At its best, a college's mascot serves as a reflection of its strengths, values, and campus culture, presenting a physical embodiment of everything that makes a school distinct. Some schools can't be condensed into a simple, generic sports mascot – some schools call for more. The institutions on this list possess mascots that may confuse outsiders, appearing quirky, eccentric, or even laughable at first glance. Outside of staff, students, and alumni, few people likely understand geoducks, gorloks, billikens, or boll weevils. However, each of these mascots plays a unique role in their college's campus life, bringing a spirit of good humor and lightheartedness to the world of academia.
Some of these institutions lack conventional athletic programs entirely, with mascots that serve purely as symbols of school spirit. Others maintain more conventional, "respectable" mascots, but their offbeat counterparts usually win out with the fans. Some boast histories that date back decades, while others are younger than many current students. Humorous, head scratching, and occasionally terrifying, these mascots remain as unique as the schools that birthed them.
|1||The Evergreen State College Olympia, WA||
A liberal arts college in Olympia, Washington, Evergreen offers a unique educational experience from top to bottom. The college doesn't grade on a traditional 4.0 scale, with students instead receiving narrative evaluations from faculty members. Evergreen also features no required courses, and the school motto is Omnia extares, meaning "let it all hang out." Known for its liberal politics and unconventional education model, Evergreen also maintains a mascot that represents its eccentric spirit: Speedy the Geoduck. The world’s largest burrowing clam, the geoduck presents a baffling image to most outsiders, down to its very name, which is pronounced "gooey-duck." A native of the Puget Sound region, the geoduck fits in just fine on Evergreen's campus, where Speedy can be found cheering on the school's basketball and soccer teams.
|2||New College of Florida Sarasota, FL||
Another unique liberal arts college with a mascot to match, NCF resembles Evergreen in its lack of conventional grades and focus on student-directed learning, but the school boasts an even stranger mascot: the Null Set. The only college mascot capable of faithful representation through text, the Null Set is, literally, just a set of empty brackets: [ ]. Since NCF hosts no real sports teams, the Null Set functions more to reflect the college's focus on academics and free-spirited experimentation. In the 1970s, NCF students adopted Brownie the Dog, a stray that frequented campus, as their mascot. After Brownie passed on, the college struggled to choose a new mascot, inserting a pair of empty brackets in its constitution as a placeholder – one that was never replaced.
|3||University of California, Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA||
A progressive pubic college near the Bay Area, UC Santa Cruz has long served as a seat of California's expansive counterculture. The school's McHenry Library even hosts the archives for iconic psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead. Santa Cruz cements its bohemian credibility with a truly unique athletic mascot: the banana slug. Chosen in 1974 by the school's soccer team, the banana slug began as something of a joke, since the college had no official NCAA sports teams at the time. As athletic programs grew more formal and organized, the school made various attempts to adopt a more "respectable" mascot, but the banana slug finally became the official emblem of Santa Cruz sports in 1986. Today, the slugs occupy a lofty position in the annals of sports trivia and pop culture at large: John Travolta can even be seen wearing a Banana Slugs shirt in Pulp Fiction.
|4||University of North Carolina School of the Arts Winston-Salem, NC||
While many mascots on this list emphasize their schools' dedication to arts or academics rather than sports, UNCSA boasts the rare honor of possessing a mascot but no official athletic program whatsoever. As a public arts conservatory focused on music, filmmaking, drama, dance, and design, the Winston-Salem college doesn't exactly attract the country's top athletes, but most students likely prefer it that way. Fittingly, the school's Fighting Pickle possesses a sensitivity and artistic temperament that is rare among college mascots. Clad in a masquerade mask, piano keyboard tutu, and holding both a paintbrush and a filmmaker's clapperboard, the Fighting Pickle represents the diverse artistic interests of the school's students. The Fighting Pickle’s election to official mascot is aptly named “Apicklypse Now,” a play on the film Apocalypse Now from the 1970s, when the Pickles rose to prominence.
|5||Providence College Providence, RI||
A private Roman Catholic college, Providence College stays true to its Dominican roots with mascot Friar Dom, who really lives up to his name. An oversized Dominican friar, complete with a white habit and an eerily human face, Friar Dom frequently finds himself listed among the country's strangest mascots. In less forgiving rankings, Friar Dom is one of the scariest U.S. mascots. Throughout most of its history, PC held a series of dalmatians as its sports mascots, with the dogs' black and white spots intended to symbolize the black and white habits worn by Dominican friars. However, in the early 1960s, school administrators saw fit to introduce Friar Dom. Strange and potentially terrifying appearance aside, Friar Dom remains loved around the PC campus, and his national profile rose considerably with an appearance in a commercial for ESPN's SportsCenter.
|6||St. Louis College of Pharmacy St. Loius, MO||
As a college solely dedicated to pharmacy with a student body numbering under 1,500, the fact that STLCOP has a mascot at all is something of a wonder. But this unique, highly specialized school plays host to a fittingly unique, specialized athletic mascot: Mortarmer McPestle the Eutectic. The name functions as ultimate inside joke for pharmacy students; eutectic describes a scientific process through which two solids combine to form a liquid, and historically, pharmacists and chemists used mortar and pestles to create medications. One administrator describes the process as a metaphor for STLCOP itself, which combines athletics and rigorous academics. Moving outside the realm of pure abstraction, the Eutectic himself appears as a tall, bearded scientist clad in a lab coat. His image may not conjure up fear in opposing teams, but that seems entirely beside the point.
|7||Webster University St. Loius, MO||
Webster's mascot the Gorlok must surely rank among the most democratic in all of collegiate sports, since the mythical creature was designed by students and staff through a contest in the school's newspaper. In the summer of 1984, the Missouri-based college convened a committee that selected the name "Gorlok" from an assortment of student suggestions. Gorlok is a portmanteau of Gore Avenue and Lockwood Avenue, two major streets that intersect on the Webster campus. That fall, Webster’s campus paper printed only the name, encouraging students to submit both a drawing and a description of what they thought the Gorlok should look like. What emerged was a creature with the face of a Saint Bernard dog, the paws of a cheetah, and the horns of a buffalo. The original Gorlok looked like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon, but in 2006 the college updated the mascot for the new millennium with a slightly fiercer image.
|8||Stanford University Stanford, CA||
While Stanford's reputation rests on its academic rigor and close ties to Silicon Valley, the college also boasts one of the country's strangest mascots, affectionately known as the Stanford Tree. Officially, the school has no mascot, and Stanford's athletic teams — known as Cardinal Athletics — refer to the color and not the bird. However, the Stanford Tree serves as the official mascot for the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, assuring its presence at most major sports events. Representing the Palo Alto tree that appears on Stanford's official seal, the tree first appeared in 1975, as the school struggled to determine a new mascot. During a halftime show that featured several other offbeat candidates (such as the Stanford French Fry), the Tree charmed crowds enough to become a permanent member of the marching band. Throughout the years, the grueling selection process for the tree has become the stuff of Stanford legend.
|9||University of Louisiana at Lafayette Lafayette, LA||
Administrators at UL Lafayette faced an interesting problem when devising a mascot for the college's Ragin' Cajuns: how exactly does one turn the abstract concept of Cajun culture into a sports symbol? The school arrived at many solutions over the years, including the bulldogs, the Cajun Man, and the notorious Cajun Chicken. In 2000, UL Lafayette decided on a unique approach, introducing a mascot more spiritual than physical. Cayenne, an anthropomorphic cayenne pepper, embodies the school's fighting Cajun spirit and the rich history of Cajun culture in Louisiana. As a staple spice of Cajun cuisine, cayenne plays an important role in the Acadiana region, the home of the UL Lafayette campus. Cayenne the mascot serves as the "spirit leader" for the college's sports teams, broadcasting Cajun culture to the world. Cayenne's maroon tint and shock of bright red hair make him impossible miss at UL Lafayette sporting events.
|10||Saint Louis University St. Loius, MO||
The appearance of Saint Louis University’s Billiken — whose images blurs the lines between a goblin, an imp, and a troll — more than qualifies it for this list, but the mascot's history put it over the edge. In an origin story that must surely rank among the strangest in college sports, the Billiken came to Florence Pretz, a Kansas City art teacher, in a dream. Resembling a stouter troll doll, complete with a tuft of hair atop his head, the Billiken "embodied hope and happiness to sort of live up to," according to Pretz. After filing a design patent on the image in 1908, Pretz sold her creation to the Billiken Company of Chicago, which transformed the Billiken into a national sensation. Billiken dolls sold by the millions, and the creature even found its way into popular songs and movies. As the story goes, the Billiken resembled one SLU athletic coach so strongly that the college eventually adopted the creature as its official mascot.
|11||Concordia College Moorhead, MN||
Most offbeat college mascots fall into one of two categories: the intentionally humorous and the unintentionally humorous. Concordia's corncob — affectionately known to fans as Kernel — sits firmly in the former camp. According to school lore, the corncob nickname first emerged as a taunt from rival Hope Academy, intended to mock Concordia's rural campus. However, the student body took a shine to the name, and before long the Corncobs became the school's unofficial nickname. The Corncobs evolved into the more menacing Cobbers in 1928. Today, Kernel the Cobber – who, true to his name, is literally a giant ear of corn – boasts a fiercer image thanks to a 2006 redesign, but he still maintains the good humor that characterizes Concordia as a whole.
|12||University of Arkansas at Monticello Monticello, AR||
With his floppy antennae and oversized nose, UAM's Weezy the Weevil doesn't strike the most imposing figure on the football field, but a closer look into the mascot's history reveals plenty to fear. During the 1920s, the cotton-devouring boll weevil heralded disaster for farmers across the country, devastating crops and leaving farmers on the brink of poverty. In 1925, at a pep rally before a big game against Southern Arkansas University, UAM President Frank Horsfall came up with a team name sure the set any farmer shaking in their boots, declaring, "The only gosh-darned thing that ever licked the South was the boll weevil. Boll weevils! That’s what you are – Boll Weevils!" Emerging as one of the South's oddest mascots, the boll weevil has presided over men's sports at UAM for nearly 100 years. Interestingly, the women's athletic department at UAM adopted the subtler Cotton Blossoms moniker for their teams.
|13||Whittier College Whittier, CA||
A private liberal arts college in Southern California, Whittier celebrates its rich, literate history through its mascot Johnny Poet. The mascot, complete with a tri-corner hat and quill, resembles Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, who gives the school its name. In his time during the 19th century, Whittier ranked among the most popular poets in the country, and critics count him among the notable "Fireside Poets." While few argue with Whittier's achievements, an intellectual poet hardly strikes an intimidating pose against rival sports teams. Unlike many liberal arts colleges that adopt unconventional mascots to symbolize their lack of interest in traditional athletics, Whittier actually hosts an assortment of NCAA sports teams, including a football team that boasts 25 conference titles over the past century. Over one third of Whittier’s students participate in the combined 22 men’s and women’s athletic teams on campus, so there’s a large population of poets to fear!
|14||Delta State University Cleveland, MS||
Based in Cleveland, Mississippi, Delta State University hosts both an official mascot, the Statesman, and an unofficial mascot, the Fighting Okra – neither of which ranks highly among conventional mascots. Founded in part thanks to Mississippi state representative Walter Sillers, Jr., the college originally adopted the Statesman to honor Sillers' contributions. However, in the 1980s, the Fighting Okra emerged as a joke among the student body, many of whom argued that a piece of okra was about as intimidating as the politician. After a schoolwide poll in the mid 1990s, DSU adopted the Fighting Okra as its unofficial mascot. The Fighting Okra enjoys the occasional campus prank , and the mascot even made an appearance on an okra-centric episode of the Food Network's Good Eats. Spectators can witness the Okra's fearsome grimace at DSU's major sporting events alongside the formidable Statesman, cheering for DSU’s 15 teams.
|15||Washburn University Topeka, KS||
Another college with the unusual choice of a human figure for a mascot, Washburn's Ichabods honor early donor and namesake Ichabod Washburn, a wealthy businessman who made his fortune mass-producing wire in the 19th century. Given the less than gripping nature of Washburn's backstory, the school's prim and proper mascot – clad in a coat, spectacles, and top hat – comes as little surprise. Created in 1938 by a Washburn student, the image of Ichabod represents "courage, courtesy, kindness and studiousness," though exactly where the final three qualities factor into competitive sports is anyone's guess. The college has revised Ichabod's image over the years, but the top hat and dignified manner have remained constant. And contrary to popular belief, Washburn's mascot bears no connection to either Ichabod Crane, protagonist of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, or Planters' Mr. Peanut, for whom he's sometimes mistaken.
|16||Wichita State University Wichita, KS||
To the uninitiated, WSU's WuShock strikes a curious figure, with a craggy yellow face and a mop of yellow hair. The reality is just about as strange: WSU describes their mascot as "a big, bad, muscle-bound bundle of wheat," and this odd creature pays homage to the school's rich Midwest agricultural history. First, the name: WSU calls its sports teams the Shockers, a reference to the practice of shocking or harvesting wheat, a common summer job among football players. The college used an inanimate shock of wheat for its emblem until 1948, when a student submitted the design for WuShock as part of a contest seeking a new school mascot (the Wu referring to Wichita University, the school's previous name). Today, WuShock presides over sports events at WSU and makes appearances at events around Kansas.
|17||Scottsdale Community College Scottsdale, AZ||
One of the only community colleges in the country that can claim a truly unique mascot, Scottsdale Community College plays host to Artie the Artichoke, a character with a history of civil unrest. Founded in the 1970s, SCC, like many colleges, first sought to increase its visibility and enrollment with an emphasis on athletics. As millions went into new sports facilities and other measures designed to attracted top athletes, many students and faculty grew upset with what they saw as a disparity in funding between academics and athletics. When the college called for a vote on a new mascot, SCC's student government presented three tongue-in-cheek options: the Scoundrel, the Rutabaga, or the Artichoke. The artichoke won by a landslide, and despite protests from the administration, the school's athletic teams became the Artichokes. Originally conceived as a joke, staff and students have long since embraced the artichoke for its originality and uniqueness.
|18||Xavier University Cincinnati, OH||
Xavier's Blue Blob ranks among the most nationally recognized college mascots, due to its appearance in two commercials for ESPN's SportsCenter. Like several schools on this list, Xavier does possess an official, more conventional mascot: D'Artagnan the Musketeer (taken from Alexandre Dumas' classic novel The Three Musketeers). However, in 1985, Xavier's spirit squad coordinator Sally Watson designed the Blue Blob when she realized that D'Artagnan — a vaguely humanoid sword wielder — frightened younger fans. The friendly Blob immediately charmed fans, and the mascot now presides over most of Xavier's major sporting events. The blob may be better known, but D'Artagnan also holds a place in Xavier lore, and the two mascots often share the floor during games, with many students and staff choosing sides between the two rival mascots.
|19||Williams College Williamstown, MA||
One of the country's top liberal arts college, Williams also boasts one of the quirkiest mascots: Ephelia the Purple Cow. While the name just about says it all, the mascot's history remains unclear. The college itself reports that the Purple Cow's name may have come from a campus humor magazine in the early 20th century, which in turn took its name from a nonsense poem by American writer and humorist Gelett Burgess. Founded in 1907, the Purple Cow became a popular magazine on the Williams campus and may have played a large role in the school's mascot selection. By the 1930s, the Purple Cow became synonymous with Williams, and by 1952 the cow gained an official name – Ephelia – submitted by a Williams student in a radio contest. Subsequent decades saw Ephelia's popularity grow both regionally and nationally, culminating in a television appearance on an ESPN College Football GameDay commercial in 2010.
|20||Syracuse University Syracuse, NY||
Based in New York State, Syracuse has seen its share of mascots over its nearly 150 year history. The school followed a warrior mascot with a gladiator mascot that failed to win support among students, receiving frequent boos at sports games. When the gladiator bowed out in 1980, Syracuse hit upon the perfect emblem with Otto the Orange, an androgynous orange ball who quickly won favor with both students and staff. Otto serves as a literal representation of the school's official color, which may be based on a historical connection with the Dutch House of Orange. Orange is certainly an improvement over Syracuse's original school colors, pea green and rose pink, the neon shade unmistakeable at sports games. Administrators have attempted to replace Otto throughout the years, but the lovable mascot endures to this day.
|21||Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY||
One of the most mysterious mascots in collegiate sports, WKU's Big Red might best be defined by what it is not: not an animal, not a human, neither male nor female, and entirely unable to speak. This red blob frequently ranks among the most popular and most iconic college mascots, and its fun-loving demeanor has won Big Red fans across the nation. Big Red's origin dates back to 1979, when WKU student Ralph Carey set out to design a mascot that strayed from the hillbilly stereotype of Kentuckians. After presenting a sketch to the college's mascot committee, Carey made the first appearance as Big Red on December 1, 1979, which the school celebrates annually as the mascot's birthday. Known for signature moves such as the belly slide and the belly shake, Big Red also boasts a full-featured face that portrays a greater range of emotions than most sports mascots.
|22||Ohio State University Columbus, OH||
Unlike many of the colleges on this list, Columbus’ Ohio State University ranks highly for sports, and the school's status as a Big Ten powerhouse makes it easy to overlook the strangeness of its iconic mascot, Brutus Buckeye. Representing the Buckeye, Ohio's state tree, Brutus is a giant Buckeye nut, said to resemble the eye of a deer and bring good luck. Perhaps the only college mascot named for a nut, Brutus first appeared in 1965 at a game against Minnesota. Initially made of flimsy papier-mâché, he soon upgraded to a sturdier fiberglass frame. Over the years, Brutus has appeared in enough media spots to make most other mascots jealous, including The Daily Show; the NCAA Football and March Madness video game series; and commercials for Capital One, Home Depot, and ESPN.
|23||Grays Harbor College Aberdeen, WA||
A burly man holding a length of rope certainly makes for a menacing image, but that doesn't tell the whole story of Charlie the Choker, mascot for Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Washington. Charlie represents the history of logging in the Pacific Northwest: loggers known as chokers attach cables to logs, which engineers gather in preparation for transportation. Charlie symbolizes the important work of these dedicated loggers, ready to wrap his rope around any log that might present itself or any unsuspecting sports rival. Updated for the modern era in 2015, Charlie still sports his trademark rope and presents just as confusing an image as ever, even for many Northwest natives. Charlie's unusual background and appearance have received national attention, including a mention in Time magazine and a shout out from Cheetos mascot Chester Cheetah in a promotional list of the Top 25 Cheesiest College Mascots.
|24||Trinity Christian College Palos Heights, IL||
A liberal arts college based in the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights, Trinity boasts one of the country's truly unique mascots: the Troll. The only mascot of his kind in the country, the Trinity Troll has worn many faces throughout the school's history, sometimes resembling a man and at other time resembling a monster. Past designs offered up a level of weirdness uncommon among college mascots, but the troll's current incarnation skews closer toward the Disney conception of a troll, with blue skin, protruding teeth, and an outfit that looks like a medieval peasant's tunic. The Troll appears at a variety of sporting events at Trinity, including basketball, baseball, soccer, and volleyball, and his friendly redesign has proven popular with younger fans. Undeniably strange but popular, the Troll even received a shout out from ESPN as one of the 10 best names in sports.
|25||Mary Baldwin University Staunton, VA||
A small liberal arts college in Staunton, Virginia, MBU garnered national attention for its unconventional mascot, the Fighting Squirrel. Frequently recognized as one of the quirkiest mascots in the country, the squirrel actually serves as a living link to MBU's past. The squirrel figures prominently in the family crest of Mary Julia Baldwin, an early founder who played a major role in reconfiguring the school (originally known as the Augusta Female Seminary) into a successful institution in the wake of the Civil War. Baldwin oversaw the college for decades, and in 1895 it changed its name in her honor. Symbolizing trustworthiness, industriousness, and preparedness, the squirrel served as MBU's unofficial emblem until the 1970s, when the Fighting Squirrel finally became the official mascot. The Fighting Squirrel also made press appearances on NPR, ESPN, and Animal Planet. While it began as a joke, students, staff, and fans around the country came to appreciate the squirrel's determination and originality.
With no accepted scientific method to gauge the strangeness of sports mascots, this ranking depends on a variety of subjective factors, including appearance, history, backstory, and notoriety. Uniqueness, of course, remains in the eye of the beholder, but some mascots do undeniably present a stranger image than others. For example, most fans can envision a banana slug as a mascot, while an Ichabod or a Eutectic might require a bit more explanation. However, what's weird today may seem conventional tomorrow, so keep in mind that these rankings may change over time.