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Why are they called the Black Tornado?

Credit a legendary coach, a dominant football team and a creative writer for coining Medford High School's "Black Tornado" moniker.

The nickname was coined by Oregonian sports editor L.H. Gregory during the 1920s. Gregory wrote, possibly after watching Medford manhandle Benson Tech 39-0 in the 1928 state championship game: "From out of the south, Medford swept over the field like a Black Tornado."

Medford's football team swept over many fields and blew over nearly every opponent during a 47-game span from 1923 through 1928.

Under the guidance of coach Prince L. "Prink" Callison, the school went 45-0-2 during that six-season stretch. Included were a 102-0 victory over Roseburg in 1925, a 94-0 win over the Indians in 1926 and a 94-0 triumph over Klamath Falls in 1927.

Medford's official mascot in those days was the Tigers, although some newspaper accounts referred to Medford High teams as the Pear Pickers, in honor of the Rogue Valley's top crop.

But, thanks in part to Bill Hulen — the Mail Tribune's sports editor from 1938-44 — the Black Tornado moniker began to appear more and more.

"When I was in high school, we were the Black Tornado in football and the Tigers in basketball," said Bill Singler, 78, who graduated from Medford High in 1948. (Singler is the grandfather of current South Medford High basketball star Kyle Singler).

Don Schneider, a 1951 Medford High grad, said "Tigers" was used almost exclusively during cheer competitions at pep assemblies when he was in high school.

Finally, in 1953, the school polled the student body on which mascot it should use. Black Tornado won in a landslide, garnering 470 votes. Some 104 students voted to maintain a split nickname and only nine voted exclusively for Tigers.

Bill Kennedy, who graduated from Medford High in 1953 and served as a reporter on the school newspaper, said one student came up with "Radio Active Ants" in deference to the Cold War.

When Medford High split into two high schools in September 1986, North Medford inherited the Black Tornado mascot. South Medford, on a vote of its inaugural student body, went with Panthers after a student vote.

Callison, meanwhile, abandoned his Medford Tigers for a flock of Ducks, becoming an assistant coach at the University of Oregon in 1929 and later becoming the university's head coach.