the Crimson Eye
athletic teams require symbolic nicknames. In many cases, these
represent savage beasts meant to intimidate opponents, such as Tigers
or Wolverines or Fighting Irish.
wishing to celebrate aggression, some schools have merely chosen
colors: the Dartmouth Big Green, the Harvard Crimson, the
Syracuse Orange, the Stanford Cardinal.
peace-loving alma mater is Oberlin College. When it introduced
intercollegiate sports in 1886, Oberlin boasted nothing but its
initial: the letter O.
athletes wore crimson and gold. When they donned their varsity
letters, they became known as O men. We can imagine
their supporters urging them on with cries of Go,
ye O men!
the athletic department's website is goyeo.com.
Oberlin's other Internet sites use just the
as a favicon.
see part of our 1892 football team, which beat Ohio State twice and
finished undefeated. At least we claimed an upset
victory at Michigan. The teams had agreed to play only until
4:50 PM so that Oberlin could catch the last train home. After
we took a 24-22 lead and Michigan had the ball, the referee
actually an Oberlin substitute player announced that it was
now 4:50, and our winning team hurriedly left the field. Done
is the fray and won is the day, saved by our trusty
O men! That's what an Oberlin music student
would write a few years later in A Song of Victory.
the umpire was a Michigan man, and he didn't agree that the game was
over. Arguing that the ref hadn't accounted for four minutes of
injury time, the umpire handed the ball to Michigan's George Jewett,
who walked into the end zone. To this day, each school claims
colorized Oberlin's 23-year-old coach on the left. His name was
nearby Cleveland, Heisman had played Ivy League football at Brown and Penn.
coaching at Oberlin, he later went on to even greater fame. A
prestigious trophy bears his name.
student I mentioned, John Prindle Scott, also wrote (with words by
Robert E. Brown '01) another song titled Knights of the Golden O.
here is to old Varsity,
Our pride and boast to show!
here's to ev'ry gallant knight
Who wears the golden O!
any regimental suit
On me you could bestow,
rather wear the crimson coat
Set off with the golden O.
The 20th Century
adopted Knights of the Golden O as the varsity's
nickname. Here's a 1913 baseball clipping from the Oberlin Review.
sportswriters, even student sportswriters, wanted something shorter
fall of 1926, the Review ran a contest. Lucius
Lee Shackson submitted the eventual winning entry, a
clever elision of ye 'O' men Yeomen.
in common parlance a yeoman was only a lowly subsistence
farmer. There are some shocks of wheat on the Learning
and Labor college seal, but this is hardly an image to strike
fear into the hearts of foes like the Wolverines.
Shackson noted that yeoman also could denote a member of a
fighting organization, such as a Navy petty officer or a Yeoman of
the Guard. There's a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta bearing the
costumed mascots had been in vogue in 1926, a Tower Warder might have
begun prowling the sidelines, brandishing his poleaxe to inspire the
Yeomen (and later the Yeowomen).
My Postgraduate Years
received my degree in physics in 1969, there were changes on
campus. Physicist Robert W. Fuller served as Obie's president
for a few years, tripling the enrollment of minorities.
students welcomed the arrival of another group of minorities in
Tappan Square, where the gray squirrels now included a few white ones.
little red-eyed albinos became an endearing icon.
College, or OC, officially adopted a determined-looking white
squirrel in 2014 as part of its Athletic Department branding.
former college president Fuller was heard from again. In 2016,
at the age of 80, he published his eleventh book. This was a
children's tale about a nut collector.
just wanted to belong. However, when he and his gray
friends played hide-and-seek, he was embarrasingly easy to find.
until the first snowfall. Then he became an eluding star.
And Now . . .
in the summer of 2019, current college president Carmen Twillie Ambar
introduced a proper collegiate mascot.
symbol of the Yeomen and Yeowomen, over seven feet tall and wearing
size 32½ Birkenstocks, is neither a farmer nor a Beefeater but a
furry albino squirrel!
Obie, passionate about politics and the environment, loving
music and art, this bushy-tailed sciurinian is said to prefer the
they be called?
397 suggestions, including Macademia, a blend of
macadamia nuts with academia.
question went to a nationwide vote. The Review expressed
its preference among the six finalists, and that choice turned out to
be the name that was unveiled at the homecoming football game on