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A look into Penn State and Utah’s team names

We take a look at what a ‘Ute’ is and what ‘Nittany’ means.

Joseph McMahon
Joseph McMahon
Sep 23, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Trey Potts (23) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Iowa 31-0. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'HarenUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

We want to discover what a ‘Ute’ is, and what does ‘Nittany’ mean? Well, you have come to the right place.

Why are the University of Utah’s athletic teams known as the ‘Utes’?

The Utes were a Native American Indian tribe that the state of Utah was named after. They inhabited the region where the state is located for over 1,000 years. According to information on the university’s web page the tribe was one of the first to use horses as a means of transportation, which can be seen in rock writing that the Utes had left behind hundreds of years ago.

The Ute tribe is still present in the state with its tribal headquarters located in Fort Duchesne, Utah. The tribe has its own government and over 3,300 members. The University of Utah uses the name to honor the tradition of the Ute tribe, while the university’s mascot represents the red-tailed hawk, a bird that is indigenous to the state of Utah.

What is a ‘Nittany lion’? And what does it have to with Penn State University

The team from Pennsylvania is known as the Nittany lions, but it’s not exactly clear where the word comes from or what it means exactly. According to the university’s website, the word probably comes from a Native American term that means a ‘single mountain.’ Several Native American tribes inhabited central Pennsylvania, which makes it more difficult to trace the term back to its origin.

The first colonial settlers adopted the term and used it to refer to a part of the state as Nittany Mountain and another area as Nittany Valley, near present-day Penn State University Park campus. The mascot became known as a Nittany Lion in the early 1900s.