The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) men’s basketball team marches proudly into March Madness as champion of the Southern Conference. The Mocs are making their first trip to the big dance since 2009. Given Chattanooga’s deep historical connection with Native American culture, many assume that Mocs is short for Moccasins — the traditional Native American footwear common to many tribes. And it once was a shortened version of Moccasins. But in 1997 Chattanooga’s politically sensitive change away from using Native American symbolism saw the school alter the etymology of its nickname, too. Since 1997 the nickname Mocs is understood to be short for Mockingbirds, not Moccasins.
UTC changed logos, choosing to emphasize its links to both the famous Chattanooga railroad and the mockingbird — Tennessee’s state bird. As UTC explains: “Mockingbirds are fiercely territorial creatures which protect their homes with courage, determination and skill. Those attributes reflect the intellect, spirit and character of UTC student-athletes and alumni.” The switch also proves that UTC students and alum are awfully smart and enterprising: they got to keep their nickname and do the right thing.