As the story is told, the name was coined in 1926 by Edwin R. Butcher, Heidelberg’s alumni director and publicity agent. Butcher, it is said, was walking through downtown Tiffin when he noticed a theatre billboard promoting “The Student Prince of Heidelberg.”
Sigmund Romberg’s popular operetta, “The Student Prince” tells the story of a young German prince whose private tutor, a graduate of the University of Heidelberg, went to the king to request permission to place the isolated prince in the university where he could mingle with other students. The king agreed. At first, the sheltered prince hated university life with its common fraternity boys and dormitory life, even though he had private quarters. But with the encouragement of his tutor, the prince soon came to enjoy the academic experience. He even joined a fraternity and fell in love with a girl from Heidelberg.
Student Prince evokes images of that majestic castle overlooking the city of Heidelberg and the Neckar River and of the academic excellence, prestige and romantic charm of Germany’s oldest university. Heidelberg has long had close ties with its German counterpart, offering the highly acclaimed American Junior Year at Heidelberg University for more than 50 years.
In the next issue of the Heidelberg Bulletin, Butcher tagged the football team the Student Princes, and the Student Princes they remained. Sports writers quickly picked up Butcher’s cue, and The Student Princes began to stick, eventually replacing The Cardinals as the official Heidelberg nickname.
For a brief period in the late 1990s, the official mascot changed to "The 'Berg of Heidelberg" -- a nod to Heidelberg's long-standing colloquial nickname. While that change was jettisoned in the early 2000s, The 'Berg is still a common moniker for Heidelberg and its athletes.