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As CAA disintegrates, can the Griffins soar?

Steve Moore, Phil Pressey, Marcus Thornton

William & Mary’s Marcus Thornton, foreground, loses the ball while driving toward the basket past Missouri’s Steve Moore, right, and Phil Pressey, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)


Sometimes, you just can’t tell what will garner national attention in the sports world. The CAA is in the news quite a bit lately, for good reason: top schools VCU and Old Dominion have just fled the conference as part of the ongoing realignment dramedy. Somewhere on a lower level of national interest (OK, probably nearing zero) is the basketball program at William & Mary, where a stunning alumni list does little to diminish the pain of fielding a hoops squad that can’t make the Big Dance, no matter how hard they try.

To add insult to injury, the school’s athletic teams, which have long played under the nickname The Tribe, fell under the watchful eye of the NCAA PC police, who determined that the Tribe’s rather innocuous feather logo had to go. With the law well and truly laid down, the school’s administration decided to choose a new mascot and logo by the most effective means possible - a committee vote. The bloggers at Gheorghe: The Blog -- W&M grads all -- suggested the Wrens, in honor of the school’s venerable Wren Building, to no avail. The vote was taken, and the mythical Griffin was chosen instead.

This is all a long way of saying that the Griffin struck a chord across this great sporting nation of ours. A chord that resonates in the key of WTF. Deadspin took a whack at it, as did the Washington Post. For my extremely biased buck, however, the best analysis came from Rob Russell, one of the aforementioned long-suffering G:TB writers.

Given the opportunity to break with tradition, to leaven three centuries of self-seriousness with a hint of whimsy, to boldly go where no institution of higher learning has gone before, William & Mary chose...the Griffin.

Yes, it has an eagle’s head and a lion’s body, symbolizing the College’s historical debt to both the United States and Great Britain. And sure, it’ll play well with the Harry Potter demo. But how do we explain this to our children? How do I look into my daughter’s perplexed eyes and answer her question: “Why does it have a naked man’s legs and a tail?”

Why, indeed, sweetheart?

Sometimes change brings good things to a pained fan base, of course. The Broncos and John Elway didn’t win a Super Bowl until they ditched the old “predominantly orange” unis (and ran Terrell Davis behind zone blocking). Maybe the Griffin (along with the sudden departure of two league bullies) will presage the glorious auto-bid of legend. If so, I fully expect to see Rob and company sporting Griffin shirts and tails on their naked posteriors as they lead the celebratory parade through Colonial Williamsburg.