Name: Joe Bruin
First Appearance: 1924
Of all the bear mascots out there in college ball, UCLA’s Joe Bruin stands a cut above the rest. A stark contrast to Cal Berkeley’s creepy, balding, serial killer bear, Joe is a handsome, well put together, probably-got-his-masters-degree bear. The mascot’s facial features (and dope eyebrows) are about as symmetrical as you can get, which society tells us is a clear indicator of attractiveness. The dark brown fur matched against a UCLA powder blue jersey looks perfect and the bear’s unique ability to come across as approachable while still maintaining a hint of intimidation and strength makes the UCLA mascot one of the best in the biz.
Name: Izzy the Islander
First Appearance: 2011 (new look)
Izzy ranked higher on this list before his big makeover – the new Izzy is still a great ‘scot, just not quite as invigorating as the original. The old Izzy was a polarizing mascot – folks either loved him or thought he was God awful. He wore a large tiki mask, a grass skirt, and a cutoff shirt that showed off his plush mascot muscles. The new Izzy (circa 2011) got rid of the mascot bare feet and hands in favor of human feet and hands (which I’m not usually a fan of, but it works in this scenario), underwent a mask reduction surgery, and tossed off the grass skirt in favor of board shorts. On the positive side, the new Izzy gained a tribal tat – which I dig.
First Appearance: 1932 (as a bronze statue)
Testudo the Terrapin, Maryland’s terrific turtle in a half-shell (turtle power), brings to life the original bronze terrapin statue erected in the 1930s in front of Ritchie Coliseum, Maryland’s former basketball gym. Testudo stands alone as the only turtle in college sports and features a mean finger-snapping beak, a leather shell, and the school’s “M” emblazoned on his chest. While the mascot version of Testudo looks harmless enough, the CGI-version of the terrapin, unveiled in 2014, looks like a roided-out Raphael hell-bent on world domination. This more reptilian version comes complete with sharpened teeth, bulging biceps, and an Under Armour “polo-tat” style sigil over his left pectoral. Fierce.
Name: Willie the Wave
First Appearance: 1952 (current form: 2006)
Scenario: Each mascot in the nation is throwing his or her own party. You have to choose one mascot’s party to attend. Which mascot’s party would you choose?
Solution: You’re going to Willie the Wave’s party.
This guy is so cool you could leave ice cream out next to him for a week and it’d be just fine! Willie is just here to have a good time as evidenced by his trademark Hawaiian shirt, dark shades, and orange flip-flops. He has an almost McConaughey vibe to him, constantly throwing the “hang loose” or “finger-and-thumb gun” sign, and I bet the guy is capable of drinking a thousand beers.
Name: Sebastian the Ibis
First Appearance: 1957
He’s not a duck – he’s an ibis. The mistake is an easy one to make since Sebastian, the Miami Canes’ lovable mascot, looks more like a duck than his true ibis self. The ibis sports a long narrow beak that curves downward, while Sebastian’s beak is short, wide, and curves upward. Accurate species features aside, Sebastian is one cool looking bird. Sporting his traditional white sailor cap with the stylized “Hurricanes” written in Miami orange, Sebastian can usually be found wearing his team’s jersey while allowing plenty of space to show off those orange chicken legs of his. While I’m not usually a fan of human parts showing through the costume, Sebastian’s hands (human hands) are necessary to flash the famous Miami “U”, and he makes up for this small flaw with his ballin’ ibis feet shoes. Sneakerheads eat your hearts out.
Name: Buckingham U. "Bucky" Badger
First Appearance: 1940
Bucky Badger is one of the more stylish mascots in the college world, sporting a red and white striped turtleneck sweater few could pull off. While most mascots feature their team’s jersey or go au naturale, Bucky can always be seen working his sweater Winnie the Pooh style (that’s pants-less). Wisconsin’s Bucky logo paints the Badger as a ticked off weasel strutting into battle, but the mascot Bucky that we’ve come to love is decidedly more cheery, featuring a smile that seems to say “hey guy, come get a pic with Bucky”.
Name: Truman the Tiger
First Appearance: 1986
Yes I attended the University of Missouri, and yes the prospect of me putting my beloved school mascot in the top 15 list may come across as biased, but I challenge anyone to find a cooler tiger mascot than my main man Truman. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more free-spirited school ambassador, reinforced by Truman’s clear lack of interest in wearing clothes. Truman’s overall look and coloring (complete with white underbelly and stripes) make for a decently realistic looking tiger, but it’s the long tail, for which Truman has an affinity to twirl, that really pumps up the crowd and sets this bipedal badass apart from the pack.
Name: Albert Gator
First Appearance: 1970
Like Bucky Badger, Albert Gator also chooses to wear a turtleneck with his school’s capital letter logo on its front (and subscribes to Winnie the Pooh's no-pants policy). Albert takes it one step further though – he’s got a hat, and a gator in a hat is pretty fantastic. Complementing Albert’s accoutrements are his two-toned plush green “skin”, pink nostrils, and open alligator mouth complete with a red tongue and full set of chompers. Albert’s awesome look plays best when he’s performing the Florida Gator Chomp, one of the most recognizable sports gestures in the country. Consequently, Albert is one of the most recognizable mascots in the country helping him score high on the “classic” scale. He also kind of looks like a green Barney, and I’m a fan of that.
Name: Captain 'Cane
First Appearance: 2009
We need to get this guy a movie contract. Captain ‘Cane is the foremost superhero authority in college sports and possesses the ability to summon weather. The Captain, who took over for an anthropomorphized hurricane with biceps in 2009, looks fresh in his blue and gold suit complete with red cape and lightning bolt sword. The emblem on his chest features the TU logo inside a swirling golden hurricane. I’m not exactly sure how the lightning bolt sword works practically (picturing a jagged light saber), but I do know I dig the Cap’s look. Throw Matt Damon in some blue spandex and we’ve got the makings of a billion dollar blockbuster.
First Apperance: 1989
Of the five Division 1 colleges boasting “Spartans” as their nickname, no costumed mascot holds a candle to Michigan State’s Sparty (seriously, Google San Jose State, USC Upstate, UNC Greensboro, and Norfolk State). Sparty is clearly the most photogenic of the bunch and the dude has to be in the 3,000-pound club with those beefy arms and legs – even Sparty’s metal armor can’t hide those abs. The brilliant MSU green looks right at home on the traditional Spartan garb, and the tall white crest, silver armored cuffs, and soccer shin guards complete the look. When referring to Michigan State, people often simply say “Sparty”, and the costumed Spartan is one of the most recognizable mascots in college sports, helping him earn this top ten slot.
First Appearance: 1948
Wichita State’s bundle of wheat inspired mascot “WuShock” takes a lot of flak for his menacing look which features an unsettling grin reminiscent of a cross between Jack from the Shining and an unmedicated Gary Busey. While I acknowledge WuShock’s uncanny ability to frighten young children, he still belongs on this “best of” list primarily due to his uniqueness. The Shockers moniker, derived from “Wheatshockers” (an occupation held by many a student back in the early 1900s in Kansas), is unique to Wichita State, and WuShock is unlike any other mascot. Like Jay-Z, he’s fearless in his all black sweat suit, and like Jay-Z, WuShock is pushing 70 years old, which could help explain the guy’s deep wrinkles (wrinkle cream bro!). The best part about WuShock though is his wild, unkempt hair, a style so transcendent that it has caught on in popular culture, and is even worn by a current presidential candidate.
Name: Goldy Gopher
First Appearance: 1940
Goldy Gopher is one of the best looking mascots in sports. This lovable, buck-toothed varmint is comfortable in a Minnesota basketball jersey (complete with headband) or just kickin’ it in a maroon and gold sweater. Goldy’s head shape and size is perfect in the realm of mascot aesthetics and his ear-to-ear smile makes him one of the more approachable mascots in college sports (kid friendly!). Plus, there may be no better mascot to grab a casual brew with after a hard day's work (me crunching numbers and him probably tunneling).
First Appearance: 1924
Rameses got his name from Jack Merritt, a star fullback on the 1922 UNC Tar Heels football team, more commonly known as “the battering ram”. The idea of a university creating a mascot off a star-athlete’s nickname is awesome; what higher honor can you hope for as a student-athlete than to be immortalized as a costumed character that is forever synonymous with the university for which you played? It’d be like if Stanford changed their infamous tree mascot to a tiger after a certain golfer or if the Utah Jazz’s mascot was a mailman named Karl. Interesting origins aside, Rameses stands on his own as one of the most recognizable mascots in college sports and one of its best looking. The beefy frame, perfectly curled horns, and dramatic eyebrows make Rameses one of the coolest mascots in town. It’s a clean, simple mascot look worthy of top five recognition.
Name: Big Jay
First Appearance: 1960s
A Jayhawk isn’t a real bird in nature; it exists solely as a symbol of the University of Kansas, a figment of a LSD user’s wild imagination. Despite my inner Missouri Tiger loyalty and forever distain for all things KU, I have to concede that Beaker nation has in its arsenal one of the best mascots in the country. There isn’t a casual sports fan in America who can’t name the university associated with a picture of Big Jay, a fact that scores highly in a supposedly unbiased ranking of college mascots. While Jay has some flaws aesthetically, like how his eyes for some reason overlap his eyebrows, he is overall a perfect symbol of his school and an ultimate embodiment of Kansas’s school spirit (I also dig the fantastical bird’s shoe buckles, those are fresh). It is for these reasons that I swallow my pride and rank Big Jay among the best.
Name: The Oregon Duck a.k.a. Fighting Duck a.k.a. The Duck
First Appearance: 1940
It doesn’t get any better than the Oregon Duck. The Duck possesses the rare mascot combination of good looks, notoriety (he’s on College Game Day quite a bit), and uniqueness. Seriously, this Duck is really, really, ridiculously good looking – that sailor hat and ascot combination is on point. Back in the 40s, the Duck was known by an equally intimidating moniker, “Puddles”, and was intentionally made to look like Disney’s Donald Duck. Disney and Oregon formed a partnership allowing the school to use Donald in their official logos, but Oregon’s Duck has sense taken on an identity unique to itself. Don’t let the inviting smile fool you though, the Fighting Duck has street cred and can hold his own in a scuffle.