One & Only: Elephant
If you’re new to the traditions of The University of Alabama, or just roll with the tide without question, you may have difficulty putting together how a Crimson Tide and an elephant are on the same team. The Alabama football team is officially the Crimson Tide. This came from the 1907 game against Auburn University where it rained heavily, and Alabama forced a tie. A sportswriter called the offensive line a “Crimson Tide” from their red dirt stained jerseys.
Where do the Elephants come in? Keeping in the tradition of having spectators contribute to our team, during the 1930 game against Ole Miss, an excited fan shouted, “Hold your horses, the elephants are coming!” as the Alabama Varsity came stomping out. Ever since then, fans felt the unofficial mascot for the team was an elephant. Through the 40s, a living elephant named Alamite would appear at home games here in Tuscaloosa. Sports writers would continue to refer to the Crimson Tide as the “Red Elephants”. By the 1950s, the University would simply hire an elephant for Gameday, and Homecoming as actually keeping one became too expensive.
In the 60s, a man named Melford Espey Jr. would wear an elephant head costume to games as an unofficial mascot. In the late 70s, Coach Bear Bryant himself tasked Espey with the responsibility for bringing back the mascot. Two students came to Coach Bryant about making an official UA mascot, to which he laughed. By then the elephant was already on our tickets, and he even had an elephant lamp on his desk. The students sent off instructions for what they wanted when they hired Disney to draft up the costume. Something “not too cartoony, but not too ferocious” and they got it. Bear Bryant loved it but asked that it stay off his field. A shy student would become the first Big Al after picking it up at the Birmingham Airport to head to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Once he had it on, kids came up to play with the loveable mascot. Ever since then we have had Big Al dancing and running around Bryant-Denny and other Stadiums to the joy of our fans. Big Al has officially been the mascot since 1979, but a true companion to the Crimson Tide for far longer.