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is the history of Stanford's mascot and nickname?
The unique origins of Stanfordís mascot and have a history that dates
back to the Universityís founding in 1891. While the Cardinal has always
been one of the schoolís official colors, the nickname has gone through
a series of changes, student votes, controversy and confusion.
Since 1981, Stanford has been known as the Cardinal. Stanford was known
as the "Indians" from 1930-72. As for the
mascot, Stanford does not
officially have one. The "Tree," which is a member of the Stanford Band,
has been mistaken as the schoolís mascot, but it is not.
Below is a brief history of the nickname, the mascot and the school
The Nickname: The nickname for Stanford is the Cardinal Ė in
reference to one of the school colors (and is therefore in the
singular). Stanfordís history with its nickname began on March 19, 1891
when Stanford beat Cal in the first Big Game. While Stanford did not
have an official nickname, the day after the Big Game local newspapers
picked up the "cardinal" theme and used it in the headlines.
Stanford did not have an "official" nickname until Indians was adopted
in 1930. For years prior, the Indian had been part of the Stanford
athletic tradition. Perhaps it grew out of the fact that Calís symbol
was the Bear, or it may have come from the large Indian population of
the area, or from Indian paraphernalia in abundance in the late 1800ís.
Whatever the origin, it was accepted by sportswriters and gradually
gained wide recognition.
Stanford officially adopted the Indian nickname on Nov. 25, 1930 after a
unanimous vote by the Executive Committee for the Associated Students.
The Indian had long been considered the symbol of Stanford before the
official vote, although its origins are only speculation.
The resolution that was passed read: "Whereas the Indian has long been
unofficially recognized as the symbol of Stanford and its spirit, and
whereas there has never been any official designation of a Stanford
symbol, be it hereby resolved that the Executive Committee adopt the
Indian as the symbol of Stanford."
The Indian symbol was eventually dropped in 1972 following meetings
between Stanford native American students and President Richard Lyman.
The 55 students, supported by the other 358 American Indians enrolled in
California colleges, felt the mascot was an insult to their culture and
heritage. As a result of these talks and the ensuing publicity, the
Stanford Student Senate voted 18-4 to drop the Indian symbol, and Lyman
The first student referendum on the issue was held in May, 1972, and it
resulted in a vote of 1,755 for and 1,298 against restoring the Indian.
The second vote, on Dec. 3-4, 1975, was 885 for and 1,915 against.
There was a move to reinstate the Indian as the school mascot in 1975.
The debate was put to vote along with new suggestions: Robber Barons,
Sequoias, Trees, Cardinals, Railroaders, Spikes, and Huns. None of the
suggestions were accepted.
In 1978, another group comprised of 225 varsity athletes from 18 teams,
started a petition for the mascot to be the griffin Ė a mythological
animal with the body and hind legs of a lion and head and wings of an
eagle. The University moved two griffin statues from the Childrenís
Hospital to a grassy area between Encina Gym and Angel Field. The
campaign for the Griffins failed.
From 1972 until November 17, 1981, Stanfordís official nickname was
Cardinals, in reference to one of the school colors, not the bird.
Nine years after the Indian was dropped, Stanford had still not decided
on a new mascot. President Donald Kennedy declared in 1981 that all
Stanford athletic teams will be represented and symbolized exclusively
by the color cardinal. "While various other mascots have been suggested
and then allowed to wither, the color has continued to serve us well, as
it has for 90 years. It is a rich and vivid metaphor for the very pulse
The Mascot: There is no official mascot at Stanford University.
The "Tree," which is a member of the Stanford Band, is representative of
El Palo Alto, the Redwood tree which is the logo of the city of Palo
Alto. Since Stanford University and Palo Alto are almost inextricably
intertwined in interests and location, it is a natural outgrowth of this
relationship. The tree still exists and stands by the railroad bridge
beside San Francisquito Creek Ė it is the site where early explorers
first camped when settling the area.
The Color: When Stanford first accepted students in 1891, the
student body actually voted for gold as the schoolís official color, but
another student assembly chose Cardinal as the school color. A few days
after the vote, local sportswriters picked up the "Cardinal" theme after
Stanford defeated Cal in the first Big Game (March 19, 1891). The
headlines read, "Cardinal Triumphs Oíer Blue and Gold."
Cardinal remained the school color until the 1940ís, when rules
committees and conferences started regulating jersey colors for home and
visiting football teams. Stanfordís Board of Athletic Control adopted
white as the second color.
Today, Stanfordís official school colors are cardinal and white.
"From its founding in 1891, Stanford's leaders have believed physical
activity is valuable for its own sake, and that it is complementary to
the educational purpose of the University. The mission of Stanford's
Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation is to offer
the widest range of quality programs which will allow all participants
to realize the opportunities for athletic participation and physical
fitness at all levels of skill and interest. Within the limitations of
its resources, the Department is expected to provide a broad range of
instructional, recreational, and competitive programs for all who wish
to participate. The intrinsic value to the participant is the primary
criterion by which the worth of the program should be judged."