College football season is, blessedly, upon us. That means it’s time to put away the silly offseason projects [saves Google Doc titled “The Erotic Adventures of Harbaugh”] and start actually talking about football.
It’s time for a power ranking, and it’s time to discuss America’s best conference - the American Conference.
“Oh, good,” you say, “he’s about to predict how his beloved alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, is going to do this season, after having gone 4-8 each of the last two seasons.”
Oh, I’m sorry. I misspoke. No, I have no interest in discussing that American Conference. I’m here to discuss the Great American Conference. You see, the other night, a strange man appeared on my television wearing the shirt of Southern Arkansas University.
Well, this obviously raised my hackles, as someone who’s been to southern Arkansas on business and is the proud owner of a University of Arkansas-Monticello hat, purchased for $5 at Wal-Mart.
This man is now my sworn rival, whoever he is.
I mean, look, we’re talking about rivals who vie for the Timberlands Trophy here. I am not being at all ironic in saying this is the best trophy in college football. LOOK AT IT.
But the wonders of the Great American Conference - a collection of 12 teams in Arkansas and Oklahoma, formed in 2011 with teams from the Lone Star Conference and Gulf South Conference - don’t stop there.
Thusly, I present, a comprehensive power ranking of the mascots of the GAC.
TIER THREE: I LOVE MY CHILDREN AND THEY’RE ALL TRYING THEIR BEST
12. HENDERSON STATE UNIVERSITY - THE REDDIES
Listen, let me clarify. I love every team in this conference as though they were my own child, even if I only heard of some of them today. But even in America’s Greatest Conference, someone has to be last. In this case, this is the Henderson State Reddies, who I should note, are still better than your team, unless your team is also on this list.
This is the logo of a regional gas station chain that’s known for its ice. I thought maybe there’d be some fun origin story here, but there really isn’t.
Upon its establishment in 1905, the Henderson State football team became known for wearing red jerseys. Absent a traditional nickname or mascot, the team was appropriately dubbed the “Reds.” Eventually, the name shifted to “Reddies,” and it stuck.
At least Western Kentucky had the good sense to turn the concept of “Red” into “we have a terrifying yet charming blob”. Still, their example proves that there’s always room within a vague brand to improvise. Points for flexibility, if nothing else.
11. SOUTHWESTERN OKLAHOMA STATE BULLDOGS
This is the logo from a football video game that did not pay licensing fees in 1994. Again, this is not necessarily a criticism - my video game heyday was before the AI got good enough that you couldn’t just figure out one option pitch that the computer couldn’t recognize, and run it every down.
Is that the offense this team runs? If so, I’m willing to reconsider the ranking.
10. EAST CENTRAL TIGERS
The “East Central Tigers” are the team from a primetime broadcast network drama about a high school football team. This show is not “Friday Night Lights”, and the producers are incensed that you would suggest such a thing. This is a different show, and definitely not a knockoff of that show, which was on a competing network.
This logo is the logo of a middling zoo in a mid-sized city. This zoo does not have penguins. I’m sorry, buddy. I know your picture book had penguins, but our zoo doesn’t have those. Maybe when we go see Grandma and Papa in Columbus we can see penguins.
9. SOUTHERN NAZARENE CRIMSON STORM
The name and logo are both that of a minor league hockey team in the Sun Belt, but the football team here was founded in 2000, so I will not hold that against them. They showed up late and still got a name a lot better than, say, “Scarlet Knights”.
Also, minor league hockey rules.
TIER TWO: CHARMING AND SASSY
8. OUACHITA BAPTIST TIGERS
Why does Ouachita Baptist get a higher ranking than ECU, despite them both being tigers? Several factors:
1. This tiger is in purple and gold. In a quick check, Ouachita Baptist began playing football in 1896, three years after Louisiana State University began playing. I may be inferring some history here, but this would suggest that they just stole LSU’s mascot and color scheme and have stuck with it for over 12 decades. They fear nothing, least of all death.
2. Unlike the staid ECU tiger, this one is showing some pep. Mouth open, he appears to be screaming “OUACHITA” like that sound the guy from Disturbed does at the beginning of “Down With The Sickness”, something I’m going to assume the team does at games, and if not, should.
7. HARDING UNIVERSITY BISON
It is the official editoral stance of Every Day Should Be Saturday that naming your team “Bison” places you firmly above 85% of other collegiate team names.
The logo could use some work, though. We’ll get back to that subject in a moment.
6. OKLAHOMA BAPTIST BISON
A TWO-BISON CONFERENCE. SCIENTISTS SAID IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE.
Anyways, I’m giving a slight edge to OKBU for the swift motion of this logo. It’s aggressive, yet avoids pushing too far into NFL-y “angry bird” territory.
A quick Googling does not indicate any branded rivalry between the two Bison-named teams, which feels like a miss to me. They should play every year for the name, and the other one should have to be something lousy, like a “RedHawk”.
Just my two cents.
5. NORTHWESTERN OKLAHOMA STATE RANGERS
The name? Decent. Not top-tier on its own, but there are plenty of good kinds of rangers. Power. Night. Walker Texas. Perfect St-. It’s already a cut firmly above your garden-variety Tigers and Bulldogs.
The logo, though?
Art. This is the Texas Tech Red Raider after a strength program, the Wyoming Cowboy after learning capoeira. This mascot once got a mountain lion out of my kitchen, then made me a frittata.
I support this mascot both in its eventual outsider run for governor, and during its eventual resignation under tax fraud allegations.
4. SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE SAVAGE STORM
The logo is classic and understated. Is it roughly the same as a solid handful of other block-letters-in-an-oval logos? Sure. But the Savage Storm doesn’t need to impress you with graphic design. The Savage Storm destroyed your house in 1998, and it’ll do it again.
UPDATE: Since completing this ranking it has come to my attention that this name is a belated retrofit of something hugely offensive. We’ll let the ranking stand for two reasons:
1) Better late than never? [glares at NFL in DC]
2) at least it sounds cool and isn’t something like “RedHawks”, which sounds like a bird that’s on a decade-plus losing streak to its arch rival, whoever that is”
TIER ONE: THE GOD TIER, THE GREATEST MASCOTS IN THE GREAT AMERICAN CONFERENCE
3. ARKANSAS TECH UNIVERSITY WONDER BOYS
Are they named after a key plot element in the 1984 Robert Redford classic The Natural? Are they named after a 2000 Michael Douglas film that has an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes? Are they named after 2001 Tenacious D song? Let’s go to the tape.
John Tucker is ultimately responsible for the idiosyncratic nickname “Wonder Boys” for Arkansas Tech University. On November 15, 1919, Tucker, as a 17-year-old freshman, scored two touchdowns and kicked two extra points to lead the Second District Agricultural School Aggies to a 14–0 upset win over Jonesboro. In newspaper accounts following the game, Tucker and his teammates were referred to as “Wonder Boys,” and the nickname remains to this day. Tucker was labeled as “The Original Wonder Boy” and was associated with the school for the rest of his life. He went on to play on the University of Alabama’s Rose Bowl team in 1931 and served Arkansas Tech in a variety of roles – including coach, athletic director and chemistry professor – between 1925 and 1972.
As the historical record clearly shows, all of those things are named after Arkansas Tech.
2. SOUTHERN ARKANSAS UNIVERSITY MULERIDERS
College football isn’t professional sports, and it shouldn’t be. Let the pro teams have the slick, fierce-sounding names. The best collegiate team names express something about the local heritage, the economy, the things that made a place thrive when it was just in its infancy. The Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Oklahoma Sooners. The West Virginia Mountaineers. The Purdue Boilermakers.
Southern Arkansas manages to pull this off with aplomb, respecting the agricultural history of the area in a unique and distinctive way.
It says everything you need a football team’s name to: Here is the place we are proud to be from; we have come to ride your ass.
But it’s not the Greatest in the Great American Conference, America’s Greatest Conference. No, no. Let me tell you. Let me tell you about the Muleriders’ rival.
1. UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS - MONTICELLO BOLL WEEVILS
Look upon this magnificent bastard and weep.
“So, it’s some kind of bug?”, you say, foolishly.
Let’s consider this. The fiercest mascots out there - Gators, Lions, Bears, Tigers, so on. Sure, they can kill you, under the right circumstances. A bear storms your campsite, wrecks your tent, eats your nephew, eventually Wildlife Management shows up and shoots it.
This little fella? He’s gonna destroy the livelihood of your whole region.
It remains the most destructive cotton pest in North America. Since the boll weevil entered the United States, it has cost U.S. cotton producers about $13 billion, and in recent times about $300 million per year. The boll weevil contributed to the economic woes of Southern farmers during the 1920s, a situation exacerbated by the Great Depression in the 1930s.
In 2018, don’t strive just to defeat your opponents. Strive to leave their fields fallow and their economy in shambles.
It’s what Weevy would do.