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We are the Bisons! Yes, with an 'S'

For more than 80 years, the Lipscomb University community has affectionately embraced the bison as its mascot. And Lipscomb's teams are affectionately called the Bisons. Yes, Bisons with an "S."

Kim Chaudoin | 615.966.6494  | 

For more than 80 years, the Lipscomb University community has affectionately embraced the bison as its mascot.

And Lipscomb’s teams are affectionately called the Bisons. Yes, Bisons with an “S.”

In fall 1932, the bison became a permanent part of the Lipscomb University tradition. During the 1931-32 school year, Lipscomb fielded its first-ever intercollegiate men’s basketball team. Head coach Robert Alexander had the task of selecting uniforms for the new team. Alexander took student athlete Jack Draper, team captain, with him to Burke and Company in downtown Nashville to purchase team uniforms.

Draper noticed a jacket with a buffalo, as he called it, across the back.

“After seeing a buffalo on the back of a jacket hanging in the store, Jack Draper suggested to Coach Alexander to call the team the ‘Thundering Herd,’” said Andy Lane, associate director of athletics. “But the coach liked the ‘Bisons’ as the team mascot.”

bison mammal_3Lane said the team agreed and Lipscomb athletic teams have been called the Bisons since. Before that time, Lipscomb’s athletics teams were sometimes called the “Crusaders,” but the name was not widely accepted by the student body.

Students formed the Bisonettes in 1956 to lead school spirit, according to “A Century of Memories, 1891-1991.” The Bisonettes dressed uniformly and sat together during basketball games and marched at halftime. Selected from each class, there were 60 members of the group. They remained a feature of the basketball season until the program ended in 1974 due to a lack of interest.

Student DeWayne Lanham (’61) spearheaded a project to get a bison sculpture on campus. Nashville artist Puryear Mims sculpted the bison statue. On Nov. 28, 1960, the day of the first basketball game of the season, then-president Athens Clay Pullias unveiled the statue and proclaimed that day Bison Day. For decades, Bison Day was the traditional start of the basketball season with students dressed in themed attire for a pep rally.

The statue was originally located on the west lawn of Johnson Hall. It was moved to its present location on the south side of Collins Alumni Auditorium in 1983 when construction on Swang Business Center necessitated its move. In the years since the bison statue was installed on campus, it has become a tradition for students to paint the bison with various messages and themes.

bison mammal_1In the 1700s, bison were prevalent in the area where the Lipscomb University campus sits today. According to an article in the Aug. 14, 1921, edition of the Nashville Banner, “Granny White Pike was the first road going south from Nashville, and, according to Thomas H. Benton, was originally laid out by those ‘natural civil engineers,’ the buffaloes, in coming to the French Lick, now Sulphur Springs, at Nashville, and returning to their grassy pastures in the Harpeth valley.”

On May 9, 2016, the bison has secured its place in history and in the hearts of Americans across the country as the national mammal. On that day, then-President Barack Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law. The bill had one purpose — to declare the bison the national mammal of the United States.

bison mammal_dedicationAt one time, an estimated 30 million to 60 million bison ranged from Canada to northern Mexico and from the Plains to Eastern forests. By about 1890, roughly 1,000 remained, including two dozen in Yellowstone National Park. But a concerted effort by conservationists in the early 20th century brought the bison back from the verge of extinction. Today, there are approximately 500,000 bison in the United States.

The bill recognizes the bison for its historical, cultural significance and contains the following facts about the bison:

  • A bison is portrayed on two state flags;
  • The bison has been adopted by three states as their official mammal or animal;
  • A bison has been depicted on the official seal of the Department of the Interior since 1912;
  • bison mammal_2The buffalo nickel played an important role in modernizing the currency of the United States; and
  • Several sports teams have the bison as a mascot, which highlights the iconic significance of bison in the United States.

The law also makes clear that it's entirely a symbolic action: "Nothing in this act or the adoption of the North American bison as the national mammal of the United States shall be construed or used as a reason to alter, change, modify, or otherwise affect any plan, policy, management decision, regulation, or other action by the federal government," the last clause of the bill reads.