The mental_floss Guide to the NCAAs: The East


The tournament tips off today, so let's close out our series of interesting facts about the Big Dance's schools with a look at the East region.

(1) Kentucky's teams have been the Wildcats since 1909, but in 1994 the school's iconic Wildcat logo underwent a bit of a change. The school had received a number of complaints about the Wildcat's tongue in the logo; some felt the tongue looked more phallic than tongue-like. The university initially thought the complaints were a joke, but on closer inspection the roaring Wildcat's tongue did look a little phallic. The school redesigned the logo so it would be less R-rated. (I was in middle school in Kentucky at the time, and I can tell you that to a seventh grader, this tongue uproar was a gift from the comedy gods.)

(16) East Tennessee State boasts some grads that can spin a yarn for you. The Johnson City school offers one of the country's only accredited master's programs in Professional and Applied Storytelling. The school's players should also be physically prepared for their Dance game; in November ETSU began offering the country's first doctoral program in sport science and athletic physiology.
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(8) Texas got its first live steer mascot in 1916 when grad Stephen Pickney collected $1 from 124 different alums to buy the animal.

The school officially received Bevo, who was originally known as "Bo," on Thanksgiving Day 1916, and in early 1917 the cow was kidnapped by Texas A&M pranksters and branded "13-0." Why 13-0? That was the score of the Aggies' victory over the Longhorns in 1915.

(9) Wake Forest has an odd tradition after big wins: students "roll the Quad" with thousands of rolls of toilet paper.

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The tradition began after the school moved from Wake Forest, North Carolina, to Winston-Salem in 1956. Student revelers no longer had access to a campus bell tower that they could ring in celebration, so they started blanketing the school's quad with toilet paper instead. As a Wake alum, I can assure you that the whited-out Quad is quite a sight. It gets pretty gross when leftover bits of toilet paper stuck in trees get wet and linger for months, though.
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Afraid of the dark? Consider attending (5) Temple. The school is located in a fairly rough part of Philadelphia, so the university has combated crime by outfitting the campus with thousands of 1000-watt metal halide bulbs mounted on building rooftops. According to the school's website, these lights "create a bright white illumination that mimics daylight at ground level." Hence one meaning of the saying, "The sun never sets at Temple."

(12) Cornell may not be the first name that pops into your head when you think of sports powerhouses, but the Ivy League school has won four national championships in football. Sure, they all came before World War II, but hardware is hardware. (And Ed Helms, the man who plays Cornell's most famous fictional alum, The Office's Andy Bernard? He went to Oberlin College.)
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(4) Wisconsin is obviously in the heart of dairy country, so of course the school has made some major milk breakthroughs. Ever wonder how to tell the difference between 1% and 2% milk? Wisconsin researchers discovered the first test for fat content in 1890. The school's scientists also discovered Vitamin A and Vitamin B and discovered ways to enrich foods with Vitamin D.

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How did a Catholic school in Milwaukee end up with a British fantasy writer's manuscripts? It had a really smart librarian. In the 1950s Director of Libraries William B. Ready was trying to expand the library's holdings, and he recognized that Tolkien's then-unheralded work was brilliant and would someday be greatly admired. He contacted Tolkien and worked out a deal to pick up all of the manuscripts for less than $5,000.

(11) Washington claims that it's the original home of the Wave. According to the school, on October 31, 1981, former cheerleader (and Entertainment Tonight host) Rob Weller was brought back to the sidelines and instructed to lead the Huskies' fans in a cheer where each section gradually stood up to form a human wave. (There are competing claims to the Wave's invention.) Considering how annoying the Wave can be at sporting events, you'd think the Huskies would want to distance themselves from its origins.
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(3) New Mexico's hoops team indirectly helped out with the filming of Revenge of the Nerds. When the producers needed a frat house to stand in for the Pi sorority house in the film, they wanted to use the Phi Delta Theta house at the University of Arizona. Who secured the location? None other than Donald Gibb, the actor who played Ogre in the film. Gibb had been a Phi Delta Theta Brother while attending New Mexico on a hoops scholarship.

Rolling Stone once said that (14) Montana had the most scenic campus in the country, and the school also has serious academic chops, which explains how it's cranked out the fifth-most Rhodes scholars of any public university. The school also knows how to rock; both Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament and Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy attended the university.
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Like a lot of things in South Carolina, (7) Clemson might not exist if not for legendary Senator John C. Calhoun. University founder Thomas G. Clemson was originally a Sorbonne-educated Philadelphian, but he moved to South Carolina in 1838 after marrying Calhoun's daughter Anna Maria. Clemson built up quite a fortune after moving to the South, and before died in 1888 he ordered his estate be used to open an agricultural and machinery college.

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(15) Morgan State gave an honorary doctorate to jazz legend Duke Ellington in 1967. During the celebration for the honor, Ellington performed a new original composition entitled "A Salute to Morgan State." Ellington wrote the song specifically for the event and most likely never performed it again.