I suppose these questions and remarks may be perceived by some as rubbing salt in the wound, particularly fans of Vanderbilt University Men’s Basketball, and especially following Vandy’s buzzer-beater loss to Murray State in the opening round of NCAA tournament play. So sorry, but my boys are glued to the television, computer, CBS and ESPN during March Madness as they fill in their NCAA brackets almost by the hour, and I can’t help but ask some athletic team naming questions I have wondered about for some time now, even at the risk of triggering (hopefully only) a little bit of hate mail.
The first is, Vandy? While I certainly can understand why a school would want to embrace the efficiency of a two-syllable truncation over a consistent use of the full four-syllable version, but Vandy? Really? I mean, Vandy just seems to bring to mind a run of other unintimidating names like Handy, Dandy, Candy, Bambi, and maybe even Namby- Pamby, if one looks far enough. While I fully admit that my extremely limited and only experience with the school is watching the men’s basketball team on television, hearing the two-syllables always makes me wonder why a school would embrace a nickname for the men’s basketball team that one might expect as the main character in, say, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Villanova, on the other hand, also apparently interested in a two-syllable truncation of their four-syllable complete version, has decidedly avoided the prefix and being labeled "Villans", in favor of a more suffix-friendly approach, Nova:
Putting aside Nova’s linkage to Charlton Heston’s female and mute companion in Planet of the Apes, and the possible trademark issue with an unrelated university located in Southeastern Florida, Nova seems to support the Villanova Men’s Basketball team more than a bit better. Oh, and Villanova won their first round bid in the NCAA tournament, fending off a considerable challenge from Robert Morris.
Should Vanderbilt take a page out of Villanova’s two-syllable suffix playbook and re-brand men’s athletic teams nickname to Bilt? After all, wouldn’t the "Bilt Commodores" strike more fear in their opponents than the Vandy Commodores?
Doesn’t all this really beg the question of whether a school’s athletic program branding is necessarily consistent with the branding of the primary educational purpose of the institution?
Looking over my shoulder, my wife wonders, if we’re on the subject of poking fun at athletic team names, "how about Ole Miss, that is one I’ve never understood." I can’t claim to know the history there either, but I do think the prefix preference there makes more sense than a single-suffix alternative.
By the way, which athletic team nicknames do you question?
UPDATE: Perhaps I spoke to soon, and may have even jinxed Nova, see here.