If you have ever wondered why the Stanford athletic teams are known as the singular ‘Cardinal’ instead of the ‘Cardinals’, there is an interesting story behind the name.
It originally refers to the color, not the bird. After 38 years as a program, the student body decided to nickname their teams the ‘Indians’. That name stuck until 1972, at which point they switched to the name ‘Cardinals’. They considered the names Sequoias, Trees, Railroaders, Spikes, Huns, Griffins, and ‘Robber Barons’. Finally, in 1981, the school clarified the nickname was ‘Cardinal’ as a reference to the color only.
The school does not have an official mascot. That odd dancing tree? It’s technically a member of their marching band. Go figure.
Clemson played the Cardinal one time on December 27, 1986, in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. The teams were evenly matched: Stanford was 20th and Clemson was 21st. The Cardinal was led by head coach Jack Elway, the father of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. Stanford’s regular starting quarterback was sidelined for the game so they had to play their backup.
The game was a story of two halves. Clemson led 27-0 at halftime before Stanford came charging back in the second half. They pulled within six and had multiple chances to tie or take the lead, but the Tigers held on for the 27-21 win.