It's hard to make too much sense of the crop of North Carolina mascots. There are plenty of the traditional fare -- Wildcats, Falcons, Bears and the like -- but also a decent group of out there alternatives. Chief among them are the Whirlies, who represent, you guessed it, a cute tornado.
It's hard to think of tornadoes as "cute" given the incidents in Oklahoma last Spring, but the Whirlies tend to accomplish that in logo form. They represent Greensboro (N.C.) Grimsley High, and were the evolution of a color change brought on by Grimsley High.
According to USA Today, Grimsley played as the Purple Whirlwinds from 1920 to 1951, at which point the school randomly decided to change its school colors to blue. Naturally, it didn't make sense for the Purple Whirlwinds to play in blue, so the school opened up the gates to a name change. The Whirlies were the result, and they've become arguably the state's most celebrated mascot since.
At least that's what was determined by USA Today's voters, which doesn't necessarily diminish some of the other terrific mascot options below.
Other Great North Carolina Mascots of Note:
They may not be the Whirlies, but Cary (N.C.) High Imps are pretty notable. The school was looking for an original mascot that also tied in to the area's high profile and high wattage colleges. The result was a smaller version of Duke's Blue Devils -- the Imp -- with a nice green hue, in the 1930s. In the years since, it's become a true mid-Atlantic classic.
It's hard not to get a smile from the Kernersville (N.C.) Bishop McGuinness High Villains. Because they're the Villians. Hey, if your school takes on the mascot of the Villians, there are no circumstances under which you're going to try and get opponents to enjoy your company. Kudos to Bishop McGuinness for playing it straight.
The Rocky Mount (N.C.) Gryphons continue the tradition of having at least one school in each state take on a mascot of an imaginary creature. The gryphon was a mythological beast that featured the body of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle and a back covered with feathers. So they flew. And looked like a lion. The Venetians loved them in the crests, and now so do the athletic teams at Rocky Mount.