“Roll Tide!!” That is an expression anyone who watches college football outside the state of Alabama is sick to death of at this point in time. The Alabama Crimson Tide rolled to their third College Football National Championship in four years last night, crushing an over-matched Notre Dame squad 42-14 and extending a dominating streak by the SEC, which has produced the last seven national champions.
Many of you may have noticed though that the Crimson Tide is kind of an odd nickname, and fairly unbecoming when your imagination gets a chance to run with it. You also may have noticed that the Alabama mascot is an Elephant. Political affiliations aside, Alabama is about the last place most of us would associate with an Elephant. So how did the University of Alabama get these nicknames? How much moonshine was involved? How many people in Alabama can spell “Elephant” without an “f”? Pressing questions that demand answers…
Back in the good old days when Alabama football was terrible, and Auburn were the big boys in the state, they were known simply as “the Varsity” or “the Crimson White.” If you ask me, they should consider re-nicknaming them The Varsity since everyone else is like the J.V. playing them, but that is neither here nor there. In 1907, Alabama and Auburn had their rivalry game for state dominance, a game in which Auburn was heavily favored to win. Field conditions not being then what they are now (unless you are playing in the Redskins’ stadium), the playing surface was quickly churned into a field of that familiar red Southern mud. The Alabama team was able to use this to their advantage, and played their hearts out to earn themselves a 6-6 tie. A writer after the game wrote that the mud-caked team played in such unison and with such fervor that they looked like a crimson tide moving up and down the field. The name stuck, and the rest of us have had to suffer through “ROLL TIDE!!” ever since.
So where does the elephant come in, you ask? This one may also be attributed to a sportswriter (Oh the power of the pen!). In 1930, the Tide were playing Ole Miss… but in what would be a clear show of gamesmanship, they started their Junior Varsity. After the first quarter, the Tide’s coach had the Varsity run out to the field. A sportswriter on the scene said the ground started to quake and those big old Varsity boys from Alabama came on the field like a thundering herd of elephants, dwarfing the JV at every position. This broke the spirit of the Ole Miss Rebels, and the fans loved the name. The University did not officially adopt the mascot until the late 1970s. And that, my friends, is the surprisingly sensible, unfortunately moonshine-free story behind The University of Alabama Crimson Tide.