Awesome Sports Logos Blog

Sports Logos Spotlight on the Duke Blue Devils

Few college basketball brands are more powerful than that of Duke University. Few programs can out-namedrop icons like Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, and of course “Coach K”. Throw in the 4th most wins of all-time, 16 final four appearances, and – after their 68 – 63 win over Wisconsin recently it's now 5 national championships, even less can boast of having more success.
 
Winning (and players like Laettner) often breeds contempt. And while Duke has fans all over the country, they’ve also created LEGIONS of haters.

But forget whether you love or loathe the Dukies. Instead, ask yourself this: “How . . . and WHY . . . did a small, private, Methodist University in the Bible Belt give itself the nickname Blue Devils?

 
 

 

It’s a great question. The answer? Even better.

Per Duke’s online library, the term “Blue Devils” was first used in France. It was a nickname for the “Chasseurs Alpins”, a unit of French Soldiers in World War 1 who fought near the French Alps. Their uniforms were . . . extravagant. They wore berets. And they wore capes.

After the United States entered WW1, some French “Blue Devils” went around the country trying to raise money. Irving Berlin – one of the greatest songwriters in US history - actually wrote a song about them. Here are the closing lyrics:

"Strong and active, most attractive
Are the Blue Devils
They came here the Liberty Loan to advance
We entertained them with the best
And now they've gone back to the trenches to rest
Those Devils, the Blue Devils of France"

So how did the name Blue Devils end up in Durham North Carolina? Trinity College didn't have a school nickname.The student newspaper launched a search campaign. They did want to keep the college color which was dark blue. Ultimately, Blue Devils took home the first prize beating out other candidates like the Blue Titans, Blue Eagles and Blue Warriors.

Yes, a Trinity College chose the nickname of Blue Devils. And yes, Duke’s nickname actually came from a division of the French Army. 

That answer doesn’t exactly scream “Most Dominant College Basketball Program of All-Time”, does it?

 We realize there are a lot of Duke fans across the country. We also realize there are plenty more who DON’T like Duke. That’s why at Awesome Sports Logos, we have our own version of the Blue Devils. Without any Laettner's. Ladies and Gentleman, the New York Zouaves!

 

What are the Zouaves? They also have a French connection. The name Zouave actually comes from Algeria and was first used by the French army as they recruited military from the Zouaoua tribe. Zouaves are distinguished by their uniforms which included short open-fronted jackets, baggy trousers and often sashes and oriental headgear. 

The New York Zouaves also known as the 11th New York Infantry took on the Zouaves name, uniforms and drill style during the Civil War. These volunteers actually started fighting immediately occupying Alexandria, Virginia just 24 hours after the state succeeded from the Union. 

If you put a Duke shirt on at this point without any kind of connection, you might be accused of hitching a ride on the Duke bandwagon. No one will accuse you of bandwagon jumping with our Zouaves awesome t-shirt. You’ll be trend-setting.
Thanks as always for reading,
 
Paul Gallant
Awesome Sports Logos Columnist 
 

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