University of Alabama traditions

University of Alabama traditions

The University of Alabama is a school with many rich and spirited traditions. This article describes several of these traditions.


Beginnings of football at Alabama

According to a November 25, 1926 article in "The Crimson White", football was first introduced at the University of Alabama in 1892 by W. G. Little of Livingston, Alabama, who had been a student at Andover, Massachusetts and "went to the University carrying his uniform and a great bag of enthusiasm for the game."

Alabama's first football game was played in Birmingham on Friday afternoon, November 11, 1892, at the old Lakeview Park. Alabama defeated a team composed mostly of high schoolers 56-0. That Saturday, November 12, Alabama played the Birmingham Athletic Club, losing 5-4 when Ross, of B.A.C., kicked a 65-yard field goal. This field goal was a collegiate record at the time.

In 1896 the University's board of trustees passed a rule forbidding athletic teams from traveling off-campus. The following season only one game was played and in 1898 football was abandoned at Alabama. Student opposition to the ruling forced trustees to lift the travel ban and football was resumed in 1899. The 1918 season was cancelled on account of World War I but the game was resumed the following year.

Alabama first gained national recognition for football in 1922 when it defeated the University of Pennsylvania 9-7 in Philadelphia. The following season Wallace Wade became head coach and in 1925 led the Crimson Tide to its first undefeated and untied season and its first trip to Pasadena, California with a Rose Bowl invitation. On January 1, 1926 in the Rose Bowl, Alabama came from behind to upset the University of Washington 20-19.

The Crimson Tide

Early newspaper accounts of the University's football squad simply referred to them as the "varsity" or the "Crimson White." The first nickname popular with the media was the "Thin Red Line," which was used until 1906. Hugh Roberts, former sports editor of the "Birmingham Age-Herald", is credited with coining the phrase "Crimson Tide" in an article describing the 1907 Iron Bowl played in Birmingham. The game was played in a sea of red mud with Auburn a heavy favorite to win. Alabama held Auburn to a 6-6 tie, thus graduating to their newfound nickname.

The Elephant

The elephant's association with Alabama dates back to the 1930 football season when the Crimson Tide was led by Coach Wallace Wade. There are two stories about how Alabama became associated with the elephant.

Officially, following the 1930 game versus Ole Miss, "Atlanta Journal" sports writer Everett Strupper wrote:

"At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, 'Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,' and out stamped this Alabama varsity. 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."

Sports writers continued to refer to Alabama as the "Red Elephants" afterwards, referring to their crimson jerseys. The 1930 team shut out eight of ten opponents, allowing a total of only 13 points all season. The "Red Elephants" rolled up 217 points that season, including a 24-0 victory over Washington in the Rose Bowl.

Another account attributes the Rosenberger's Birmingham Trunk Company for the elephant association. Alabama used the Birmingham Trunk Company's luggage to travel to the 1930 Rose Bowl. The luggage company's trademark was a red elephant standing on a trunk. When the football team arrived in Pasadena, the reporters greeting them associated their large size with the elephants on their luggage.

Despite these early associations of the elephant to the University of Alabama, the university did not officially accept the elephant as university mascot until 1979. []

The Million Dollar Band

The Million Dollar Band, the University of Alabama's marching band, was founded in 1913 with 14 members under the direction of Dr. Gustav Wittig. In 1917, the band became a military band and was led by students until 1927.

The Million Dollar Band is the largest performing organization on campus, with around 400 members. The September 1992 issue of "Southern Living" selected the Million Dollar Band as one of the top ten most outstanding bands in the South. In 2003 it became the twenty-second band to be honored with the Sudler Trophy, given by the Sousa Foundation to recognize "collegiate marching bands of particular excellence that have made outstanding contributions to the American way of life." Additionally, the Million Dollar Band has been nationally televised more than any other college marching band in the country.

Naming of the Million Dollar Band

W. C. "Champ" Pickens bestowed the name "Million Dollar Band" after the 1922 football game against Georgia Tech. Though accounts vary, it is reported that in order for the band to attend the game they had to solicit funds from local businesses. They were able to collect enough funds to ride in a tourist sleeper to the game. After the game, which Alabama lost 33-7, an Atlanta sportswriter commented to Pickens, "You don't have much of a team; what do you have at Alabama?" Pickens replied, "A Million Dollar Band."

Directors of the Million Dollar Band

* 1913 – 1917: Dr. Gustav Wittig
* 1917 – 1927: Student-led
* 1927 – 1934: Captain H. H. Turner
* 1935 – 1968: Colonel Carleton K. Butler
* 1969 – 1970: Mr. Earl Dunn
* 1971 – 1983: Dr. James Ferguson
* 1984 – 2002: Ms. Kathryn B. Scott
* 2003 – Present: Dr. Kenneth Ozzello

School songs

Alma Mater

Like many college alma mater songs written around the turn of the 20th century, the Alabama Alma Mater is set to the tune of "Annie Lisle", a ballad written in the 1850s. The words are usually credited as, "Helen Vickers, 1908", although it is not clear whether that was when it was written or if that was her graduating class:

"Yea Alabama"

Following Alabama's 1926 Rose Bowl victory over Washington, a contest was held by "The Rammer-Jammer", a student newspaper, for the composition of a fight song. Several entries were submitted to a panel overseen by the Music Department, and the winning entry, "Yea Alabama", was adopted. The composer, Ethelred Lundy (Epp) Sykes, was a student in the School of Engineering, and also editor of 'The Rammer-Jammer'at the time, as well as playing piano in a jazz ensemble, 'The Capstone Five'. He won the University's 'Pan-Hellenic Cup' in 1926 for overall achievement, both academically, athletically, and in student affairs. The song achieved considerable popularity, during the 20's and 30's, not only as a football fight song. Sykes went on to become a Brigadier General in the U.S Air Force, and donated the copyright and future royalties to the University in 1947. The opening of the song is heard during pre-game right after the "Bammy Bound cheer"(Big Bama spellout). The Million Dollar Band plays only the chorus at football games such as after touchdowns and field goals.

A Dixieland jazz version of the song appeared on the 1950 Percy Faith album "Football Songs" (later re-releasd as "Touchdown!") and was played extensively across the state in the 1960s and 1970s as the music bed of radio commercials for sporting goods stores. It was also used as the theme music for "The Bear Bryant Show".

The Rammer Jammer Cheer

The "Rammer Jammer Cheer" is a traditional and controversial cheer. The university briefly forbid the Million Dollar Band from playing it, a move that was met with a significant amount of criticism. Before the university's attempt to remove the cheer it was played before kickoff and at the end of the game. The cheer is now only played in the closing minutes when victory is certain. Fans cheer:

"Hey Vols!
Hey Vols!
Hey Vols!
We just beat the hell out of you!
Rammer Jammer, Yellowhammer, give 'em hell, Alabama!"

The name of the current opponent's mascot is substituted for "Vols", (short for Volunteers, the nickname for the University of Tennessee) except when the opponent is Auburn, in which case the name "Auburn" is used rather than their mascot. Also, when the cheer was played before kickoff, fans would replace the lyrics "We just" with "We're gonna."

The lyrics originate from "The Rammer-Jammer," a student newspaper in the 1920s, and the yellowhammer, Alabama's state bird. The cadence of the cheer was adapted from the Ole Miss cheer "Hotty Toddy" after then Ole Miss marching band director Dr. James Ferguson was appointed director of the Million Dollar Band. The cheer was long referred to as "Ole Miss", and today the drum major's signal is still the motioning of one arm in a full circle (an 'O').

Author Warren St. John entitled his 2004 bestseller about obsessive sports fans "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer" after the "Rammer Jammer Cheer."

The cheer has recently come under fire on account of its taunting nature and its use of the word "hell". In a vote at Homecoming 2005, the question was posed to students of whether the cheer should be banned. 98% of students voted in favor of keeping the cheer, while only 95 students voted to have it banned.

Today the cheer has been banned from usage until after an Alabama victory.


* [ | Traditions]
* [ Million Dollar Band History]
* [ 2002 NCAA Sanctions]
* [ NCAA Major Infractions Database]

External links

* [ The University of Alabama] .

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