What’s in a Nickname?

Ever since I began my coaching career, I have been fascinated by what lengths schools will go to so we all know the difference between the male and female teams. I began my head coaching career at Wilber-Clatonia High School. When I arrived, I found out I was coaching the Lady Wolverines. My contention was no one would want to get in the right position to find out if it’s a male or female wolverine, so we became the “Wolverines” and set aside the gender issue.

At many Northwest Missouri State University functions, you will hear my boss, Dr. Bob Boerigter, declare, “Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat!” I agree, but I have some reservations if anyone wanted to take that literally. Have you ever seen a real Bearcat? They’re not that cute and actually are pretty ferocious. A real bearcat is native to Asia. It has the head of a cat and a very woolly body of a bear. Most people who see a real bearcat are not impressed with its beauty. The voice of the Bearcats, Matt Gaarder, informed me that when a bearcat becomes excited, it emits a smell like popcorn. Another words, if you get a bearcat mad at you, it may either eat you or take you to a movie.

Central Arkansas University just went from NCAA II to NCAA I, but they didn’t change their mascot for the women’s basketball team. The men’s basketball team is known as the Bears. That creature challenges a bearcat for outer beauty. To soften things up, the women’s basketball team is known as the Sugar Bears. Is that politically correct? That sounds like something you bake and hang on the Christmas tree.

My favorite MIAA school nickname belongs to the University of Central Missouri. As most of us know, all of the men’s teams are known as the Mules and all the women’s teams are called as the Jennies. Why all the confusion? I think this state institution should simplify things and call all their teams the Jackasses. I think that’s politically correct.

Speaking of politically correct, can Savannah High School claim their school’s nickname of the Savages fits the bill? Personally, I love the nickname. My only problem with our neighbors to the south is they label their girl’s teams the Lady Savages. Would you vote for a Lady Savage for a homecoming queen? My assistant’s husband, Terry Hopkins, coaches the girls’ basketball team, so I see a lot of Lady Savage gear. Really, I like it.

Staying with high schools, I want to go to Nebraska for the most confusing mascots. Take Milligan High School for instance. Their boys are known as the Roosters. You guessed it, the girls are known as the Lady Roosters. That’s one mascot I would love to have examined by a veterinarian.

Lexington High School, the one in central Nebraska, proudly calls their boy’s teams the Minutemen. That’s an honorable group of men who helped free us from the British. It’s no longer true, but for years, the girl’s teams were called the Minute Maids. Behind every good Minuteman is a good, hardworking, loyal Minute Maid. I’m sure that’s NOT politically correct.

Finally, let’s talk about Maryville High School. Talk about a great start to an athletic year for the Spoofhounds. We all hope their football team is headed to St. Louis and the volleyball team went to state with only one loss. Other teams had great fall success too. We live in the only community in the entire world that proclaims its high school nickname is the Spoofhounds. Anyway, that’s what ESPN claimed in a special on mascots several years ago. I am very proud of that fact.

I have friends back in Nebraska that have asked me to send them Spoofhound t-shirts. That’s why I’m confused sometimes when the high school often shortens its nickname to the Hounds. What’s unique about the Hounds?

On the other hand, it wasn’t a proud football coach that first called his team the Spoofhounds. As the plaque in the high school tells the story, a frustrated football coach long, long ago called his under-achieving team a bunch of Spoofhounds. The players liked it so much that it became the official nickname of Maryville High School. That plaque at the high school also tells us that a Spoofhound was once known as a lazy carnival dog, not the present-day fighting canine…

So now when we proudly proclaim, “Once a Spoofhound, always a Spoofhound!” we hope it isn’t meant literally. However, traveling with the carnival and sleeping all day may be preferred rather than being referred to as an ugly, hairy, smelly bearcat. Personally, I love them both.

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.