In honor of the roles of Massachusetts statesmen in the founding of the country, athletic teams fielded by Massachusetts Agricultural College, were first known as “Statesmen.” Teams also had the name “Aggies” which was pretty common at agricultural schools at that time. In the late 1940’s, the school changed its name to the University of Massachusetts, and in 1948, decided its teams needed a new identity and nickname. A contest was held and “Redmen” was chosen. The intentions were good, the name was selected for the roles Native Americans served in the history of the Commonwealth and for their “strength and fierceness in defending his lands.”
In the spring of 1972, a group of American Indians from New York wrote a letter to the school’s administration asking them if they were aware of “defamatory” connotations of the word Redmen and requested they curtail use of the word. One part of the letter referred to “undesirable racial connotations of the Redmen nickname.” The administration asked all campus staff and media to refrain from using the word “Redmen” as much as possible. The University of Massachusetts Student Senate resolved that the nickname connoted a stereotype of violence and savagery and created a “false picture of American history.”
Things happened fast — through a poll of the student body, the Student Senate came up with several new name options. By the end of the 1972 spring semester, the Board of Trustees agreed to change the nickname to Minutemen, a name that was a finalist in 1948 when Redmen was selected.
The Minutemen name would not be without controversy either. Even though name was chosen for its ties to the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as the Minutemen were instrumental in the early stages of the American Revolution, the mascot was being perceived by some in the 1990’s as “a symbol of oppression.” UMass teams remain the Minutemen and women’s sports teams are known as the Minutewomen.
Only 86 days until college football kicks off!
Our countdown started with the history of different school nicknames:
Friday – Demon Deacons
Saturday – Eagles
Monday – Falcons
Tuesday – Gators
Wednesday – Hokies
Thursday – Jayhawks
Friday – Knights
Monday – Lobos