Throwback Thursday August 27, 2020

When Bulldog athletic teams return to action, they will be facing Frontier Conference foes. It will be Bulldog basketball and volleyball teams against the Fighting Saints, the Orediggers, the Battlin’ Bears, the Argos, the Lights and Skylights.

Bulldog football will also square off against the Saints, Bears, Orediggers and the Lights, plus the Yotes, Mountaineers and Raiders.

Before we look at the villain’s mascots, let’s take a quick look at the evolution of the Bulldog mascot. From the school’s founding to 1927, Montana State Normal College (MSNC) has had several nicknames. The early MSNC athletic teams were sometimes called the Normals, sometimes called the Teachers and for a short time, the Beavers, which of course was not accepted by the local high school.

In 1927, Dr. Sheldon Davis knew MSNC’s blossoming athletic program need its own mascot. He proposed the students make the decision. In a student body election, the name Bulldogs was chosen over the Badgers, Owls and Wolves as the official college mascot.

If you look back into the early days of Bulldog athletics, in-state opponents included the Hilltoppers, the Panthers, the Crusaders, the Preachers or Wesleyans, the Grizzlies, the Bobcats and the Yellowjackets along with the familiar Orediggers and Lights. There were schools and mascots only remembered by history.

Mount St. Charles was one of three colleges in Helena, Mont. in the early 1900’s. Mount. St. Charles was renamed Carroll College in 1932. The school’s official mascot has always been the Saints but media in Helena and across the state added another nickname, the Hilltoppers, in reference to the school’s location in Helena.

Montana Wesleyan University was the second college located in Helena. It appears that in athletic contests, their team was known as either the Preachers or the Wesleyans. In 1923, they merged with the Presbyterian College of Montana to form Intermountain Union College. The Intermountain Union (IMU) Panthers proved to be a formidable opponent for Bulldog basketball and football teams in the 1920’s and early 1930’s.

Billings Polytechnic Institute was founded 1908. The Billings Poly Crusaders were regular opponents of the Bulldogs. Billings Poly later merged with IMU in 1947 and became Rocky Mountain College. The Battlin’ Bears of Rocky Mountain College continue a rivalry with the Bulldogs that began in 1929. In the early days of Rocky, a pair of real bears were the official mascots.

I mentioned the Grizzlies and Bobcats as early opponents of the Bulldogs. Not just the Bulldogs, but in the state’s early athletic years, those two schools faced all the colleges in Montana. The University of Montana, known then as Montana State University and then the University of Montana and then back to Montana State University and then back to the University of Montana. Confusing yes? Just remember they were the Grizzlies.

Montana State University, known in its early days as the Agricultural College of the State of Montana, then changed to Montana State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, and then Montana State College and finally changed to Montana State University the same year the University of Montana finally became the University of Montana. Just remember the Bobcats and they were also regular Bulldog opponents in those early days.

The Bulldogs managed to snatch a victory or two from the larger Montana colleges in those early days. Here is one final score, Bulldogs 44 Grizzlies 35. That victory was a front page, above-the-fold headline in the January 31,1934 issue of the campus newspaper The Montanomal!

The Yellowjackets were the mascot of the Bulldog’s biggest rival of several decades. First called the Eastern Montana Normal School, then Eastern Montana College and now MSU-Billings. When MSU-Billings left the Frontier in 1980, there were still games between the long-time rivals, but they didn’t carry the same weight of those epic games with a conference title usually on the line.

The Montana School of Mines, probably the Bulldogs oldest athletic rival, is now known as Montana Tech, but their mascot has always been the Orediggers. Interesting side note, in those early days, it was two words, Ore Diggers. MSU-Northern was known as Northern Montana College for many years, but the mascot, has always been the Lights and Skylights.

The University of Providence is the youngest of the Bulldog opponents. The school was founded in 1932, but there was nothing in the way of intercollegiate athletics until the late 1960’s. Like its peers, the school has undergone several named changes, from the Great Falls Junior College for Girls to the College of Great Falls, to the University of Great Falls and the now the University of Providence, but always the Argos.

Over the years, the Montana Western Bulldogs have maintained a long and proud athletic tradition. There have been wins and there have been losses. There have been championships, even a pair of national championships. Those games against the

schools that only exist in the history books are not forgotten. They are remembered as a part of a long and proud Bulldog athletic tradition!

Go Dawgs!

The original post can be found on the University of Montana Western Alumni Facebook Page.