Boilermakers is the official athletic moniker for the intercollegiate athletic teams of Purdue University. As is common with athletic nicknames, it is also used as colloquial designation of Purdue's students and alumni at large.
The moniker 'Boilermakers' goes back to 1891 when the Purdue football team defeated nearby rival Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana 44-0. An account of the game in the Crawfordsville Daily Argus News of October 26, 1891 was headlined, "Slaughter of Innocents: Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue." The local Purdue press picked up on the name, with a notice in the November 1, 1891
Lafayette Sunday Times, "As everyone knows, Purdue went down to Wabash last Saturday and defeated their eleven. The Crawfordsville papers have not yet gotten over it. The only recourse they have is to claim that we beat their 'scientific' men by brute force. Our players are characterized as 'coal heavers,' 'boiler makers' and 'stevedores.'"
Over the years Purdue's football team were called 'grangers', 'pumpkin-shuckers', 'railsplitters', 'cornfield sailors', 'blacksmiths' and 'foundry hands', but ultimately it was 'Boilermakers' that finally stuck.
Purdue's athletic teams typically wear old-gold-and-black or old-gold-and-white ensembles, colors that have identified Purdue since 1887.
The Purdue Boilermakers competed as 'Independent' till 1889. In 1890, they joined the 'Indiana Intercollegiate Athletic Association', and finally the Big Ten Conference in 1896. The Purdue Boilermakers have been Big-Ten Conference Champions in 1918, 1929, 1931, 1943, 1952, 1967 and 2000. The last two conference wins gave the Boilermakers berths in the Rose Bowl - the "grand-daddy of them all". The Boilermakers, under NFL hall-of-famer Bob Griese defeated the University of Southern California Trojans 14-13 in 1967 to win the Rose Bowl, but went down to the University of Washington Huskies 24-34 in 2000, under Drew Brees.
The Boilermaker men's and women's basketball teams have won more Big Ten Championships than any other conference school, with 27 conference banners, including a league-leading 21 for the men’s team. Men’s former head coach Gene Keady coached his final season with the Boilermakers in the 2004 – 2005 season after 25 years with the Boilermakers. Coach Keady became Purdue's all-time-winningest coach on December 6, 1997. In his years at Purdue, Keady led the Boilermakers to more than 500 victories. Coach Keady had the honor of being named in The Sporting News as the best college coach never to make the final four.
Coaching legend John Wooden played for the Boilermakers during his undergraduate years.
The current coach of the Boilermaker men's basketball team is Matt Painter.
Purdue's Band was formed in 1886 and named the 'All-American' Marching Band. The AAMB has made 75 consecutive appearances as the host band for the Indianapolis 500. The AAMB performs on all home games where they play the university fight song ("Hail Purdue!") and other songs ranging from jazz to rock.
The Boilermaker Special is the official mascot of Purdue since the 1930s. The 'Specials' are Victorian era locomotives. The Boilermaker Special I made its debut on the first day of classes in 1940. Alumni, faculty and students have since then raised funds to replace the Special as it has worn out. The Boilermaker Special V was unveiled in 1993 at the Purdue-Notre Dame game.
During 1940 the then owners of the University Bookstore, Doc Epple and Red Sammons, hired local artist Art Evans to draw a boilermaker to use as an advertising icon for the bookstore. A modernized version is still used in that capacity at University Bookstore. In 1944 the editors of the university's Debris yearbook sought and obtained permission from University Bookstore to use Purdue Pete on the cover the 1944 edition of the Debris yearbook. When asked the name of the boilermaker depicted in the advertising drawing, Epple coined the name "Pete". Since 1956 Purdue Pete has been a regular at Purdue games as a head worn by an adjunct member of the cheerleading group. Originally the head costume was made of chicken wire and papier mache, but in later years has been made of fiberglass for better durability during rainy football games and the like.
In 1997 Rowdy was added as another unofficial cheerleading mascot at football events. Rowdy is a ten-foot tall inflatable child boilermaker, who seeks to enroll at Purdue University someday in his future.