Northwestern University

WILDCATS & WILLIE

 

Northwestern students and athletes were first known as the “Northwestern Purple” when ‘royal purple’ became the official school color in 1892. At some point, the school was also nicknamed the “Fighting Methodists,” referring to the fact that NU was originally founded on Methodist religious principles.

The first mascot at Northwestern was a live bear cub from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Named “Furpaw,” the bear was driven to the field for every game during the 1923 season. However, after the team’s losing season, Furpaw was deemed bad luck for the team and wasn’t allowed back on campus. The name “Wildcats” came shortly after, when in 1924, following a game against the University of Chicago, a Chicago Tribune reporter wrote that, even in a loss, the Northwestern football players looked like “Wildcats.” This name stuck and quickly became the official nickname for Northwestern with “Willie the Wildcat” as the new mascot.