The Summit League features the NCAA's most unique collection of one-of-a-kind nicknames among its member institutions. Within U.S. college athletics, four names are exclusively held by Summit League schools: Mastodons (Fort Wayne), Golden Grizzlies (Oakland), Jackrabbits (South Dakota State) and Leathernecks (Western Illinois). In addition, the names Coyotes (South Dakota) and Kangaroos (Kansas City) are unique to NCAA Division I athletics.
Each Tuesday this summer, The Summit League will highlight the story behind the origin of each member institution's name and its mascot.
This week we will take a closer look into the South Dakota State mascot, Jack the Jackrabbit.
What's in a name? A great deal if that name is associated with
There are two theories as to how and why the Jackrabbit nickname evolved. The most common belief is that the name "Jackrabbits" came from a story that appeared in a Minneapolis newspaper following a 1905 football game between the University of Minnesota and South Dakota State College, as the university was then known. A reporter for the newspaper, knowing of the preponderance of jackrabbits in the Brookings area, was believed to have written that the SDSC team was a quick as jackrabbits. Many people believe that the school adopted the Jackrabbits as its official nickname from the beginning.
The other theory about the origin of the nickname is given in The Jackrabbit, SDSU's yearbook. There is a poem in the 1907 yearbook that puts forth the idea that the yearbook is called The Jackrabbit because a group of juniors wished to immortalize themselves by changing the name of the yearbook. Athletic teams followed suit, adopting the nickname.
It is not clear if athletic teams had nicknames before this time or if SDSC teams were merely called the "state team" or "Brookings."
The origin of the logo is even more difficult to locate than the origin of the nickname. While there is no documented history of the logo, it seems to have appeared almost as soon as the nickname. A picture in the 1908 yearbook features a rabbit in football garb, but a standard Jackrabbit logo wasn't adopted until 1940s, when the literal representation of a rabbit was changed to a characterized version.
The characterized version of the Jackrabbit is still used today, although it has been modified over the years.
After being nameless for 105 years, the name of Jack was revealed at a birthday celebration for the hallowed mascot on Nov. 12, 2010.
More than 880 people suggested names during a week in October
2010 for the beloved mascot of SDSU. A committee comprised of
students, alumni, faculty, university officials and members of the
Brookings community selected a list of six finalists for which
3,956 online votes were cast to officially name the mascot. "Jack"
received 35 percent of the first-place votes.
The birthday party, planned by Staters for State, the student alumni organization of the SDSU Alumni Association, has become an annual event with cake and prizes and celebration by students, alums, faculty and staff who fill The Union Marketplace.