck, like Purdue Pete. Whether he is stealing an opposing team’s flag or sinking a shot on the Kohl Center ice from the opposite end or clowning around with fans, Bucky exudes awesome. Bucky, cool.