Like many other schools that have adopted their state’s nickname, Indiana University’s “Hoosier”
nickname reflects the namesake of its home state. While the nickname selection process was a
natural occurrence, the actual definition of what the Hoosier nickname represents is still
The Hoosier term certainly has received vast exposure through the years. The Indiana Hoosiers basketball team has long been a household name in college basketball circles. The Indianapolis Colts play in the Hoosier Dome and Gene Hackman coached his high school basketball team to an improbable state championship in the blockbuster movie Hoosiers. Despite the common usage of the word, it seems there have been more theories of its origin dribbled around by historians than basketballs in Indiana.
One theory that was fostered by Indiana historian Howard Peckman, was that the nickname might have resulted from the work performed by crew that was directed by either Samuel Hoosier or Hoosher. The men, most of which hailed from Indiana, were building a canal on the Ohio River in 1825 and were referred to as “Hoosier’s men.”
Perhaps the most popular “Hoosier” tales is the one that echoes a response to a knock on the door. Apparently when early Indiana settlers were alarmed by a knock on their cabin door, they would respond with the question: “Who’s there?” Eventually according to the theory, “Who’s there,” evolved into “Hoosiers.”