The mental_floss Guide to the NCAAs: The Midwest


Let's keep our _flossy take on March Madness rolling with 16 facts you might not have known about the 16 schools who are dancing in the Midwest region.

(1) Kansas' "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" chant has a pretty geeky origin. The university's science club decided in 1886 that it needed its own cheer and started a yell of "Rah Rah Jayhawk" that eventually morphed into "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk," possibly with an assist from the school's geology professors.

(16) Lehigh's athletic teams were known as the Engineers until 1995, and for good reason. Graduates from the school's highly regarded engineering program include Jesse Reno, who built the world's first working elevator in 1891, and Howard McClintic and Charles Marshall, who founded the company that built the locks for the Panama Canal. The school is now known as the Mountain Hawks.
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(8) UNLV is in Vegas, so is it any surprise that the school has a Center for Gaming Research? The "world-class hub for the analysis of gambling and gaming issues" even has its own podcast that you can download from iTunes.

Since 1968, (9) Northern Iowa has been home to one of America's oldest literary magazines. The North American Review was founded in Boston in 1815, and its editors and contributors have included such big names as John Adams, Daniel Webster, and Mark Twain. Even if the Panthers don't get a win this week, they'll at least have some good reading material.
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(5) Michigan State graduated its first class in 1861, but the graduates didn't get to don mortarboards and gowns. Instead, there was no graduation ceremony so the newly minted grads could quickly enlist in the Union Army.

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(13) Houston's school colors go way, way back. The scarlet red and albino white were actually the colors of Sam Houston's Scottish ancestor Sir Hugh. According to the school's website, the red stands for the spared blood of the royalty, while the white represents "the purity and perfections of the heart, mind and soul engaged in the effort to serve faithfully that which is by right and reason, justfully served."
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(6) Tennessee's famed fight song "Rocky Top" is actually younger than you might expect. Felice and Boudleaux Bryant penned the song in 1967, but the school's band didn't start playing it until the 1972 season. Once fans heard it, though, they fell in love with the tune and its rousing lyrics. The song ended up becoming so popular within the state that in 1982 it became one of Tennessee's official state songs.

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(10) Georgia Tech got its start as a trade school complete with its own foundry, which gave rise to one of the school's interesting traditions: a steam whistle that blows five minutes before the hour every hour from 7:55 a.m. to 5:55 p.m. The whistle was originally used to signal shift changes in the school's shops, and it now screams for the end of classes. It also blows whenever the football team scores a touchdown or wins a game.
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(2) Ohio State has produced so many Olympians -- including Jesse Owens -- that if you considered it to be its own nation, its athletes' 77 overall medals would make it the 31st most successful Olympic nation. (Note: That's before this year's Winter Games. Our medal count didn't include the five medals Buckeyes won in Vancouver.)

(15) UCSB was second only to Berkeley in both the volume and intensity of its anti-Vietnam protests during the 1960s and 70s. Angry students bombed the faculty club, burned down a local Bank of America branch, and generally turned the campus into a hotbed of mayhem. Things got so bad during the 1971-72 school year that California Governor Ronald Reagan had to impose a curfew of 7 p.m.. Six hundred National Guardsmen were deployed to campus to enforce the curfew.