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The mental_floss Guide to the NCAAs (The Southeast)

We may not be much help in filling out your bracket. But throughout this week we’re going to bring you a _flossy take on March Madness: one interesting fact about each of the 68 teams in the tournament field. Tonight we’re tackling the Southeast region.

(1) Pittsburgh graduated its first female students in 1898. Sisters Margaret and Stella Stein weren’t just any old students, though; they were academic powerhouses. In fact, they finished tied for first place in their class. After some discussion, the Steins decided that Stella should be the valedictorian.

(16) UNC Asheville got its start as Buncombe County Junior College in 1927. The school was part of the Buncombe County School System, and tuition was free. Pretty sweet deal, right? Sadly, when the Depression kicked in the school had to start charging tuition in 1929. What was a cash-strapped college kid to do? Hit the garden. According to the school’s website, the college “would accept vegetables, eggs, milk, and general produce to pay tuition.”

(16) The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has a unique special collection: Native American newspapers. The Sequoyah Research Center’s American Native Press Archives boasts the largest Native American press archive in the world, including newspapers that date all the way back to 1828. The research center is named after the state that the Five Civilized Tribes attempted to form in Oklahoma during the early 20th century.
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(8) Butler can thank a bit of biblical decapitation humor for its beloved mascot. The school’s teams were the Christians until a disastrous losing skid in the middle of the 1919 football season. According to the school’s athletic department’s website, the student body became less enthusiastic about the Christians nickname as the team continued to stink up the field.

Student newspaper to the rescue! Before a game against the rival Franklin Baptists, the Collegian ran an editorial cartoon that managed to be both highbrow and horrifying. The cartoon depicted Shimmy, a bulldog who served as a campus fraternity’s mascot, taking a chomp out of John the Baptist’s rear. The caption read, “Bring on That Platter, Salome!” a reference to the biblical story of John losing his head. Franklin’s Baptists shut out Butler in the game, but the Bulldogs moniker stuck.

(9) Old Dominion left its mark on the 2010 NCAA tournament with a first-round upset of Notre Dame. Big Blue, the Monarchs’ mascot, has left his mark around the school’s Norfolk, Va., campus in the form of giant blue paw prints painted on the sidewalks.
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(5) Kansas State is located in Manhattan, Kansas, which is affectionately known as “The Little Apple.” And to think, it almost shared a name with a certain Massachusetts city. As the story goes, members of the Cincinnati and Kansas Land Company left Ohio on the steamboat Hartford with the goal of founding a community in Kansas Territory. This new community would be called Manhattan, per the wishes of company’s New York-based investors. The Hartford never made it to its intended destination, instead running aground in a new establishment called Boston. The settlers of this community welcomed the ship’s 75 passengers and agreed to rename the town Manhattan.

(12) Utah State offers dairy processing as part of its food science curriculum and has a history of ice cream manufacturing that dates back more than 100 years. The Aggie Ice Cream shop on the east side of campus, which now offers 26 flavors, is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike. What makes Aggie Ice Cream so good? According to the school’s website, it’s aged slightly longer and contains less air than most commercial brands. [Image courtesy of On Second Scoop.]
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(4) Wisconsin‘s Bucky Badger has been around since the 1940s and is generally beloved, but the mascot had at least one detractor. In 1973, assistant attorney general Howard Koop suggested replacing Bucky with Henrietta Holstein. Part of Koop’s argument: “Kids love cows.” Badger Nation was not convinced.

Do you know why Wisconsin is known as the Badger State? Back in the 19th century, lead miners burrowed into hillsides and lived in the tunnels during the winter. Like badgers!

(13) Belmont is located in Nashville, and it holds an odd footnote in the Music City’s history. In 1922, 16-year-old Boy Scout Jack DeWitt installed a 20-watt transmitter on the school’s campus and founded what became Nashville’s first radio station. School executive C.E. Crosland thought broadcasting on the radio might help promote the school, so Belmont created the radio station WDAA. (Country hadn’t quite caught on yet; DeWitt and company’s most notable early broadcasts were songs by Italian tenor Enrico Caruso.)
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(6) St. John’s knows a thing or two about the sort of teacher strikes that have been in the news lately. On January 4, 1966, a group of St. John’s faculty members began a strike to protest the dismissal of 31 colleagues without hearings the previous year. The striking faculty contended that the firings were retaliation for professors’ demands for increased academic freedom, a charge the university dismissed.

Although the entire faculty didn’t strike, the ones who did really dug in their heels. The strike stretched on for 18 months, and eventually ended when 13 faculty members took the school’s offer of binding arbitration and others left to find jobs elsewhere.

(11) Gonzaga played a football bowl game on Christmas Day 1921 against West Virginia in San Diego and lost 24-0, but one of the sports writers covering the game was so impressed with the team’s tenacity that he dubbed Gonzaga the Bulldogs. Formerly the Fighting Irish, Gonzaga would be referred to as the Fighting Irish Bulldogs and Fighting Bulldogs in 1922. Neither of those names stuck—thankfully—and Bulldogs was soon adopted as the official moniker.
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(3) Brigham Young’s honor code has been in the news lately, but the school’s Mormon backbone affects the athletic department in other ways. School policy forbids any of its teams from playing or practicing on Sundays, which can lead to some tricky scheduling for events like March Madness, where nearly a quarter of the field’s teams will play on Sunday. But the NCAA accommodates the school.

Other governing bodies aren’t so understanding, though. Last year the BYU women’s rugby team made headlines before a Round of 16 game in USA Rugby’s national tournament. If the team had won, its quarterfinal matchup would have been on a Sunday. All 35 players on the team were practicing Mormons, so they decided ahead of time that they would forfeit the quarterfinal match if they made it. The team then went out and routed Wisconsin-Milwaukee to make the quarters before forfeiting the match to Penn State. [Image courtesy of BYUWomensRugby.com.]

(14) Wofford is probably the only school in the bracket that can boast of having dealt with gnomes on campus. In the early 20th century the school banned fraternities, but a mysterious group that called itself the Senior Order of Gnomes emerged on campus soon afterwards. Each year five rising seniors would be selected as Gnomes by the outgoing class. While it’s not clear what the group’s initial purpose was – the school’s site speculates that it might have been quietly keeping frat rituals alive – the Gnome tradition has stuck around and has morphed into the highest honor a senior can earn.
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(7) UCLA has won the most NCAA men’s basketball titles (11), but did you know the school also holds the distinction of being the most popular campus in the country? In 2010, UCLA received 57,670 applications for freshman admission. This year, that number climbed closer to 60,000.

(10) Michigan State boasts two facilities that are named after a former student who was expelled. Forest H. Akers got the boot from MSU in the early 1900s for “raising too much hell,” including an unfortunate incident in which he may or may not have blown up a powder keg while Teddy Roosevelt was visiting the campus. Akers eventually stopped raising hell, became a huge business success, and was such a generous donor to MSU that the school named Akers Hall and Forest Akers Golf Course after him.
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(2) Florida famously developed Gatorade (or Gator Go, as it was originally known), but did the school get rich off of the drink? You bet. While Florida’s trustees probably wish they’d held onto the recipe for a bit longer, the Gators have still pulled in over $150 million in royalties since the drink’s invention. Much of the Gatorade money has gone towards funding projects at the school’s College of Medicine.

(15) UC Santa Barbara doesn’t just do its athletic damage in NCAA sports. The Gauchos’ surfing team is tough to beat, too. The college’s team won the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s national title last year, and the campus offers great access to a number of surfing spots.

Scott Allen, Stacy Conradt, Meg Evans and Jason English also contributed to today’s bracket. Yesterday: The Southeast!

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