This is a continuing series of Alabama Crimson Tide Football players, coaches, and traditions on a letter-by-letter basis.
What do you associate elephants with? Some people think of elephants at the zoo or circus, while others may remember the Walt Disney film Dumbo. Even some sports teams are associated with elephants. The Oakland Athletics' mascot is an elephant, and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne athletic teams are the Mastodons.
The University of Alabama is nicknamed the Crimson Tide, but why is the mascot an elephant? Today, I will answer that question. You will have to make up your own mind as to the origin, since there are two different theories.
The first theory is attributed to J.D. Rosenberger of Birmingham, Ala. Rosenberger, whose son attended the University of Alabama, owned a trunk (luggage) company. He provided luggage tugs for the 1926 squad as they prepared to play in the 1927 Rose Bowl. Displayed on the tags was the company trademark, which was a red elephant standing on a trunk. Upon arriving in Pasadena, a group of reporters associated the team with the elephants on their luggage.
The second theory refers to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution by Everett Strupper following the Oct. 4, 1930 game against Mississippi. According to Strupper, he wrote that he heard a fan in the crowd yell: "Hold your horses, the elephants are coming." After this game, sports writers referred to Alabama as the Red Elephants. The name was appropriate that season since the Crimson Tide outscored their opponents 217-13 en route to a 24-0 Rose Bowl win over Washington State.
While the term elephant dates back to the 1920s, the university did not officially accept the elephant as the official mascot until 1979. The first appearance of "Big Al," the name of the elephant seen at all Alabama games, did not occur until the 1979 Sugar Bowl win over Penn State to clinch the national championship.
So, people in Tuscaloosa, Ala. don't have to wait for the circus to come to town to see an elephant. All they have to do is go to an Alabama athletic event.