Fridays With Fred: Beloit College Bobcats? Braves? Bulldogs?
In February 1949, the Round Table sports columnist Jim McCarthy reported that the Omicron Delta Kappa fraternity men had proposed a new moniker for the college’s athletic teams. They weren’t the first to grumble about the older nicknames. The unexciting “Gold” seemed somehow too colorless, while “Blue Devils” projected wicked—if depressed—mischief, and besides, featured the wrong color.
“The Beloit Braves!” McCarthy wrote. “Yes, it is my opinion that Beloit College is in a dire need of a new nickname… ‘Braves’ seems to be as good a one as has been suggested. Most schools in the conference have good symbolic names which typify the fighting spirit of their Alma Mater. Also, Beloit’s present nicknames are not easily symbolized for use in such things as homecoming decorations or uniform designs. The ‘Braves’ is also historically sound in as much as our school is located upon the territory once inhabited by Indian tribes, as evidence by the mounds on our campus.”
However, “Braves” did not sit well with everyone, according to McCarthy’s column in the following issue: “A few individuals on campus just don’t like the ‘Braves.’ Therefore, a poll will be conducted the night of the Duquesne game to determine the choice of the students…It will be a direct ballot, and the three names up for consideration will be ‘Braves,’ ‘Bulldogs,’ and the ‘Bobcats.’ These were suggested by various organizations on campus, and we will accept other suggestions that are submitted before Monday noon by any group. By the way, Coach Stanley has stated that his squad will accept the nickname chosen by the student body and will carry that name into the NAIB tournament, providing Beloit receives an invitation.”
In fact, Coach Dolph Stanley’s basketball team was in the midst of one of its most stellar of stellar seasons, once again handily winning the Midwest Conference championship and eventually going 29-4 against competition from much larger schools such as Brigham Young, San Diego State University, Valparaiso University, and Bowling Green. They reached the semi-finals in the NAIB invitational in Kansas City, losing to the eventual winners of the tournament, Hamline University.
McCarthy was still plugging his favorite on Feb. 25, one day before the deciding vote. “It is a writer’s dream as far as jargon is concerned. For example, ‘Braves scalp Vikings’ or ‘Braves on warpath against Carleton.’” He favored Bobcats second, due to its rarity factor, since only one other college used the name. “Bulldogs,” he noted without enthusiasm, “is up for consideration due to the fact that Beloit is known as ‘The Yale of the Midwest,’ and the Bulldogs is the Eli’s famous symbol.”
Saturday night, Feb. 26, hundreds of students lined up at the Beloit College Field House before the Duquesne game, carefully perused the names on their ballots and then came up with a big surprise.
The newly minted nickname achieved front page status in the March 4 edition of the Round Table. Not the Braves, nor the Bobcats or the Bulldogs, but the Beloit College Buccaneers! “This name, which can be shortened to ‘Bucs,’ received 546 of the 708 votes cast. Braves, Bulldogs, and Bobcats placed second, third and fourth respectively. By choosing ‘Buccaneers,’ the name sponsored by Jim Duffy and Jack Harr, Beloit College became the first college in the country to have this nickname.”
Seemingly without regret, Jim McCarthy joined the Buccaneer bandwagon: “I believe they made an excellent choice! To some of you it may not seem to fit as well as other suggested names, but with use it should become very popular. It certainly is original…and there are certainly a great number of synonyms for it, such as Pirates or Corsairs. Hats off to the students for their fine selection.”
Jim Duffy and Jack Harr, both members of the class of 1949, traveled with the basketball team and reported on their games for the Beloit College News Service. “I got totally caught up in my work with Beloit athletics,” Duffy recalled in his autobiography, The Wind in the Trees, “to the point where Harr and I were instrumental in a write-in contest of giving a new nickname, ‘the Buccaneers’ to the Beloit teams. Our sometimes by-lined stories about the Beloit teams – especially basketball – appeared in publications across the country. It served us well as writers, with our reference to ‘the swashbuckling Buccaneers of Beloit College,’ ‘the Golden Bucs of Beloit,’ ‘Beloit’s Bucket Brigade,’ and so on.”