ASU vs. Stanford: How the “Cardinal” Came To Be


As Arizona State prepares to meet Stanford on the gridiron this Saturday, we thought it might be useful to provide Sun Devil fans with a quick primer on Cardinal history:

Following Stanford’s win over the University of California in the first-ever “Big Game” in 1892, the color cardinal was picked as the primary color of Stanford’s athletic teams. White was selected as a secondary color in the 1940s.

In 1930, the Stanford athletic department adopted the “Indian” mascot. The Indian had long been considered the symbol of the school before the official vote, although its origins are only speculation. University president Richard Lyman later dropped the Indian symbol and name in 1972, after objections from Native American students and a vote by the student senate.

From 1972 to 1981, the official nickname for Stanford sports teams was the Cardinals. Despite the plural form, the name was intended to refer to the color, not the bird.

During the 1970s, a number of suggestions were put forth as possible Stanford nicknames: Robber Barons (a sly reference to Leland Stanford’s history), Sequoias, Trees, Railroaders, Spikes, Huns and Griffins. The last suggestion (based on a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons as its front feet) gained enough support to prompt the university to place two griffin statues near the athletic facilities.

On November 17, 1981, Stanford president Donald Kennedy declared that the school’s athletic teams were to be represented by the color cardinal in its singular form. Stanford has no official mascot, but the Stanford Tree, a member of the Stanford Band wearing a self-designed tree costume, appears at major Stanford sports events. The Tree is based upon El Palo Alto, a redwood tree in neighboring Palo Alto that appears in the Stanford seal and athletics logo.

Is all of this clear now? We’d didn’t think so.