UCSC's Banana Slug among ESPN's top 10 best team names

Sammy Slug: Yellow, slimy, slow, and totally awesome.

It's slimy, yellow, and slow--and it's one of the best mascots in the country.

UCSC's Banana Slug mascot has been named one of the 10 best team nicknames in college basketball by ESPN Sports Travel.

For the full story on the Slugs, along with other creative team names, photographs, and runners-up, see the ESPN article.

UCSC's athletic director, Linda Spradley, said the recognition will raise national awareness about UCSC sports--and believes the Banana Slug is a fitting symbol for the entire campus.

"The Banana Slug is indigenous to our area, it's prolific here, and it speaks to the entire campus--not just athletics," said Spradley.

"And," she added, "our athletes love it."

The Slugs made the list alongside other unique team names, including the Concordia College Cobbers (a snarling ear of corn, wearing a maroon sweater and a green husk for trousers) and the Evergreen State College Geoducks (the largest burrowing clam in the world).

The Banana Slug served as the unofficial nickname of UC Santa Cruz for nearly two decades. Besides being native to California's Central Coast, it represented many of the most impressive characteristics of the campus and its people: contemplation, flexibility, nonaggressiveness and, perhaps above all, an iconoclastic challenge to the status quo.

The slug became the university's official namesake in 1986--but not without a challenge.

When the campus decided in 1980 that five of its teams would begin play at the NCAA Division III level, the chancellor at the time and a group of athletes and coaches determined that the Sea Lion would be a more distinguished mascot.

Students would have none of that. They advocated fiercely on behalf of the loveable Banana Slug, organizing an election in which the Banana Slug bested the Sea Lion by a 15 to 1 ratio.