Rams no longer Ramblin’
The many nickname changes of BC
April 26, 2012
Bluefield College’s athletic program has changed nicknames more times than Sean Combs. Originally the “Fighting Deacons” starting back in 1924, to the “Mountain Ramblers,” and “Ramblin’ Reds,” the school cycled through several nicknames in its first decade of existence.
The nickname was eventually changed to “Ramblin’ Rams” in the 1970s, and that one stuck until two years ago.
In 2010, Bluefield officially dropped the word “Ramblin’” from the nickname and became just the “Rams” as part of a large-scale brand marketing campaign.
With the campaign, Bluefield unveiled a new Ram logo and implemented it with new uniforms and school spirit apparel.
Bluefield’s director of public relations Chris Shoemaker said the decision to formally drop the word “Ramblin’” from the nickname was made in an attempt to distance the college from the denotative meaning of the word.
“By definition, ‘rambling’ as a verb means to wander or drift aimlessly. As an adjective, it means confused or pointless,” said Shoemaker. “Wanting to brand a nickname or mascot that appeared more stable and steady or more methodical and resolute, the college formally dropped the ‘Ramblin’’ portion of its nickname.”
The school’s official records do not decisively indicate the origins of the early nicknames. They may have been created by the administrators or the college, the students, or from the media.
“It was not uncommon during the early years of college sports for journalists to create monikers to distinguish teams or for students to invent a nickname to which they could identify or belong,” said Shoemaker.
Bluefield’s athletic teams were referred to as the “Ramblin’ Reds” by the 1930s. Shoemaker said this might have originated with the success the teams were having on the field.
“BC sports teams were experiencing significant success during this decade – particularly the football team, which actually went undefeated in 1933 and could easily have been seen as a team that was ‘steamrolling,’ ‘trampling,’ or ‘rambling’ through its schedule,” said Shoemaker.
The “Reds” portion of the nickname might have come from the school’s red, white, and blue colors.
“It’s not difficult to make the connection to ‘Ramblin’ Reds,’ just like the Dartmouth Big Green in the 1860s or the Cornell Big Red of the early 1900s,” said Shoemaker.
But the Ramblin’ Reds nickname did not last. There is no known formal record that explains the reasoning for the school abandoning the Reds moniker, but accounts from alumni have led to two popular theories.
The first theory says that the Red Scare of the 1950s ultimately led to the changing of the nickname. “Red” was often associated with the communist political system, and many sports teams changed their name to avoid unintended association with it. From 1953 to 1958, the Cincinnati Reds were the “Redlegs,” which has its own separate negative connotation.
“According to alumni, Bluefield College was no different, and consequently changed its sports nickname from Ramblin’ Reds to Ramblin’ Rams between the spring of 1972 and the fall of 1972,” said Shoemaker. “While not during the height of the Red Scare, it was at a time when America was still at war against communism in Vietnam and many Americans opposed anything related to communism.”
Although it is not as prevalent, there is another theory to explain the changing of the nickname. Some accounts say the college wanted to avoid a negative portrayal of Native Americans.
“Unfortunately, mascots or nicknames sometimes unintentionally offend certain groups of society,” said Shoemaker. “Indigenous mascots, such as Indians, Braves, Redskins, Reds and the like, began to receive significant criticism in the late 1960s in the midst of the civil rights movement.”
Regardless of which account is the definitive reasoning for the change, the college officially changed to the less offensive “Ramblin’ Rams” name in the fall of 1972.
When the college opted to change the name again in 2010, it was a process that was carried out relatively quietly. Bluefield phased out the “Ramblin’” portion of the name through the release of new items.
“Because the nickname change this time is a subtle one and not as significant as the change in 1972, the college wanted its approach to the recent change to be the same – subtle, not drastic,” said Shoemaker. “However, with the rollout of the new athletic logo and accompanying ‘Rams’ nickname, the change was widely disseminated on the college’s web site, on athletic letterhead and business cards, on campus store apparel and other merchandise, and gradually on athletic uniforms and venues.”
The last example of the “Ramblin’ Rams” nickname appears to be on a T-shirt given to students in 2008 by the student union as part of Spirit Week.
With the growth of the athletic programs and the school itself, the new nickname now accompanies Bluefield as it heads into a new era in its history.