In early newspaper
accounts of Alabama football, the team was simply listed as the "varsity" or
the "Crimson White" after the school colors.
The first nickname to become popular and used by
headline writers was the "Thin Red Line." The nickname was used until 1906.
The name "Crimson Tide" is supposed to have first
been used by Hugh Roberts, former sports editor of the Birmingham
Age-Herald. He used "Crimson Tide" in describing an Alabama-Auburn game
played in Birmingham in 1907, the last football contest between the two
schools until 1948 when the series was resumed. The game was played in a sea
of mud and Auburn was a heavy favorite to win.
But, evidently, the "Thin Red Line" played a great
game in the red
mud and held Auburn to a 6-6 tie, thus gaining the name
"Crimson Tide." Zipp Newman, former sports editor of the Birmingham News,
probably popularized the name more than any other writer.
The Elephant Story
story of how Alabama became associated with the "elephant" goes back to the
1930 season when Coach Wallace Wade had assembled a great football team.
On October 8, 1930, sports writer Everett Strupper
of the Atlanta Journal wrote a story of the Alabama-Mississippi game he had
witnessed in Tuscaloosa four days earlier. Strupper wrote, "That Alabama
team of 1930 is a typical 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.
"Coach Wade started his second team that was
plenty big and they went right to their knitting scoring a touchdown in the
first quarter against one of the best fighting small lines that I have seen.
For Ole Miss was truly battling the big boys for every inch of ground.
"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."
Strupper and other writers continued to refer to
the Alabama linemen as "Red Elephants," the color referring to the crimson
The 1930 team posted an overall 10-0 record. It
shut out eight opponents and allowed only 13 points all season while scoring
217. The "Red Elephants" rolled over Washington State 24-0 in the Rose Bowl
and were declared National Champions.