Big Al is the beloved mascot of University of Alabama. Students can usually find him on the sidelines of Bama Athletic events, specifically the football games. However, many Alabama students do not know much about Big Al’s history and all that he offers the campus today. Listed below are five essential facts about Big Al.
1. He has been around since the 1930
The origin of the mascot dates back to 1930. On October 8, 1930, a sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal, Everett Strupper, wrote about the previous weekend’s Alabama-Ole Miss football game. He wrote, “That Alabama team of 1930 is a typical [Coach Wallace] Wade machine, powerful, big, tough, fast, aggressive, well-schooled in fundamentals, and the best blocking team for this early in the season that I have ever seen. When those big brutes hit you I mean you go down and stay down, often for an additional two minutes.”
Strupper, using the flair for the dramatic common in sportswriting at the time, 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. Strupper and other writers would continue to refer to Alabama as the “Red Elephants,” the “red” as a nod to the players’ crimson jerseys, and the name stuck throughout what became a national championship season and beyond.
2. Live elephants on Game-Days
Throughout the 1940s, the University kept a live elephant mascot named “Alamite” that was usually present on game days, and it would carry the year’s Homecoming queen onto the field every year prior to kickoff at the Homecoming game. However, keeping a live elephant year-round proved to be too expensive for the university. Instead, the UA spirit committee started hiring elephants, often from traveling circuses passing through or by Tuscaloosa, for every homecoming.
In the early 1960s, Melford Espey, Jr., then a student, was the first to wear an elephant head costume to portray the Crimson Tide’s unofficial mascot. Espey later became a university administrator, and football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant asked him to take responsibility when student groups asked to resurrect the costumed mascot in the late 1970s.
3. Big Al custom officially worn
Although Big Al appeared in many games in the 1950s, it wasn’t until 1979 that the University of Alabama officially recognized the elephant as its mascot. Big Al made his first appearance in 1979 Sugar Bowl game.
4. Temperature in Big Al’s costume
If you didn’t know, wearing the mascot costume is about 30-40 degrees hotter than the weather outside. The people wearing the costume need to hydrate themselves days before the game to prepare for all the water they are about to lose when wearing it.
5. Tryouts for Big Al
Not everyone can become a Big Al mascot. The try out to be Big Al is an intense 3 days process. Participants are first interviewed and are taught about the character. Contenders will then perform a short skit for the judges and finally the remaining candidates will be judged at the Alabama Game Day based on their public interaction.