By Rob Bradfield
The rattle of a ball bearing in a steel spray paint can, a sharp hiss and laughter — then you see them, NoZe brothers fresh from some new act of “campus beautification.”
Their faces obscured by fake glasses and beards, or maybe just a mustache and long hair — but always wearing their iconic noses — the Noble NoZe Brotherhood has been a fixture on Baylor campus for nearly a century.
Lately, however, the NoZe Brothers haven’t been in the media spotlight as much. When honorarily inducting head women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey and the Lady Bears into the NoZe Brotherhood at the official celebration of their national championship win, someone had to explain to the confused athletes who the NoZe Brothers were.
Recently, the Lariat had an opportunity to find out more about the secretive group. Three of the NoZe Brothers — Bro. Burlington NoZe Factory, Bro. Edgar Allen NoZe and Bro. Bear NoZecessities — agreed to answer questions about the brotherhood, its history and the recent absence of large-scale mischief.
The brother’s answers, laced with half-serious threats of bodily harm and interrupted by inane conversations with passersby, were initially a retelling of what’s written on their Wikipedia page — which the brothers endorsed as mostly accurate.
The organization is led by the Lorde Mayor, who is elected and impeached every year. This year, the title fell to Bro. Burlington NoZe Factory, who admitted to being unclear as to what his responsibilities as Lorde Mayor were. The Lorde Mayor is advised by the Bored of Graft, which is made up of former Lorde Mayors.
Bro. Edgar Allen NoZe is the Cunning Linguist, who is in charge of putting together the Rope — a satirical publication that pokes fun at Baylor and the administration. The Rope was first published “definitely some time in the twentieth century,” according to the brothers.
Bro. Bear NoZecessities was the former Shekel Keeper for the organization, meaning he was in charge of the brotherhood’s finances and the publication costs for the Rope, much like a treasurer.
The NoZe Brotherhood, as the oldest student social group on campus, is steeped in tradition. Among their most flaunted is the tradition of being one of the most intelligent organizations on campus.
“If there wasn’t an attendance policy, we wouldn’t need to go [to class],” Bro. Bear NoZecessities said.
Among the most secret and venerated of the brotherhood’s traditions is the UnRush, the way “infidels” (the Brotherhood’s name for non-members) can join the brotherhood. The brothers are tight-lipped on what actually happens during the UnRush process, but disclosed that it is a mix of traditional rites and personalized trials.
“We can’t tell you the specifics, but what we can tell you is that all of it is immoral, illegal and unethical,” Bro. Bear NoZecessities said.
How and when the brotherhood began is subject to some debate. Even “The Nose Brotherhood Knows: a Collection of Nothings and Non-Happenings,” the definitive work on the group’s early days, fails to name a specific date and founder. Several NoZe creation stories agree that the brotherhood was founded some time in the mid-twenties by the friends and acquaintances of Robert Leonard Shoaf, a freshman whose nose was “of such great length and breadth of nostril” that it inspired his friends to start a club based on it.
The brothers back then wore no wigs or noses. They let people know their real names, had a page in the Round Up, and spelled their name with an “s” instead of a “Z.”
They remained an on-campus organization until a prank involving the bridge over Waco Creek.
The current brothers don’t put any date on the incident other than confirming that it definitely happened at some point in the past. The story they tell is that after several attempts at permanently changing the color of the bridge to pink and having their work undone by the university, the brothers resorted to drastic measures. Bro. Edgar Allen NoZe said one of the brothers at the time said, “If the bridge cannot be pink, the bridge cannot be,” and the brothers proceeded to burn down the wooden bridge. The university constructed the current concrete bridge and decided that the NoZe Brothers could not be on campus anymore.
That incident began a tradition of elaborate pranks and acts of vandalism, as well as the tradition of being kicked off campus, let back on briefly and then being kicked off again.
“One of the first acts that the new president will do is to bring the NoZe Brothers back on campus to make him seem hip,” Bro. Edgar Allen NoZe said.
The other two brothers sitting with him were quick to say they’ve had a good, if tenuous, relationship with President Ken Starr. The brothers said Starr’s presidency, Baylor’s sudden national prominence because of its sports successes and the heightened level of tension and security on college campuses after events like the Virginia Tech shooting, have quieted the brotherhood’s activities in recent years.
But the perception that the NoZe Brothers aren’t pulling their comedic weight is nothing new, Bro. Bear NoZecessities said.
“The sensitivity level has definitely gone up,” Bro. Bear NoZecessities said, “but people say that the NoZe was funnier when their parents were here, and we have people come back that were here 40 years ago and say that it was a lot funnier before them.”
When pressed, the Lorde Mayor gave a very different reason for the brotherhood’s absence. He said internal conflict and some problems with alcohol abuse kept the group bogged down in its own troubles for several years. Questions about the brotherhood’s activities during those years get answered only with more mumbled threats, and references to an event that the brothers refuse to talk about directly. But Bro. Burlington NoZe Factory said the brotherhood has resurged.
“Now I think we have a legitimate camaraderie in the group,” Bro. Burlington NoZe Factory said.
Part of that camaraderie means a bigger NoZe presence on campus. The brothers hinted at “big plans” in the works. They declined to confirm or deny what those plans might entail, but did say something is coming soon.
“I think you will see a rise in activity on campus,” Bro. Burlington NoZe Factory said.
In spite of everything that’s ever been written about them, the brotherhood has kept their most guarded secrets under wraps. Everything the NoZe Brothers are comes back to secrecy, which suits their reputation as being “immoral, illegal and unethical.” Their weird and savage reputation, even if undeserved, is what makes them the Noble NoZe Brotherhood, Bro. Bear NoZecessities said.
“Doesn’t that add something to the mystique?” he asked.