Ask anyone in or around Enterprise about the boll weevil and you’re more than likely going to hear a lot about cotton and peanuts, but the boll weevil also has a big place with athletics in the City of Progress, as well.
Before Enterprise State Community College was ever built, the boll weevil served as the mascot for the Enterprise Boll Weevils, a minor league baseball team competing in the Alabama State League alongside teams from Andalusia, Brewton, Dothan, Ozark, Opp, Headland, Geneva, Greenville, Troy and Tuskegee from 1947 until 1950. The team competed in the Alabama-Florida League in 1951 and 1952.
“People don’t understand how big (minor league) baseball was down here at the time,” ESCC Associate Dean of Students Kevin Ammons said. “When the men came home from (World War II) all of the (baseball) teams were up North or out West. Minor league ball was huge in Enterprise.”
The Boll Weevils played from 1947 until the 1952 season and took home a first place finish in the 1950 season with a 76-49 record, according to Baseball Reference.
The minor league franchise played its games at Peanut Stadium, believed to be located at the current location of the M.N. Jug Brown Recreation Center and the baseball fields behind it, or located near the old National Guard Armory next to the former Coppinville Junior High.
Former Boll Weevils include Paul O’Dea and Morris Higginbotham. O’Dea was a former major league player with the Cleveland Indians and would actually go on to manage the Boll Weevils during the 1950 season, where he also was the team’s top batter with a .351 batting average. Higginbotham would go on to become the head football coach at Enterprise High School, where he would lead the Wildcats to an Alabama Sports Writers Association State Championship in 1960.
During the 1952 season, the Boll Weevils moved to Graceville, Fla., and became the Graceville Oilers, but the “Boll Weevil” nickname would not stay dormant for very long.
In 1965, Enterprise State Junior College – now known as Enterprise State Community College – opened its doors and soon after the school needed to come up with a mascot for its athletic programs the following school year.
ESJC students were asked to chime in on what they wanted the athletic teams’ nicknames to be. The field was whittled down to a choice between the Boll Weevils, Raiders and Mustangs. On Nov. 14, 1965 the student body voted to become the ESJC Boll Weevils.
A 1965 article in the Enterprise Ledger credited ESJCC student Ronnie Donaldson for the name as he headed up the committee that campaigned for the Boll Weevils name to be adopted.
“The boll weevils are tough and courageous,” Donaldson said, according to the Ledger. “To wipe them out and make them extinct is impossible. Sometimes they may be slowed down, but they always come back with renewed and stronger force. Ask any farmer.”
The ESJC baseball and basketball programs began in 1966 but the school wasn’t quite finished with the boll weevil just yet. ESJC’s first yearbook was known as the Anthonomus – the scientific name for the boll weevil. ESJC’s Student Government Association President George Landingham is credited for coming up with the name. ESJC called its annual yearbook the Anthonomus all the way up until the school stopped publishing one in 1974.
ESJC’s first basketball team took the court in November of 1966 and the new Boll Weevils earned their first victory in November of 1966 in a 77-51 thumping of Patrick Henry Junior College in Monroeville. ESJC was led by the scoring trio of Bobby Cordle (14 points), Larry Lewis (13 points) and Pete Kelley (12 points) in the win.
Early on ESJC cheerleaders would simply carry a replica of the boll weevil – much like the one that sits atop the monument downtown – but in the early 1970s ESJC had its first official mascot, Willie Weevil. ESJC students Marty Connolly, Theresa Carter and Tony Neal were among the first students to wear the first costume.
Following the addition of men’s basketball in 1966 and then baseball in 1969, women’s basketball began in the late 1970s followed by softball in 1988.
Willie Weevil was ESJC’s mascot off and on through the years, but in 2006 Bo Weevil was born, literally. Bo has his very own birth certificate and all.
Spawned by ESCC Public Relations and Marketing Director Stephen Schmidt and Dean of Students Olivier Charles, the school reached out to Hummingbird Ideas to come up with the school’s first athletic logos along with the new mascot.
“The team didn’t want to stray too far away from tradition and wanted plenty of input from the faculty, staff and students,” Schmidt said. “The team wanted to create an image for the athletic program that our community would rally around.”
Hummingbird Ideas received input from ESCC students – including the entire baseball team – on what they wanted to see their team logo look like.
“One ballplayer anxiously raised his hand, (and said) ‘Swole, like jacked,’ and another chimed in with, ‘Yeah, fierce, angry, one badass bug’ during our Q&A,” the company said in a statement about the project. “What we found was that we could do a really cool illustration of a boll weevil that translated well to all athletics applications, while also addressing the general feeling we got from reading stories about the boll weevil causing so much devastation – this thing was indeed ‘fierce.’
“It didn’t need to have giant ‘swole’ arms or legs, but it could be drawn and positioned in a way that made it look extremely menacing – as one might imagine it did haunting the dreams of farmers back in the late 1800s and throughout the 20th Century. A creepy crawly, menacing insect that demanded and received respect.”
ESCC finally had team logos and a new mascot.
ESCC revised the mascot again in 2019 and unveiled the new-look Bo Weevil at a pep rally before the home opener of the 2019 basketball season on Nov. 19. Bo’s new look featured a slimmer, more muscular body and a face that more resembles ESCC’s new team logos, as well.
Regardless of look or cute names, the boll weevil has deep meaning in the Enterprise area and it also has similar meaning to ESCC.
“History shows that students understand the importance of the boll weevil and how the area was impacted by it,” Ammons continued. “The city has a monument in honor of a pest – probably the only one in the world – that made them better.
“That’s ultimately what this college is here for, to make every student that comes through the door better. No matter where they start out in life, if we can be the stepping stone in making them better people then we can be their ‘boll weevil’ in some shape, form or fashion and make them better.”