Best Dressed: Hoya Paranoia

Posted by rtmsf on June 14th, 2011

John Gorman is an RTC contributor. Every week throughout the long, hot summer, he will highlight one of the iconic uniforms from the great history of the game. We plan on rolling out 24 of these babies, so tweet your favorites at us @rushthecourt or email us directly at This week, we travel back to an era of powerful and fearsome basketball emanating from our nation’s capital. To see the entire list to date, click here.

You’ve probably asked yourself. “What’s a Hoya?” You wouldn’t be alone. Many think a Hoya is the breed of, or name of, a dog that appears as the logo of the Washington, D.C.-based basketball kennel. They are wrong. It isn’t anything. Not an animal. Not a plant. Not a person. Not a war formation. Not an endemic entity to the Beltway, political reference, or inside joke. It is a Latin Greek [ed. note: corrected] word, which literally translates to the declarative “what.”

These Uniforms Represented Fear in the Mid-80s (SI/M. Millan)

Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “How do you visually represent a ‘what’?” Georgetown University traditionally used a slew of canines to represent the school at home games, but when the varsity football program went under in 1951, the institution was left without an official mascot. Thirteen years later, the students bought an English bulldog named “Yellow Jacket,” whom they wanted to rename “Hoya,” but would only respond to “Jack.” He’s the dog you see on the Hoya unis.

The blue and the grey Georgetown features are the exact shades of both the Union and Confederate civil war armies. This is no accident. Georgetown’s various teams have long since worn the colors to show the unity between the northern and the southern students at our nation’s capital, just south of the old Mason-Dixon line.

But there’s something quite stark about the 80s Hoya Paranoia uniforms in particular, with their minimalist glare and foreboding GEORGETOWN font. Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo both looked monstrous, larger than life, in the all-greys with the Prussian blue print. John Thompson roaming the sidelines, he too larger than just about everyone on the floor. Georgetown teams were wrecking balls — tornadoes disguised as mere stratus clouds. There’s nothing lively about the uniforms. They were expertly crafted to let the players do the talking. The loud, proud players were always best at letting their ball skills make the real statement.

So it all makes sense, then, that the school nickname wasn’t anything at all, and the school colors were so bland and unassuming, and the GEORGETOWN print was so staunch yet so flashless, offering no resolution for “What’s a Hoya?” The game was to be sold, not told. The players and personalities were to give the school its identity. No catchy nickname or visual gimmicks were required when everything one needs to know about the answer to the question of “What?” can be found by staring across the court at the team responsible for your destruction.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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4 responses to “Best Dressed: Hoya Paranoia”

  1. mitch says:

    hoya actually comes from the mixed latin-greek phrase “hoia saxa” – the “hoia” is greek and means “what or such”, and “saxa” is latin and means “rocks”

  2. rtmsf says:

    Isn’t that what John said, that a Hoya is a “what?”

    “It is a Latin word, which literally translates to the declarative “what.””

  3. michael says:

    no rtmsf, because greek and latin are not the same language.

  4. rtmsf says:

    Excellent point!

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