Posted by: Dan Bergeson | September 21, 2007

Oles vs. Lions? You make the call

I’ll admit; I’ve been AWOL from this blog for weeks. Sorry is all I can offer, although I’m not sure I was missed.

At any rate, I’ve been wondering for years now why the St. Olaf College team name changed from Lions to Oles. When my parents were students in the 1940s (yeah, that’s a few years ago), the name was definitely Lions. You can look it up in the Manitou Messenger. Even when I was a student in the early 70s, at least the athletic teams were called Lions. But now, everything having to do with collective Ole activity is lumped together under the moniker “Oles”. I think the homogenization is unappealing.

Ole the LionWhy are they called Oles when there’s a mascot walking around in a lion suit? If the lion’s name is Ole, I get that.”Ole the Lion”. I just don’t see by extension that the team members or the teams should be called Oles. “The St. Olaf Lions” is so much more romantic, dramatic, just goldarn’ interesting. “Oles” is mundane. Sorry. I realize that this is a minor issue on a global scale, but it’s bugged me for a long time. Humor my ignorance and confusion, OK? I’m done now.

Full disclosure: however one defines it, I’m an Ole, class of ’74.



  1. When I was at St. Olaf in the mid 80s the teams were called “Oles.” A small group of students led a valiant effort to reinstate the “Lions” moniker, but it never really caught on with the masses.

  2. Lions, especially the axe wielding variety, are much cooler than oles.

  3. I disagree. There are no other sport teams in the world with the name “Oles”. In fact many of the teams in the MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) have these types of monikers. Johnnies, Tommies, and Carls. I think it’s one of the cooler traditions the MIAC has. Granted colleges like Carelton has the Knights as their official mascot, and Carls is a much more informal. I think the idea that the name is “Oles” is pretty interesting.

    As for Jerry’s comment, if the other option was the St. Olaf Axe Wielding Lions, then I might be on board for the change.

    As of now, I am glad that I am an Ole and not just a plain old Lion.

  4. Hey Tom,

    My interest in bringing the whole issue up has as much to do with how and when the change happened as what the change became. I guess I could do the research myself, but I wondered if anyone knew already. Like, was there a campus-wide debate, was it done by presidential fiat, did the athletic department do it in the dead of night (like the Colts moving to Indianapolis) or what?

    As I said, I’m an Ole and not unhappy about that (although I think being a lion is more romantic), I’m just curious about the way it all came about.

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