There are three teams that have Eagles for a nickname, and each got it a different way.
In Boston – The Eagle nickname and mascot for Boston College’s teams were born through the eloquence of Rev. Edward McLaughlin. Fr. McLaughlin, incensed at a Boston newspaper cartoon depicting the champion BC track team as a cat licking clean a plate of its rivals, penned a passionate letter to the student newspaper, The Heights, in the newspaper’s first year in 1920. “It is important that we adopt a mascot to preside at our pow-wows and triumphant feats,” wrote Fr. McLaughlin. “And why not the Eagle, symbolic of majesty, power, and freedom? Its natural habitat is the high places. Surely the Heights is made to order for such a selection. Proud would the B.C. man feel to see the B.C. Eagle snatching the trophy of victory from old opponents, their tattered banner clutched in his talons as he flies aloft.”
And so it was. The eagle was adopted as mascot and nickname that same year. The national attention that followed brought gifts of two live mascots, from Texas and New Mexico. Neither bird found Chestnut Hill to its liking. One escaped and the other injured its beak trying. For the next 40 years, the Boston College mascot was a stuffed and mounted golden eagle when a committee of students launched an effort to find a live eagle to represent Boston College.
They were successful as Margo, [a combination of the first letters of the school colors Maroon and Gold] a 10-pound, two-month old female golden eagle was given to Boston College by a Colorado man. For five years, the bird lived at the Franklin Park Zoo, and attended every BC home contest tethered to a sizeable perch. She even made the traveling squad for games against Army, Holy Cross, and Syracuse. Margo’s reign ended during the 1966 season when she succumbed to a virus just before a road trip to Annapolis for a game against Navy. By then the status of the eagle as an endangered species made it socially undesirable to replace Margo. The University opted to fill the void with a costumed human mascot and Baldwin the Eagle was hatched.
A more recently-hatched bird
In Ypsilanti, Michigan, Eastern Michigan University teams are also known as the Eagles. But unlike Boston College, there is no longtime tradition, or great story about the name. Until 1991, Eastern Michigan teams were known as the Huron, named after the name early French explorers used to refer to natives in the area. In the late 1980s, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights suggested that all schools using names referring to Native Americans drop the names. A committee charged with supplying a new nickname was formed, and they submitted three potential names: Eagles, Green Hornets and Express. The Eagles name was selected and it became the school nickname.. A few years later Swoop, the mascot was created, Swoop’s gender is undefined, but the bird is depicted as an American bald eagle. It wears an Eastern Michigan University jersey, with number “00” on the front and “Swoop” on the back.
Meanwhile in Georgia
Georgia Southern teams were originally known as the Blue Tide. A name change was in store after World War II, and the Blue Tide became the Professors. (Football was disbanded after the war and did not return until 1982, when school teams had adopted the Eagles moniker. The football team did not play as the Professors. ) In 1959, the students voted on the new mascot, and Eagles was chosen over Colonels by a narrow margin.
In addition to Gus, the mascot pictured to the left, Georgia Southern has Freedom, a live mascot. As part of the pregame ceremonies, Freedom, makes a flight from the top of the press box down to the field. According to Wikipedia, it has been described as “the most exciting 30 seconds of college football.”