7. Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, TN)
Less than an hour from Nashville, MTSU is a rising research university based in Murfreesboro.
MTSU is a premiere research institution, having partnered with the likes of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for cutting-edge research.
Other unusual top-tier programs at MTSU include Aviation and Audio Production, both of which are widely regarded in their respected fields.
The MTSU athletic teams are known as the Blue Raiders and you may recognize the name of the school from their big upset during March Madness in 2016.
At the time, they became just the eighth #15 seed to win a game in the tournament as they upset #2 seed Michigan State. They made it to the Round of 32, but lost the next game to Syracuse.
Their luck in the NCAA tournament continued in 2017, as they made it back and won in the first round again. It ended the same way though, as they were knocked out in the Round of 32, this time to Butler.
MTSU has some famous one-time students in the mix also, as Lady Antebellum frontwoman Hillary Scott, rapper Isaiah Rashad and Major League Baseball pitcher Dewon Brazelton all attended at one point, but none of them finished.
6. Eastern Kentucky University (Richmond, KY)
In recent years, EKU has won a number of prestigious awards, signifying the rising reputation of this excellent school.
Some of these awards include Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2016 “Best Colleges to Work for,” an Advancement of Teaching accolade from the Carnegie Foundation, and two US News top-40 rankings, one for an online nursing degree and another for a graduate program in Occupational Therapy.
Located in Richmond, KY, Eastern Kentucky University has The Colonel as their official school mascot. However, there happened to be an unofficial mascot roaming the campus during the 1950s and 1960s.
That unofficial mascot was Mozart, a dog that would be hanging out around campus, sit in on classes and even attended concerts at the James E. Van Peursem Music Pavilion in the Ravine.
Mozart was looked after and cared for by the entire student body and lived to be 17 years old. He passed away in 1964, but his spirit remains in his portrait and collar displayed at EKU Special Collections and Archives and at his grave in the Ravine.
5. Arkansas Tech University (Russellville, AR)
Arkansas Tech University is a public university located in Russellville, AR. While the school is known for their agricultural and engineering programs, there also seems to be a tradition surrounding the athletic teams.
The school has dual nicknames for their athletic teams: men’s teams are known as the Wonder Boys and the women’s teams are known as the Golden Suns.
The nickname started back in 1919 after a big upset win for the football team. In a newspaper story the next day, the team was referred to as the Wonder Boys and it has stuck ever since.
However, the female athletes weren’t too keen on the idea of being called the Wonder Girls or Wonderettes. They held a contest in 1975 to determine their new mascot and Golden Suns was selected as the winner.
4. Ferris State University (Big Rapids, MI)
Big Rapids, MI, is the home to Ferris State University, a public research university.
Many of Ferris State’s programs are among the best in the midwest. These include their Kendall College of Art and Design, a premiere design school located in Grand Rapids.
Ferris State has a strong sports program; their Men’s Hockey team competes in the NCAA Division I program. The Bulldogs have a strong tradition of winning – in 2018, their basketball team won the NCAA Division II national championship.
Uniquely, Ferris State is the only public university in all of Michigan founded by an individual.