Did the Stanford Student Body Vote to Name Their Football Team the “Robber Barons”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Stanford University’s students voted for the school’s mascot (and team names) be “Robber Barons.”

In 1891, Stanford played California in the very first “Big Game.” Stanford won, and in the headlines about the victory, it read “Cardinal Triumphs O’er Blue and Gold.” Therefore, Stanford chose Cardinal (the school color) as its name.

Over time, though, a new name developed – the Stanford Indians. In 1930, this name was made official and an official mascot was not far behind.

Eventually, Native American students began to protest the usage of the nickname and mascot. At first, they specifically protested the live performances at Stanford games by Timm Williams, who went by the name Prince Lightfoot and the protesters felt that his act mostly consisted of mocking traditional Native American religious practices.

A couple of years later, in 1972, the students once again sought relief from Stanford – this time to get rid of the name and the mascot all together. The President of the University agreed, and in 1972, the Indian mascot was banned completely, and has been banned ever since.

This, though, left Stanford without a mascot. And that’s where things got goofy…

A few years later, students decided to vote for a new mascot, with the options mostly involving Stanford’s history with the railroad. The winning choice was the satirical choice Robber Barons, a reference to Leland Stanford, the wealthy industrialist who made millions in the railroad industry before founding Stanford with his wife Jane (in honor of their son, Leland Junior, who died as a teenager) in 1884.

The University, as you might imagine, did not accept this selection and the school has not had a mascot ever since (although the Stanford “tree” has become an unofficial mascot for the school).

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

One Response to “Did the Stanford Student Body Vote to Name Their Football Team the “Robber Barons”?”

  1. There is supposedly more to the story. The “Robber Baron” mascot was to be the Monopoly Guy (Rich Uncle Pennybags) on a train as in the “Take A Ride on the Reading Railroad” card.

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