Nickname, Mascot and Traditions
Discover the Stories behind Minnesota's Golden Gophers Nickname, Goldy Gopher mascot and the schools's great Traditions
Why Maroon and Gold?
These colors gained traction at the University in 1880 when they were chosen by an English instructor to be used as the colors for a graduation ceremony. Prior to that even, the school had been represented with a variety of colors.
University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Nickname
The origins of the school's athletic nickname were born in a political cartoon that was published in 1857. Minnesota was tabbed the "Gopher State" when the drawing featured nine gophers with the heads of local politicians pulling a train. The cartoon satirized a $5 million proposed legislative action in pre Civil War days, but has had a lasting impression since the "Gopher" name still lives on.
The Minnesota Gophers became "Golden" in the 1930's thanks to legendary radio announcer Hasley Hall's description of the University's football uniforms. Hall used the "Golden Gopher" term in reference to the teams gold jerseys and pants that they began wearing in 1932.
The Minnesota squad had the Midas touch in the 10 year span that they donned all-gold uniforms. This "golden" decade produced seven Big 10 titles and five national championships from 1932 to 1941.
Where Cheerleading Began
University sports officials give credit to Johnny Campbell, a late 19th century Gopher student for starting the tradition of cheerleading. Campbell was apparently drawn to action by an editorial that appeared in the school paper after the Gophers had become mired in a three-game losing streak. The paper pleaded for someone to "stir up enthusiasm for athletics .... " Later in that 1898 season, the first official cheers rang out.
Campbell and his "yell leaders" made their debut in a game against Northwestern and stirred enough emotions to help propel the Gophers to a 17-6 victory. And while the tight sweaters, and short skirts that many football fans adore would come later, the true origins of cheerleading began on that Minnesota fall afternoon.
Prior to the advent of cheerleading by Minnesota student body members, two rugby players developed a team cheer in 1884 that still rings loud in the schools two official songs. The word "Ski", a Sioux battle cry meaning victory was combined with "U-Mah" which represented Minnesota while rhyming well with "rah-rah-rah".