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The College of William and Mary has had several mascots along with changes to the nickname used for its athletic teams over time. While a mascot is defined as "a person, animal, or object adopted by a group as a symbolic figure especially to bring them good luck,"[1] the nickname for the athletic teams is generally a "descriptive name given instead of or in addition to the one belonging to a person, place, or thing."[2]

1894-1916: Orange and White or Orange and Black

This first nickname quite simply came from the School Colors. Through the beginning of the 1923 football season, the school colors were orange and black. Originally, the colors orange and white were derived from William III (orange) and the white rose of York associated with Queen Mary II. In 1908, the colors of the athletic uniforms were changed to orange and black because the orange and white uniforms dirtied easily. However, the official school colors remained orange and white. Orange and black could still be linked to the royal family since King William was not only the Prince of Orange, but also the head of the House of Nassau whose colors were orange and black.

The Loonies and the Jaspers, 1915

"A few years later, the teams acquired their nicknames. In 1915, while the College engaged in various athletic contests with its archrival, Richmond College, William and Mary players began calling their opponents the "Jaspers," because of a famous black Baptist preacher in Richmond named Richard Jasper. Richmond College was, after all, a Baptist school. The Richmond players fired back and dubbed William and Mary the "Loonies" because of their proximity to the Eastern Lunatic Asylum. Before the name could stick, a William and Mary student suggested "Indians," because of the Indian School once held in the Brafferton."

--From The College of William & Mary: A History, Volume II 1888-1993, by Susan H. Godson . . . et al., King and Queen Press, The Society of the Alumni, 1993, page 495.

1916-1977: Indians

The nickname of Indians was first referenced in the 1916 Colonial Echo referring to the baseball team of 1916 (reference and photograph, p. 156). Women's teams were routinely referred to as the Indianettes in the early 20th century.

Other unofficial nicknames for the athletic teams during this time period included: Big Green Tribe, Tribe, Big Green, Warriors, Fighting Virginians, and Braves. The Fighting Virginians nickname was attributed to the "Northern Press" in the 1924 Colonial Echo after the College of William and Mary lost its first football match against Syracuse University 63-0 in 1923.

Freshmen (football only?) teams (circa 1920s-1930s) were referred to as the Papooses. The football team of the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary (the present Old Dominion University) were nicknamed The Braves upon fielding their first football team in 1930.

A caricature similar to that of the Cleveland Indians was used from the mid- to late-1960s through approximately the mid-1970s. This image was certainly not used after 1978 (see image B2532). An article in The Flat Hat raised the possibility that a new likeness would be needed after the American Indian Center in Cleveland filed a lawsuit against the Cleveland Indians charging that their Chief Wahoo was "degrading, Demeaning, and racist." See the February 4, 1972 issue (p. 6, republished September 2, 1972, p. 7).

A "WM" with feathers logo was used from 1974 through 2006 (and later unofficially). Variations on this design included a WM with an Indian wearing a headdress.

1978-present: The Tribe

In 1978, the Indian images were removed from the athletic logo. The term Indian and Tribe were both used, but Indian was phased out by the early 1980s and Tribe has been in use through the present. The College's athletic teams were routinely referred to as the Tribe prior to this official phasing out of the name Indians (example, College Observer 5 November 1971, p. 2).

A WM with feathers logo was used from 1974 until the feathers were ordered removed by the NCAA in 2006 despite an appeal by the College.[3] The WM with 2 feathers first appeared in a 1974 Football Yearbook, then on the helmets of the 1977 football team (see 1978 Colonial Echo, p. 174).

For further details see the 2/28/1978 Departmental Communication from the Dean of Students W. Samuel Sadler to Dr. Thomas A. Graves, Jr. regarding the change in nickname and logo ("Athletics--Indian Symbolism," University Archives Subject File Collection).

Material in the Special Collections Research Center

  • "Athletics--Indian Symbolism" and "Mascots" Folders, University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
  • University Archives Artifact Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.

Images of a growing number of artifacts are available through the SCRC's Flickr account at


  • Colonial Echo, 1916, 1978.
  • "Athletics--Indian Symbolism," University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.

Share Your Memories

Do you want to share your memories of recent or past Nicknames? You are welcome to create an account and add your memories to this section of the SCRC Wiki page or if you prefer, contact University Archivist Amy Schindler ( or 757-221-3094). In either case, please include your name and class year. We look forward to hearing from you.

Need help?

To search for further material, see Finding Materials in the SCRC for an introduction to the SCRC Collections Database, card catalogs, Flat Hat-William & Mary News-Alumni Gazette index, etc.

Questions? Contact the SCRC at or 221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary (hours).

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fire, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the SCRC's collections and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the SCRC's access tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.