Who Are We, Broncos?

In February 1923, The Santa Clara posed an urgent question:
What are we, fellow Santa Clarans?

Who Are We, Broncos?

The University’s sports teams had nicknames, but none satisfied. The chap with the best proposal would win $5. Ultimately, Santa Clara stuck with Missionites—the name of the era. But that didn’t last through the fall, when a new proposal generated untamable excitement: Bronco.

A Worthy Nickname

It was Professor of Philosophy Hubert Flynn, S.J. who first suggested a bronco as a mascot in 1923 after he attended a rodeo. The unbroken horse, he said, “is a native Western piece of dynamite, not too large, it is true, but hard as nails, and always game to the core.”

Image Courtesy Loyola Marymount University Archives
Fr. Hubert Flynn, S.J. (middle), pictured here while teaching at Loyola College of Los Angeles in 1920, now Loyola Marymount University. Image courtesy Loyola Marymount University Archives.
The Santa Clara Valley’s first fruit orchards were planted in the 18th century by missionary priests. By the late 1800s, there were more than 4 million fruit trees planted here, including prunes as seen in this vintage photograph. Image courtesy Oregon State University Digital Archives via Flickr.


Before Santa Clara athletes became Broncos, the school used a number of different nicknames—the Missionites, the Mission Lads, the Friars, and the Prunepickers, for the region’s plentiful orchards and dried fruit industry.

Santa Clara’s rivalry with St. Mary’s College dates back to 1896, when the football teams first played on Thanksgiving Day, with SCU’s ‘Missionites’ winning over the St. Mary’s ‘Collegians’ by 46-4. Image courtesy SCU Archives.

User Adoption

Three days after the idea for a bronco mascot first appears in The Santa Clara on Nov. 7, 1923, the paper fully embraced it—just in time for the Big Little game against St. Mary’s. In fact, the new moniker appeared no fewer than seven times in the next issue’s 8 pages.

What’s with the H?

In the initial pitch for the new name it was suggested the varsity teams be called the “bronchos.” That’s no typo. The “h” persisted for years. And it wasn’t unheard of at the time. Broncho the Horse earned an acting credit in the 1920 silent Western The Lone Hand. The last reference to Bronchos in The Santa Clara is in the mid-1960s.

Shutterstock H
A high school in Indiana and the University of Central Oklahoma kept the “h” while SCU moved to the more modern spelling. Image courtesy Shutterstock.
Jon Sebastiani
Of course Bucky has a social media presence, including about 500 connections on LinkedInImage courtesy SCU Archives.

Thoroughly modern filly

The Broncos became personified in 1976, when Kim (Malley) Belotti ’79 made a papier-mâché horse head to wear to a basketball game. Her dad, Santa Clara Athletic Director Pat Malley ’53, loved the new mascot.

Benny the Bronco, as she was named at the time, went on hiatus when Belotti graduated. But Suzy (Pollack) Loftus ’96 picked up reigns, donning a new costume and rechristened the horse Bucky.

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