Behind The Nickname: Michigan State Spartans

Let’s swing by the banks of the Old Red Cedar and look into how the Spartan’s became, well, the Spartans. Now in case you slept through your ancient history class, you probably know what a Spartan is. For those who did nod off, here’s a refresher. In ancient Greece/Greek Empire there was a state called Sparta. They got a reputation of being the biggest bad asses in the world. This was built upon a battle in which 300 Spartan warriors (and a smattering of some other troops which led to a total of 500, tops) fought thousands upon thousands of Persians and held out much longer than they should have. This is why so many schools use Spartans as a team name; but why, specifically did Michigan State? Find out now.

In 1925 the school changed names from something agricultural (and the “Aggie” name) to Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. A huge step forward. This was shortened to M.S.C; but as the school grew it eventually became a university and went by MSU. Since the school wanted to look beyond its Aggie roots; the search for a new name ensued. The winning submission in 1925 was the……Michigan Staters. As a result they went through the losing submissions to find something with a bit more muscle. Spartans was selected. I am curious though, if the winning submission had stuck would they be the Michigan State Staters or just Michigan Staters; leading to confusion with the other school? Were they planning to use it another way, hmm?

As MSU was going through their rebranding phase, there was once a comparison between the land grant schools in the US to the old education system in Sparta, since MSU’s early history includes a land grant back in the days of Honest Abe. That lead to the “Spartans”, a great name with a historic connection that instills fear. Perfect.

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