Penguin Nickname Legend
Youngstown State University is the only Division I University in the country with a Penguin for a mascot and the nickname Penguins for their athletic teams.
Prior to 1933, Youngstown College had been referred to as "Y" College, YoCo, Wye Collegians and many times, simply the "Locals."
There are two accounts of how the nickname occurred, and, interestingly enough, they come from the same evening on Jan. 30, 1933.
The first account states that on a cold, freezing night at a men's basketball game at West Liberty State, in West Liberty, W. Va., a spectator watching the members of the team stomp on the floor and swing their arms made them look like Penguins and without a nickname, the fans took a liking to the word.
But throughout the season prior to that contest, many of the members of the 1932-33 varsity men's basketball team and their friends on campus spent idle moments in the cafeteria discussing suitable new names for our school sports combines, basketball, and fencing that year.
The names considered covered every conceivable spectrum of animals, birds, and things associated with the steel city, but none seemed to fit us. There was always someone who pointed out an inadequacy of some sort. The name we finally warmed up to, and finally unanimously accepted, came as a result of the trip to West Liberty State Teachers College for a basketball game there late in January 1933.
In West Virginia, the road to West Liberty that evening had been hit by a snowfall between one and two feet deep. The passengers in two of the cars found it necessary on several occasions to get out and help push their vehicles out of snow drifts or road area with snow ruts, difficult to drive through.
During the trip, Bennett Kunicki recalls, the discussion of a nickname for the school was the hot topic of conversation. In Kunicki's car, the name Penguins came up and was well received by everyone in the car. Upon arrival at the West Liberty gym, the name was mentioned to the members of the team who thought it was perfect.
By the end of that school year, the nickname was unanimously accepted by the student body without the necessity of a formal polling vote. Plans were then made to introduce the new name during the 1933-34 basketball season.
The nickname Penguins was formally introduced to the school in the "Jambar" (Vol. IV, No. 3) at the beginning of the 1933-34 basketball season. Page three of that issue was set up to cover YSU's first game to introduce the members of that season's team and to give the schedule for the season. The date of the "Jambar" issue was Dec. 15, 1933. Within the next five or six weeks, Penguins became our newly accepted nickname both in the Jambar and on the sports pages of the then two local newspapers.
The name was introduced after the first game with Slippery Rock in the Dec. 15, 1933 issue of the "Jambar". The Youngstown Telegram first used the nickname in a headline on Dec. 29, 1933 while The Vindicator first acknowledged the nickname in its Jan. 27, 1934 edition.