ALJASSAR: Out with the old, in with Wahoo
The official mascot of the University should be changed to the Wahoo
The greatest team names in sports are those that carry historical significance or reflect the traditions of the cities and colleges they represent. Consider the New England Patriots, for example. Though I detest the Patriots, I respect the team’s moniker given Boston’s history as the epicenter of the American Revolution. Other team names that bear regional relevance include the Denver Nuggets and Wichita State Shockers, nicknames that allude to Colorado’s 19th century mining boom and the Midwest practice of shocking wheat, respectively. Compare such great names to terrible team names such as the Detroit Lions or the Clemson Tigers. There’s no history or tradition of big cats in Detroit or Clemson.
The University’s Cavalier mascot is rooted in the history of Virginia, a bastion of Royalist support against the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Defenders of the British Crown, the Royalists were referred to as Cavaliers. Given the history of the Commonwealth, it’s appropriate that the mascot for our athletic teams is the Cavalier.
Nevertheless, in spite of the Cavalier mascot’s history, I contend that the official mascot of the University should be changed to the Wahoo, the current unofficial mascot of the University. Not only does it share the historical significance of the Cavalier mascot, but the history and tradition surrounding the Wahoo is exclusive to the University. The story of the 1890s baseball game in which Washington and Lee fans referred to our players as “a bunch of rowdy Wahoos” is a story that belongs to solely to us. And then there’s the apocryphal story that the unofficial mascot stems from the wahoo fish’s purported ability to drink twice its own weight daily. That is a story only we could share. Conversely, students and athletes from any school in the Commonwealth could call themselves the Cavaliers. Even athletic teams outside of Virginia, such as Cleveland’s professional basketball team and high school teams across the nation, call themselves the Cavaliers. It’s not unique, and, for that reason, it’s not a great name.
I hold the unpopular opinion that Virginia Tech’s Hokie is superior to our official mascot. Originating in 1896 with the creation of the Old Hokie cheer, it’s a mascot that only Virginia Tech could have. It’s better than ours because it’s so interesting and idiosyncratic.
Cost presents itself as the greatest challenge to changing our official mascot to the Wahoo. All University merchandise and sportswear would have to be altered to reflect the name change. Each written instance of the name “Cavalier” around Grounds would also need to be changed. Yet this is a one-time deal. After the initial cost, we are left with the satisfaction of having a unique mascot, one that other schools cannot lay claim to.
Other obstacles include the large contingent of students and alumni who would oppose such a change due to tradition and the longevity of the Cavalier mascot. And to them I reiterate that the Wahoo has much more tradition at the University than the Cavalier.
The University must consider changing its mascot from the Cavalier to the Wahoo. While the Cavalier carries historical significance, it isn’t nearly as important to the University’s history and traditions as the Wahoo. The Wahoo is a name that we own. We can’t say the same about the Cavalier.
Nazar Aljassar is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. His columns run Fridays.