Big Al

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Big Al at the 2010 A-Day Game
Big Al at the 1964 Iron Bowl

Big Al is the costumed mascot for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.

The use of an elephant to represent Alabama's football program is a tradition that dates to the late 1920s or early 1930s.

According to one account, when the 1926 Alabama football team were preparing to make the train trip to Pasadena, California for the 1927 Rose Bowl, J. D. Rosenberger of Rosenberger's Birmingham Trunk provided the players with "good luck" charms to identify their bags. The celluloid charms took the shape of the company's logo of a red elephant, which had been in use since the early 1900s. Supposedly reporters greeting the team on their arrival took note of the distinctive tags. When the 1930 team returned to the Rose Bowl, Rosenberger's furnished the players with leather suitcases, paid for by the Alumni Association, for each team member.

The name resounded during Alabama's 64-0 shutout of the Ole Miss Rebels at Denny Stadium on October 4, 1930. Atlanta Journal sportswriter Everett Strupper remarked on the astonishing bulk of Wallace Wade's team: "It was the first time that I had seen it and the size of the entire eleven nearly knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly doubled in size." He also quoted an exclamation from a nearby fan as yelling out, "Hold your horses, the elephants are coming!"

Syndicated columnist Grantland Rice has also been credited with coining the phrase "Here come the red elephants of Alabama," but there may be some confusion with Rice's description of Gainesville, Georgia dominant high school football team taking the field for the final game of the 1925 season: "The team is coming on the field looking like a herd of red elephants as the ground shakes beneath their feet." Gainesville High School subsequently adopted the Red Elephants as their official team name.

Various cheers, songs and illustrations kept the elephant image alive. Actual elephants marched with the University's homecoming parades in the 1940s and 1950s, including one, Alamite, who was housed on campus.

In the early 1960s, then-student Melford Espey became the first to wear an elephant head costume to portray the Crimson Tide's mascot during games. Nevertheless, the mascot remained unofficial until 1979. When the elephant was officially adopted as a Alabama's mascot, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant invited Espey, then an administrator at the university, to resurrect the costumed character.

The costumed "Big Al" mascot was debuted in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, when the Tide beat Penn State for the national championship. He was named by student vote. Various names were put before the student body, who were allowed to complete ballots at the Student Union and SUPe Store. "Big Al", was also the name of a 'well-known about campus' member of the University of Alabama Rugby Football club, Alfred Lee Brown. Brown was known as the "DJ" for the club's after-match parties. When the members of the Rugby Club saw that "Big Al" was among the selections, they lobbied the attendees of the club's somewhat infamous parties to come to the Student Union and vote for that name.


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