HOME ~ College Football History
When the University of Memphis
first fielded a football team in the fall of 1912, no one had selected a
nickname for the squad.
Early references to the
football team, tabbed them only as the Blue and
Gray Warriors of West Tennessee Normal School.
After the final game of the 1914 season, there was a student parade.
During this event, several Normal students shouted, "We fight like
Tigers". The nickname was born.
More and more the nickname "Tigers" was used, particularly in campus
publications. But it did not catch on with the newspapers downtown. They
continued to use "Normals" or the "Blue and Gray" when referring to the
Under coach Lester Barnard in 1922, Normal's football team gave a ring
of truth to that old student yell about Tigers. The team adopted a motto
- "Every Man A Tiger" and went on to score 174 points while allowing
their opponents just 29 points.
In the late 1920s, student publications and downtown newspapers began
referring to the football team as the "Teachers" or "Tutors". The Tiger
nickname would return. But not until 1939 was it finally adopted as the
official nickname for the University of Memphis.
Bengal for a Mascot
For approximately 23 years, the sideline mascot for the
University of Memphis athletics has been the Bengal Tiger. TOM II, the
name of the current mascot, puts in personal appearances at all Tiger
football games, as well as numerous basketball games. TOM II has also
been seen at Tiger baseball, soccer and women's basketball games.
The first tiger, purchased by the Highland Hundred (football booster
group) in 1972, lived for 20 years and was housed at the Memphis Zoo.
TOM died in February of 1992.
The story of how the first Tiger cub arrived in Memphis is quite
interesting. On November 9, 1972, the baby tiger was placed in a dog
kennel in Michigan City, IN, and flown to Chicago's O'Hare International
Airport. There it was placed aboard a Delta flight and arrived in
Memphis at 3:00 AM. C. Cleveland Drennon, an attorney and president of
the Highland Hundred, approved a check for $1,500 to buy the animal, and
TOM was taken to athletic director Billy Murphy's office for a press
In ceremonies at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, the Highland Hundred
officially presented TOM to the University on November 11, 1972.
The zookeeper, at the suggestion of his daughter, called the little
tiger, Shane. Once in Memphis, however, a contest was held to name the
mascot. More than 2,500 entries came in to a committee chaired by Judge
Harry Pierotti. The list ran from Spook, Sampson, Goliath, Bengo,
Sultan, Sahib, Big Cat, Ptah, Touchdown, Sonny, and Shiloh to Bengie
Wougie Bengal Boy from Tennessee.
Finally, the judges reduced the list to two: Shane and TOM, for Tigers
of Memphis. TOM won.
During his first few months in Memphis, Bill Proctor housed the tiger in
his garage, which was redecorated by the Highland Hundred. TOM was
guarded by Proctor's hound dog.
TOM II came to the University of Memphis in the fall of 1992 and is
housed at his new home at Nixon Farms in Collierville, TN. His new home
is 3500 square feet and includes two pools, a waterfall, heated and air
conditioned den box and a complete medical facility for his care and
upkeep. The young tiger is nearly 500 pounds and is expected to be as
large or larger than his predecessor, TOM, who was once the largest
Bengal Tiger in captivity at 550 pounds.
The University of Memphis' official school colors of Royal Blue and Gray
were selected in the early 1900s.
The colors were chosen in an effort to show unity in a nation that was
still recovering from the effects of the Civil War. The student body
thought that by picking the colors of the North and the South, the
school would show a togetherness among all students.
The University of Memphis' official logo has been redesigned by Craig
Thompson, from Disciple Design in Memphis, TN.
The original logo was an MSU with a leaping tiger coming out from behind
the letters. The new logo is an "M" with a leaping tiger coming up over
the center of the "M".