Ball State's athletics teams have been known as the Cardinals since 1927. Originally nicknamed the "Hooserions," discontent led to a school newspaper-sponsored contest to find a new nickname. When no acceptable choices came, a committee was formed, and it was a member of this committee, Professor Paul Billy Williams, who came up with the new nickname of Cardinals. He came up with it while talking to Coach Norman G. Wann, another committee member, about how the logo of his favorite team, the Saint Louis Cardinals, looked distinctive on the jersey of Rogers Hornsby.
The mascot, named Charlie, is seen at various athletics events, usually wearing team apparel.