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Bug or Insect Mascots in College Sports

September 19, 2018

As Summer comes to an end and the first signs of Fall begin to show, there is another change that takes place in America – the return of football. America’s most popular sport dominates fall television programming, with National Football League and college games broadcasting Thursday through Monday nights almost nonstop.

Football games are a communal event, with stadiums hosting thousands of fans on gameday. On Saturdays in particular, college campuses across the country are hives of activity, as students, graduates, and other fans are abuzz with excitement as they prepare to cheer their team on to victory.

At Insight Pest Solutions, we’re big football fans and love rooting on the home teams near any of our locations across the country. Given our area of expertise, we also have a bit of a soft spot for any team with an insect for a mascot, regardless of where they are located.

While the NFL does not have any teams with bug-related names, there are plenty among the ranks of college athletics, including the very prominent Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets program. With college football season underway, we wanted to see how many schools with insect names for their athletics teams are out there that we should be rooting for. Once we started investigating this area we kept finding more and more interesting information and decided it was just too good not to share!

Locations of schools with bug or insect-based nicknames and mascots.

We found 30 different schools with bug-based mascots all across the United States and Canada. There is a tremendous variety to these schools as they run the gamut from NCAA Division I institutions, such as the University of Richmond Spiders in Virginia, down to junior colleges, like California’s Fullerton Hornets.

Interestingly, when we mapped these schools out we found schools with insect team names had a significant presence on the East Coast while in the Midwest, they are almost completely unheard of past Texas and the Great Plains. In fact, the only two total schools that have bug-based team names among the 13 states west of Texas are both in California. That total is less than the number of insect teams in either Virginia or Ohio alone, as both of those states each feature three such schools within their borders. 

Facts about schools with bug or insect-based nicknames and mascots.

We also looked at some defining characteristics of the 30 schools we found with insect-inspired team names. On average, these schools compete in 16 different sports on the varsity level. What’s even more interesting is we found that private schools are more likely to name their sports teams after insects, as 17 of the 30 schools we looked at – 57% – are private institutions.

College mascots by type of bug or insect.

Georgia Tech may be the most well-known bug-based team in the country, but that doesn’t mean they are the only Yellow Jackets in the game. In fact, that is the most common team name in our analysis, with 10 teams, a full ⅓ of all bug-based schools, choosing that as their insect identification. Including derivative spellings like “YellowJackets” and “Yellowjackets” bumps that up to nearly 50%, with 14 of the 30 schools utilizing the name, well ahead of the second-place finishing Hornets.

Just for fun, we also collected data on the various names of the costumed mascots that represent these schools and found that two names came up time and again. “Buzz” is the most common name, as nine schools went that route, followed by six schools with “Sting” cheering for them on the sidelines.  

Athletic achievements of schools with bug or insect-based nicknames and mascots.

Beyond the names themselves, we wanted to know more about how these teams perform on the field. Georgia Tech has the highest name recognition of any school in this evaluation. That makes even more sense when you realize they are the only program with a bug-based team name in the entire NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of college football in the country. Four more schools with insect teams compete just a step below that level in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A. Below them are six other schools are in Division II and 10 are in Division III, the most of any NCAA subdivision. Nine teams compete outside of the NCAA entirely, four in the NAIA and five in other leagues such as junior college conferences.

With Fall being football season, there was a definite focus on that sport when compiling this data, and that focus revealed some positive findings when it comes to bug-based team names. As a whole, such teams have a winning record all-time in the sport, compiling a .509 winning percentage on average, claiming a combined 214 conference championships and 15 national titles across all leagues and divisions. 

Additional achievements of schools with bug or insect-based nicknames and mascots.

While there aren’t any bug teams in the NFL, there are plenty of players from schools with insectoid mascots that have played in the league. In fact, when comparing professional football, basketball, and baseball, the AFL or NFL have showcased nearly 400 players, far more than any other sport – more than double the number of athletes from these schools that have played in the MLB. Further, the NFL presently features the most current athletes from insect-inspired college teams with 16 NFL players, outpacing the NBA and MLB’s combined number of athletes from the same schools.

NFL players from schools with bug or insect-based nicknames and mascots.

 

MLB players from schools with bug or insect-based nicknames and mascots.

 

NBA players from schools with bug or insect-based nicknames and mascots.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of professional athletes from bug-based college programs come from Georgia Tech. The Atlanta-based school has produced the most players in the NFL, MLB, and NBA by a healthy margin in each sport. Still, there are some surprising insights that revealed themselves as we examined this data further.

Being the only insect program on the top level of college football, it makes sense that the Yellow Jackets would send more players to the NFL than any other school with a buggy team name, and they definitely have with 179 Tech alums going pro. That number is less than half of the all-time total for bug teams, however, indicating that smaller schools have had their fair share of success in producing elite football players. The University of Richmond, Alabama State University, and California State University-Sacramento have all sent at least 20 players to the NFL, and six other programs have cracked double digits in this arena.            

The sport where Georgia Tech is truly the standard bearer among their peers is actually basketball. Tech plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, one of the premier basketball conferences in the entire country. This kind of competition has helped forge Tech athletes into pro-ready players as well as allowed the school to lure elite players, like Stephon Marbury, to Atlanta so they can compete against the likes of Duke and North Carolina every year. As a result of all of those facts, Georgia Tech has produced 38 of the 51 players from insect-inspired athletics programs that have made it to the NBA, an astounding 74.5 percent of such players!

While the presence of Yellow Jackets, Spiders, Hornets, and more are welcome on your television set throughout the year, the actual insects and pests that inspired their team names most definitely are not. If you are having a problem with any of the bugs mentioned above in your home be sure to contact Insight Pest Solutions today!

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