How the Bison Lost Their ‘S’
Alumni who were on campus during the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s occasionally ask how the “Bucknell Bisons” lost that “s” to become simply “Bucknell Bison.” Retired Associate Athletics Director Brad Tufts has revealed the answer at last: He changed it.

Sometime in the mid-’70s, Tufts was sitting at, well, The Bison, in the Elaine Langone Center, reading The Washington Post. As a sports guy, Tufts always knew which college campuses were also home of the bison(s). Nowadays, that includes three other Division I schools: North Dakota State and Howard University (the Bison), and Lipscomb University (the Bisons). There, in big letters, in a headline about Howard University, was the word “Bison,” used as a plural.

“It hit me: ‘Hey, I think maybe that’s what we should be,’ ” says Tufts. “I just figured it was like the word ‘deer’ — it was both singular and plural.”

The pursuit of good grammar led him to Bertrand Library, where he sat down with a heap of dictionaries: Merriam-Webster’s and four or five others (this was before the internet and Google, he notes). “My recollection is that half of them said it could be either way, and half said the plural of bison is bison,” says Tufts, who was then associate director of public relations.

He is unable to recall for sure, but believes he may have discussed the issue with his boss, Trennie Eisley ’31, who said Tufts wasn’t wrong, but that it was hard to go against tradition. But over time, that “s” continued to stalk Tufts’ thoughts. He found himself writing “bison,” without an “s,” in more materials: club sports news, questionnaires for college directories, etc. Bruce Corrie, athletics director from 1978 to 1987, recalls that when he got to campus in ’78, everyone was still saying, “Go Bisons.”

“Shortly after that, [Tufts] insisted that we should be correct and use the word ‘bison’ as it is both singular and plural in the dictionary,” says Corrie.

“And over a period of not too many years,” says Tufts, “that’s what it became.” — Eveline Chao