THE REDBIRD NICKNAMEIn 1923, athletics director Clifford E. "Pop" Horton and Daily Pantagraph sports editor Fred Young collaborated to change the university's nickname from "Teachers." Horton wanted "Cardinals" because the colors were cardinal and white (set in 1895-96).
Young changed the nickname to "Red Birds" to avoid confusion in the headlines with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. It took roughly 10 years for Red Birds to become one word. Since that time, Illinois State Athletics fans have been enjoying the rich success that nearly all Redbird Athletics teams have enjoyed.
The history behind the story of how the Redbirds got their name was told by Horton in the mid-1970s. Here is his account of how the Redbirds were born:
"When I came here (Illinois State) in 1923, the teams then were known as the 'Teachers.' Since the school colors were cardinal and white, I thought it would be a good idea to call the team 'Cardinals.' So I tried to introduce that name. "Fred Young was responsible for changing us from the Cardinals to the Redbirds. Because the St. Louis baseball team was also the Cardinals, there was a case of possible conflict in headlining an athletics event. By calling our team Redbirds, it was easy to identify them with the University, so he gradually shifted over to the Redbirds. "I don't recall exactly when the shift took place, but we were known as the Cardinals for a very short period of time."