Knowing Nevada: How the University of the Nevada became the Wolf Pack


For the past century, the University of Nevada, Reno has grown into a tier one university with the help of athletic championships, award winning academic programs and a nationally recognized mascot.

The university was originally built in Elko, NV and was recognized as a state institution in 1874. As Nevada began to grow before the 20th century, the school's board of regents agreed that it would be more practical to move the university closer to the Reno-Carson City area. After moving historic buildings across Nevada through over 300 miles of sagebrush and dirt roads, the school now rests on the northern hillside above the skyline in Reno, NV.

During this era, most schools in northern California had developed sports teams that involved wrestling, rugby, baseball, and basketball. Schools we recognize today, such as Cal and Stanford, recruited some of the toughest athletes in the late 1800's to represent their sports teams.

The University of Nevada took notice of both of those colleges and decided to follow suit. With any sports team, their must be a name and, of course, a mascot.

Remember that 300 miles of sagebrush and dirt roads we discussed at the beginning of the article? Well, that journey was the inspiration behind the university's first nickname, the Sagebrushers. Believe it or not, the first win in the school's history was when the Women's Basketball team beat Stanford in 1909. The ladies chose to refer to themselves as the 'Sagehens' back then. As time moved forward, the athletics department became bigger and the teams eventually became better. The tide began to turn when a newspaper published a story in November of 1923 about the Sagebrushers defeating Cal-Berekley. They described Nevada as 'a pack of wild wolves.' This article inspired Leslie Bruce, a student and editor of the Nevada Sagebrush, to publish a poll in an issue of the school paper asking students to vote on a new name of the sports teams.

Unfortunately, Bruce died in a tragic accident before the votes could be tallied. In honor of Bruce, the school rallied together to officially re-name the team's nickname to the Wolf Pack.

"Now, we don't necessarily have wolves in the state of Nevada. Nor have we ever had them here from recent memory. Yet the student population feels like wolves embodied the spirit of Nevada," says Amy Hunsaker, a librarian and Wolf Pack historian with the UNR Libraries.

Hunsaker mentioned that the students attempted to raise a coyote puppy named 'Willie the Wolf', but that was deemed a safety hazard by school administrators. This then inspired students to dawn wolf costumes made of paper, plastic, and carpet. Students would dress up as the mascot in the early 1950's all the way through to the present day. Today, we are reminded, through new additions to the logo and mascot, of the almost hundred year-old spirit of the history of the Wolf Pack.

"It's true, we are a family. We work together and support each other yet we are a force to be reckoned with," says Hunsaker.

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