- Aztecs: Um... the Aztec empire at its height never came remotely close to the South Texas region (map below). I suppose that this fits with the ongoing push for UTRGV to be a university that will attract students from Central and South America. Still, it’s already used by two other universities.
- Barracudas: As far as I can tell, about the only barracuda you will find around these parts was the Barracuda Grill on South Padre Island... and it’s closed! There is no other university team with that name, but that doesn't quite make up for the disconnect between the animal and the region. (Update, 17 September 2014: One of my departmental colleagues has said we do have barracuda in our waters. We have both the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda; map here) and the Northern Sennet (Sphyraena borealis).
- Bears: Finally, you have something that has some local relevance. We are starting to see bears in the South Texas area again... after about 50 years or so. Not exactly something that has a strong local presence yet. And there are over 20 teams with that name already.
- Sharks: Yes, there are sharks in the Gulf of Mexico waters. Heck, some made the news a couple of days ago! But it is a bit generic; four other universities have shark mascots.
- Bull snakes: These are handsome animals, and they are common throughout Texas. It's good that we have them here, but they are not exactly distinctive to the region.
- Tortoises: The Texas tortoise is only found in South Texas in the U.S., and no other university has a tortoise as a mascot. And that is probably because... well... tortoises are great animals, but since athletics are often concerned with, say... speed... (Plug: One of my colleagues has recently co-authored a book on Texas tortoises.)
- Phoenix: This mythical creature has no connection to the region, and four teams already use the name. The name is slightly confusing because it doesn’t have an easy plural. On the plus side, it might symbolize the rebirth of The University of Texas Pan American and University of Texas Brownsville into The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
- Red wolves: They don’t live here (map below)! At this point, I'm starting to wonder if the branding company has looked at a map. Do they know where our campuses are?
- Foxes: To my surprise, this does not seem to be a name used by any university. There's a Red Fox and a Swamp Fox, but nothing which is just “Foxes.” The common gray fox does live here, but it lives throughout Texas, so again, not distinctive.
- Mockingbirds: The northern mockingbird is so widespread throughout Texas that it is the state bird for Texas.., and four other states. Not exactly a distinctive creature to the region. On the plus side, the name is not being used as a team name by any university.
I don’t like any name on that list. Every one has serious shortcomings for me. But if I had to pick from that list, I’d probably go sharks (“RGV Sharks” has some nice repeating “ar” sounds). Foxes might be my second choice, because no other campus has that name.
But I’ll still take any of those ten names over keeping the Bronc. That will just lead to strife and keep the new university from being a new university.