Arkansas Mascots through the years

Staff Writer

Imagine a time when Arkansas called the Cardinals and Arkansas State University cheered on the Gorillas. This is part of the colorful story of college mascots in Arkansas. While the University of Arkansas was organized in 1871, it was several years before competitive sports began.
The earliest records indicate that students organized the first football team in 1894, with the official colors as white and cardinal red. The Cardinal nickname spread, including as the title of the university’s first yearbook that year. The Arkansas Cardinals were undefeated in the 1909 season, easily sweeping aside the best teams in the region. After one wild performance that season, Coach Hugo Bezdek commented that the team “played like a wild band of Razorback Hogs.” The nickname immediately caught on with players, students, and fans alike. One player remembered years later that fans would start shouting “Here come the Hogs” when they arrived. Students voted to make the name change official in 1910, and the Cardinals forever afterward became the Razorbacks. Arkansas State University had the most mascot changes of any university in the state.
ASU was founded in 1909 as the First District Agricultural School, designed to aid the farmers in northeastern Arkansas with the latest knowledge of agricultural science. As such, the first team mascot to appear in 1911 was the Farmers. Eventually, this became the Aggies.
The college’s growth prompted a 1925 name change to the First District Agricultural and Mechanical College. With the new name came a new mascot, the Gorillas. The Gorilla mascot never managed much popularity, and in 1930, the college changed mascots once again. In honor of the Osage tribe that once populated the region, students chose the Warriors as the latest name. In 1931, the mascot changed again to the Indians. As the college grew in prominence across the state, the Indian mascot became the most recognizable and longest-lasting at Arkansas State. By the 1990s, however, an increasing number of Native Americans and activists across the nation began questioning whether it was tasteful to invoke Native American imagery for sports teams anywhere. As such, ASU organized a committee to consider a new mascot. In 2008, the Indians officially became the Red Wolves.
Some colleges remained consistent with their mascots. For Arkansas Tech in Russellville, the name for the men’s teams has been the Wonder Boys since they first played in 1911. Since the women’s teams began in the 1970s, they have been known as the Golden Suns. From the beginning of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as Little Rock Junior College in 1927, the mascot has always been the Trojans. The Boll Weevils and the Muleriders are perhaps two of the most unusual mascots in the nation, but they are treasured by fans and students alike.
The Mulerider mascot began early in Southern Arkansas University’s history. Students and players at the Third District Agricultural School in Magnolia rode mules to the nearest train depots at McNeil, about five miles away, for away games. According to the story, Coach George Turrentine afterward began calling his players “Muleriders.” As a result, it became a beloved nickname as early as 1912. The University of Arkansas at Monticello was founded as the Fourth District Agricultural School in 1909.
By the 1920s, the boll weevil infestation had become a serious threat to cotton farmers across the South, a problem that scholars in Monticello studied very closely. As such, in 1925, college president Hugh Critz announced that the mascot for the college’s teams would be the Boll Weevils. In 1935, the college completed the “Cotton Boll” Stadium for their team.