Top 10 college basketball mascots of all time
What’s a college basketball team without a mascot, right? We rank the 10 greatest mascots in college basketball history.
As we gear up for March Madness, it's time to rank the top 10 best NCAA basketball mascots of all time. These iconic mascots have entertained and inspired College basketball fans throughout the rich history of the sport.
The Mascots of March Madness 2023 are more than just furry creatures or quirky characters. They have the common goal of irritating their opponents' fans as much as possible, while rallying their own fans to go wild for their teams. And while we celebrate the top 10, it's important to recognize the honorable mentions and the role they've played in college basketball history.
One such honorable mention is Dartmouth's Keggy the Keg - perhaps one of the most bizarre -- yet strangely addictive-- March Madness mascots in the country. With Dartmouth's successful season this year – the Big Green went 17-5 and even swept Harvard for the first time in 24 years -- it's exciting to think about the future of the Mascots of March Madness and how they will continue to entertain and inspire College basketball fans across the nation.
When it comes to basketball mascots, selecting 10 to showcase on this list was a challenging task. Deep dives into social media accounts were necessary to identify those that were well-represented, including a few underdogs. Among this list are some of the most popular college basketball mascots from some of the biggest programs in the country, and yes, they have more followers than you do.
Ranking the Top 10 best college basketball mascots of all time
- Testudo - Maryland
Instagram: 13.1k Followers
Twitter: 4.3k Followers
TikTok: 4.4 Followers
There are not many colleges with turtle mascots, but the University of Maryland certainly stands out as main of the front-runners. Testudo is a diamondback terrapin, representing Maryland’s state reptile. The terrapin is protected by state law, and it is considered unlawful to take or possess terrapins in a commercial setting.
Maryland’s mascot has represented the university for over 80 years, waving the school flag at center court of every basketball game and pumping up the crowd.
He was originally a live terrapin, which was stolen by Johns Hopkins students in 1947. The now famous story of Maryland students charging the building where their mascot was being held hostage tells of 200 police officers being called to what was described as a riot that turned into an enormous party.
Testudo’s bronze statue watches over the Maryland campus, and rubbing his nose is supposedly good luck for students and athletes.
- Big Jay - Kansas
Instagram: 5.8k Followers
Twitter: 9.7k Followers
TikTok: 8.4k Followers
Big Jay is one of the more vibrant college mascots, appearing at Jayhawks basketball games alongside Baby Jay.
The big Jayhawk bird can be found among students and fans at games, pumping up the crowd and encouraging fans to get up on their feet. Big Jay was introduced in 1953. while his companion Baby Jay came to life in 1971.
The two are now an iconic feature at Jayhawks basketball games, integrating with the cheerleaders and bringing energy to games on the court as well as the football and baseball fields.
- Rameses - UNC
Instagram: 14k Followers
Twitter: 11.8k Followers
TikTok: 3k Followers
University of North Carolina mascot Rameses was brought to life in 1924, and has represented the Tar Heels ever since. His image came from star fullback Jack Merritt, who was nicknamed “the battering ram” during his playing days in 1922.
Head cheerleader Vic Huggins had the idea for taking the ram nickname and turning it into the school's mascot. The school went out and got a live ram to hang out with the team on the sidelines.
The North Carolina mascot in costume form arrived in 1987, and then in 2015 they introduced Rameses Jr., known as RJ. The addition brings a less aggressive looking Ram with a softer facial expression in an effort to appeal more to children.
- Duke Blue Devil - Duke
Instagram: 5.8k Followers
Twitter: 9.5k Followers
TikTok: 1.1k Followers
The Duke Blue Devil mascot costume is one of the most recognizable in college basketball, largely due to the success Duke has enjoyed in the modern era. Duke won five National Championships under Coach K between 1991 and 2015 and was one of the nation’s best programs for the majority of his 42 years in charge.
The Blue Devil is a great looking mascot with a lot of energy who leads the student section at Duke known as the Cameron Crazies. He wears a blue mask and has a muscular build, while donning a Duke uniform and a great big cape with the D of Duke embroidered on it.
The social-media presence of Blue Devil appears to be lacking in comparison to other mascots. It seems the Blue Devil has only recently started on a TikTok journey, while other mascots are excelling on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
- Goldy Gopher - Minnesota
Instagram: 20k Followers
Twitter: 35k Followers
TikTok: 30k Followers
Goldy Gopher is one of the more popular mascots in college sports, with at least 20,000 followers on all three major social platforms. Minnesota has been known as the “Gopher State’ since the 1850”, and the athletic program at the University of Minnesota took on the Golden Gophers nickname in the 1920s.
Perhaps one of Goldy’s most memorable moments came in a kids-vs.-mascots football game when he took a hand-off down the right sideline and ran right over a young player in pads on his way to the end zone. Goldy then proceeded to celebrate his well-earned touchdown. No children were injured in the process, but one was most definitely trucked on the football field.
- Sebastian the Ibis - Miami
Instagram: 28.3k Followers
Twitter: 23.6k Followers
The Miami Hurricanes chose the Ibis as the team's mascot back in 1926. The bird is a native species known for its bravery in the face of hurricanes, and it is often the last sign of wildlife to appear before a hurricane strikes. The Ibis is also the first to reappear after the hurricane passes, signaling the return of clear skies and better days.
The Miami basketball mascot often leads the football team out of the locker room, through the tunnel, and onto the field at home games. You’ll also find him dancing in the end zone at Hard Rock Stadium.
Sebastian was created in 1957 and has been throwing up the U for the Canes ever since. In 1989, Sebastian made headlines when he was arrested by police officers after a clash with Chief Osceola, the mascot for Florida State. During the incident, Sebastian, dressed in a fire helmet with an extinguisher, attempted to put out the flame of Osceola's spear, and ended up spraying a police officer in the chest with the extinguisher before being handcuffed. This unusual event remains a part of Sebastian's history as the Miami Hurricanes mascot.
- Albert Gator - Florida
Instagram: 38.8k Followers
Twitter: 31.8k Followers
Albert and Alberta are among the most easily recognizable college mascots, representing the Florida Gators. The original Florida Gator mascot name was Albert, a live gator on the sidelines of football games, but he was replaced with the costumed version in 1970 -- a decision that may have seemed safe and obvious at the time.
In 1984, Alberta joined Albert, becoming one of the few female mascots in the college sports world. Together, the two mascots brave all kinds of weather to support the Florida Gators. In 2006, the Florida Gator mascot had a commercial gig with the legendary Steve Irwin, who tackled him as he walked out of an elevator.
Although Albert and Alberta have a strong following on Instagram and Twitter, they could use some tips on TikTok from Brutus Buckeye, the most popular nut on the internet.
- Sparty - Michigan State
Instagram: 37.5k Followers
Twitter: 44.6k Followers
TikTok: 69.9k Followers
Sparty, a super jacked Greek warrior dressed in Michigan State green armor -- with a spartan style helmet to match -- is one of the meanest-looking mascots in college basketball.
The big-chinned warrior is considered fierce, yet kind and approachable, according to the university. He always brings big energy to the sidelines whether appearing at football games, basketball games, or any other sport on campus. Sparty has been a staple of the program since his debut in 1955.
Named the National Mascot of the Year three times, Sparty is regularly featured in TV advertising and NCAA promotions. He’s a menace on social media too, jumping in with the cheerleaders for a dance and popping up all over campus.
- Mike the Tiger - LSU
Instagram: 63.5k Followers
Twitter: 68.9k Followers
TikTok: 2k Followers
Mike the Tiger has been a real Bengal tiger since 1935, when the university purchased a tiger from the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas. The school had raised funding to pay for the tiger by collecting 25 cents from every student, covering the $750 cost.
Since then, there have been six more Mikes, with the current Mike the Tiger joining the school in 2017. While keeping a live tiger has been met with controversy, LSU’s mascot is always well looked after and no longer attends football games, typically living a far longer life than a tiger in the wild.
The costume version is a big playful tiger who can be found in yellow and purple overalls at football and basketball games. He’s had his fair share of time in the spotlight too, appearing in several TV commercials, including an ESPN SportsCenter gig alongside Shaquille O’Neal.
Mike is crushing it on social media with one of the strongest followings on both Twitter and Instagram.
- Brutus Buckeye - Ohio State
Instagram: 28.3k Followers
Twitter: 211k Followers
TikTok: 349k Followers
I’ll be the first to admit that for a very long time I had absolutely no idea what Brutus was meant to be. It turns out that he’s a nut, descended from the official state buckeye tree. That makes sense, but his appearance is certainly unique in a college sports world filled with animal mascots such as wolves and tigers.
Brutus Buckeye, the nut, made his first appearance at a homecoming event in 1965 and has been widely adopted by Ohio State University ever since. He has the biggest social media following on this list, and can be found trying out all the hottest TikTok trends in front of his almost 350,000 followers.
You’re killing it Brutus, and props to Buckeye nation for getting behind the great big nut to help him land number one on this list of the best college basketball mascots in the country. While the iconic mascot’s scarlet and gray won't be featured at the March Madness tournament this year, I don’t doubt that he’ll be back soon.
Parameters for ranking
Trying to pick out 10 mascots was an almost impossible task, as there are so many great ones. To narrow down the selection, I focused on the most recognizable mascots from across the nation, and evaluated them based on their social media followings and popularity with their fan bases.
These mascots are more than just symbols for their respective teams; they've made appearances in commercials and sports network ads, and have become some of the most beloved and well-known college basketball mascots in the country.
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