It’s not going to be cold this Christmas in Oklahoma, but if you’re a cold weather lover like me, these college nicknames should at least cool you down a bit.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … or at least it’s supposed to be. As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Las Vegas, looking out at people walking the streets in shorts and T-shirts. The forecast for next week looks bleak in Oklahoma City as well for us cold weather lovers, but as I pretend to be in the Christmas spirit while still wearing flip-flops, I thought I would honor some college mascots that make you want to put on your long underwear, brew some hot chocolate and sit in front of the fire.
Here are the top cold weather college sports nicknames.
7. Crown College Polars (St. Bonifacius, MN): Two other NCAA Division III schools have the nickname Polar Bears: Ohio Northern University and Bowdoin College (ME), but only Crown College is known as the Polars, so they win the tie-breaker. Crown has been playing sports since 1956, but joined the NCAA as a D3 member in 2008. The two most famous Polar alums are Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer, the co-creators of VeggieTales.
6. Lake Superior IceHawks (Duluth, MN): There isn’t much to write about when it comes to IceHawk athletics. The school only offers soccer and clay target shooting to its students, so instead of a fun fact about Lake Superior College (trust me, I looked hard for one), here are some famous people from Duluth, MN: actress Dorothy Arnold, the first wife of Joe DiMaggio, sportscaster Verne Lundquist, “Baywatch” actress Gena Lee Nolan, and of course, rock-n-roll legend Bob Dylan hails from the Twin Ports city.
5. Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks (Fairbanks, AK): What would a list of cold weather college nicknames be without a school from Alaska? UAF had been known as the polar bears dating back to the 1930s. In 1963, the Inupiaq word for polar bear was adopted as the official nickname. Since then, Alaska-Fairbanks has been known as the Nanooks. If you’re ever on campus, go visit Rainey’s Cabin. Built in 1936, the log cabin is one of the oldest structures on campus and once was used to house explorers and anthropologists on their ventures into the great Alaskan unknown.
4. Cleveland CC Yetis (Shelby, NC): The newest cold-weather nickname on the list, this community college based in Cleveland County, North Carolina (not Ohio), unveiled their new nickname in 2018. The finalists were Cardinals, Cougars or Yetis. They got it right. Before 2018, there were no athletics at Cleveland CC, but at a gathering of students, faculty and parents, school president Dr. Jason Hurst revealed the nickname, which was met by audible laughter and glee from the crowd. You may see a live mascot at their games soon, because more than one Cleveland County resident has claimed to see their version of a yeti over the years. Their version is called “Knobby.” Thank God they aren’t the Cleveland CC Knobbies.
3. Sweet Briar Vixen (Sweet Briar, VA): A women’s liberal arts college whose nickname is one of the reindeer’s names has to make the list, right? Technically, a vixen is a female fox, as you see in Sweet Briar’s pink and green logo (yes, those are their school colors). The most amazing part of the Vixen’s story has nothing to do with athletics. In 2015, after 114 years of existence, students were told that the school would close. That’s when alumni and donors literally saved the school. They formed an organization called Saving Sweet Briar, Inc, and in 120 days raised $13 million dollars to keep the school afloat. Donations ranged from $2.5 million to $1.50. The Vixen live on.
2. Montana State-Northern Lights/Skylights (Havre, MT): The men’s teams are known as the Lights and the women’s teams known as the Skylights at this NAIA school near the Canadian border. The record cold temperature in Havre is -57 degrees, so it’s proper cold there. In nature, the Northern Lights are also known as the aurora borealis, something that MSU-Northern pays tribute to with their two polar bear mascots, Aurora and Boris. Well played.
1. Youngstown State Penguins (Youngstown, OH): One other four year school boasts the Penguins nickname, Dominican University (CA), but Youngstown State wins the tiebreaker because of their amazing mascot, Pete the Penguin. The origin story of the nickname is from 1933, when Youngstown State played a basketball game at West Liberty Teachers College in West Virginia. The visitors locker room wasn’t heated, and it was a cold and snowy night in West Liberty. To keep warm during the pregame warmups, the Youngstown players jumped up and down, causing one of the West Liberty fans to comment that they looked like a bunch of penguins out there. The name stuck, and it’s still amazing to this day.