The More You Know…History Behind the Bearcat

Photo Credit: UC Magazine

Photo Credit: UC Magazine

October 31, 1914. This is the date that the Cincinnati “Bearcats” originated.  On that day a football game ensued against the Kentucky, you guessed it, Wildcats.  Coincidentally, the Cincinnati team had a fullback nicknamed Leonard “Teddy” Baehr.

Unlike this season (so far — fingers crossed for the rest of the season), Cincinnati was playing its fifth game of the year with a bone-crushing defense that had yet to give up a single score.  The Cincinnati team did not yet have a nickname or a mascot, but instead, were sometimes referred to as “The Red and Black.”

During the Kentucky game, a witty Cincinnati cheerleader yelled: [t]hey may be Wildcats, but we have a Baehr-cat on our side!” The crowd began chanting: “Come on, Baehr-cat!” Behind this chant the Cincinnati Bearcats, not the Teddy Baehrs, emerged victorious, 14 – 7, and a cartoon Bearcat was published in the University News.

Bearcat Sketch

History was made. Nevertheless, as with most historic stories behind a college team receiving its nickname or mascot (such as the various accounts of the Auburn War Eagle chant), there are of course myths relating to the origin of the Bearcat…

  • Jack Ryder invented the nickname in 1912 while reporting a game against Tennessee. 
  • Leslie Bryant, another football player, reported the name was used by the Cincinnati Post in 1913. 
  • A Cincinnati lawyer credited the name to a Sunday school superintendent named Roger Bear. 
  • Leonard Baehr began the name when photographed next to a Stutz Bearcat in 1914.

With that being said, GO BEARCATS!

SOURCES:

  • Bearcats! The Story of Basketball at the University of Cincinnati, Kevin Grace, Greg Hand, Tom Hathaway, Carey Hoffman and Lisa Ventre (1997).

By Technical Writer: Andy Smith