Through its first 19 seasons of athletic competition, Kansas State had used "Aggies" as its nickname. But prior to the 1915 season, new coach John "Chief" Bender gave his squad the nickname "Wildcats." The moniker lasted the one season Bender coached at K-State. Under Coach Z.G. Clevenger in 1917, the school team became known as the "Farmers." In 1920 another new coach, Charles Bachman, took over the program, renaming the team "Wildcats." This time, the nickname stuck.
Willie, a student bedecked in a oversized Wildcat head, is Kansas State’s No. 1 fan. Willie Wildcats are selected yearly by a panel appointed by the cheerleading coach. The mascot is a central part of athletic contests, but also attends functions around the state as an ambassador. Traditionally, the identity of the student portraying Willie is kept secret.
In 1922, Hall-of-Famer Charles Bachman asked alumni to consider donating an actual Wildcat to the school to serve as a mascot. KSAC alumni Herbert R. Groome and John E. McCoy, both veterinarians in Twin Falls, Idaho, donated "Touchdown I" to the school shortly after the animal was nursed back to health under their care. (The bobcat had an encounter with a porcupine, and his face and throat were punctured by numerous quills. Unfortunately, Touchdown I never fully recovered from its fight, dying of pneumonia shortly after arriving in Manhattan.)
Although the bobcats have served as K-State’s wildcat mascot since 1922, the animals no longer attend K-State games. Touchdown XI, the 11th in the line, was kept at Manhattan’s Sunset Zoo.
The school color Royal Purple was adopted in the fall of 1896 by a committee of "Miss Minnie L. Copeland, Jr. and Miss Winnifred Houghton and Miss Ina E. Holyrod, of the senior class, and perhaps one or more others." Although K-State’s only official color is purple, white has been used as a complimentary color for many years. Silver is also a common second or third color. Former head basketball coach Cotton Fitzsimmons incorprated gold during his two-year stint (1968-70), but gold or yellow has not been used since that time. The term "Purple Pride," which is often used in association with KSU athletics, was given rise during the tenure of head football coach Vince Gibson (1967-74).
One of the most recognizable athletic logos in the nation is the K-State Powercat. The logo was introduced by Bill Snyder shortly after his arrival in Manhattan as the attitude of the entire athletics department and university was changing.
Manhattan native Tom Bookwalter, in cooperation with head coach Bill Snyder,
created the powerful logo that is a prominent feature on the K-State football helmet, at Wagner Field, on the back of the Dev Nelson Pressbox, clothing, flags, bottled water, vanity plates for cars and just about anywhere in Manhattan.
Previous logos used by the athletics department included a line drawing of a wildcat head and the cartoonish "Willie the Wildcat" that is used only by the Alumni Association.
The Alma Mater was selected as a result of an 1888 campus contest. H.W. Jones (’88) was responsible for K-State’s prized result. Jones’ original work was four stanzas including the chorus. His version has been slightly altered over the years to include just two stanzas and the changing of the words from Kansas State Agricultural College to Kansas State University.
"I know a spot that I love full well, 'Tis not in forest nor yet in dell, ever it holds me with magic spell, I think of thee Alma Mater.
KSU, we’ll carry the banner high, KSU long, long may thy colors fly. Loyal you to thee thy children will swell the cry.
Hail, Hail, Hail Alma Mater."
FIGHT SONG (WILDCAT VICTORY)
"Fight you K-State Wildcats. For Alma Mater fight-fight-fight.
Glory in the combat for the purple and the white. Faithful to our colors, we will ever be, fighting ever fighting for a Wildcat Victory!
Everyone knows that familiar tune Wabash Cannonball. In fact, Wabash and K-State are almost synonymous. What many people do not know is how the song became an integral part of Wildcat athletics. In the fall of 1969 the department of music burnt down. Every piece of music in the building was destroyed. The only thing that was salvaged was what was in the band director’s brief case. That included a piece of music titled the Wabash Cannonball. With an upcoming football game and no music, that left only one thing to do. The band members played the song loud and often. A song that originally had no connection to KSU became a second fight song.
SLOGANS AND NICKNAME
Several chants and slogans are used in association with the team. "Purple Pride" and "Eat 'Em Up, Eat 'Em Up K-S-U" are just a few. One of the most popular phrases among fans is "EMAW" or, "Every Man a Wildcat". Tracing its roots back through decades of K-State athletics history, fans are unified behind the rallying cry, declaring they are all part of the Wildcat nation.
Kansas State University, itself, is referred to in many different shortened versions. The preferred name is "K-State", which is used by alums, friends and journalists from coast to coast.