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College Football Colors and Their Origin

Having school spirit is one of the best parts of attending college at a university. Representing your college colors and mascots helps you feel one with your fellow students. College football teams embrace their college colors and mascots in every game they play. These colors and mascots didn’t just come out of nowhere; there is a story behind how they came to be.

Here is a list of college colors and mascots, and their origin.

1. University of Alabama

They’re called the "Crimson Tide" for a reason. Bama’s college colors are crimson and white. Crimson is their main school color thanks to a sportswriter’s comment from back in 1907. In a game versus Auburn in the torrential rain, Alabama forced a tie. The sportswriter referenced Alabama’s offensive line by calling them the “crimson tide,” due to their jerseys being stained red from the rain and mud. The name stuck and became infamous.

The University of Alabama’s mascot is "Big Al." Big Al is an elephant who debuted back in 1980. This was once again inspired by a sportswriter. Atlanta Journal journalist, Everett Strupper heard a fan yell, “Hold your horses, the elephants are coming!’ during a game against Ole Miss back in October of 1930. From then on, Strupper and other writers referenced the Alabama offensive line as “red elephants.” During the 1940s the Crimson Tide had a live elephant mascot named Alamite. He even carried the homecoming queen onto the field during game days. By the 1950s this became too expensive, so students would dress up as elephants instead. Big Al made his debut in the 80s and has stuck around ever since.  


2. University of Oregon 

The Oregon Ducks are easily recognizable due to their colors, green and yellow. These have been Oregon’s colors for decades, but in recent years they have experimented a lot with unique uniforms and rare color combinations for certain holidays (like pink helmets for Breast Cancer Awareness Day). Even so, the colors green and yellow have become synonymous with the University of Oregon and their college football team. 

Oregon’s mascot ‘The Oregon Duck’ is based on Disney’s Donald Duck. The Ducks and Disney have a special licensing agreement that allows this. Donald Duck actually used to be Oregon’s mascot back in 1947 thanks to an agreement by Walt Disney himself and Oregon Athletic Director, Leo Harris.

Before they were the Ducks, Oregon’s mascots were the Webfoots. Oregon was even once referenced to as “the webfoot state.” These days, the Oregon Duck is even included as a logo on the University of Oregon’s merchandise and apparel. The University of Oregon and its mascot, the Duck, are interchangeable.


3. University of Michigan

They don’t say “Go blue!” for no reason. The college colors of the University of Michigan are blue and maize. UMich’s colors were chosen by a committee back in February of 1867. The committee settled on the colors azure blue and maize. They gave no standards for the exact shades and hues of the colors, yet they have stuck for over a century. 

U-M technically does not have a mascot representing them live during game days, which makes them a sort of anomaly among big-time college football teams. Their mascot (the Michigan Wolverine) is represented in their logos, merchandise, and apparel. Back in the 1920s, a stuffed wolverine named Biff represented the University. Then, the University acquired a real live wolverine, also named Biff, but he was later given to and kept in a small zoo. The school tried a few more times after that to use real wolverines as mascots, but it never worked out. Perhaps they should just have a student dress up in a wolverine costume and make it easier on themselves. 


4. University of Wisconsin 

The Wisconsin Badgers college colors are cardinal and white. This is one of the easiest ways to recognize this university. According to historian Arthur Hove, the cardinal red color (sometimes referenced to as Wisconsin Red) and white were generally accepted as the college colors since the 1880s. These college colors have become part of the university and its culture.

The University of Wisconsin’s mascot is obviously a badger. His name is Buckingham U. Badger or Bucky for short. The origin of Bucky’s name rests in a winning entry of a school competition. Bucky is known for wearing his red and white ‘W’ sweater. Some students will even dress up as Bucky for game days; that is how important he is to the college’s culture. 


5. University of California- Berkeley

Most often referenced to as "Cal," the University of California Berkeley’s college colors are famously Berkeley blue and California gold. The colors were chosen by a committee back in 1873 with representatives from each class. Gold was chosen due to California’s nickname as "The Golden State," the Golden Gate Bridge (even though it’s not technically golden), and the color of many of California’s native wildflowers (poppies).  Blue was chosen due to the color of the California sky and the fact that many of Cal’s founders had graduated from Yale, whose college colors also include blue.

The ‘Golden Bears’ mascot is synonymous with Cal Berkeley. Back in 1895, a track team carried banners with the word ‘California’ and a symbol of a golden bear. The rest was history. You will now see a bear on almost all Cal Berkeley merchandise and apparel. Cal’s mascot, Oski the Bear debuted in 1941. Up until then, real live bears were used as mascots. Oski wears the college colors and dons a golden sweater with a blue letter C on the chest.


6. San Diego State University

SDSU’s college colors are scarlet and black. State has been through a number of college color changes during its lifetime. First, their colors were white and gold, then blue and gold, then purple and gold, and then finally modern-day red and black. These college colors are very unique and powerful and represent the university and its history wonderfully.

When you attend SDSU, you become an #AztecForLife. The passion that students and faculty have for their Aztec mascot is unmatched. Decades ago, the school’s initial mascots varied from Normalites, to Professors, to the iconic Wampus Cats. In 1924, a committee was put together to choose a permanent and favorable mascot. The team name that was decided was the Aztecs, and the name has stuck ever since. You can now catch Monty Montezuma, the Aztec Warrior at SDSU football and basketball games. Monty is personified by a student dressed in a costume based on what a real Aztec Warrior would have worn. SDSU’s logo has a spear piercing the letters S and D to represent the passion the university has for their mascot. 

Final Thoughts

College mascots bring luck and identity to the college they represent. The passion students put into representing those mascots gives them pride in their college. College colors also give the university and its students an identity. Having something that connects you to all the people around you makes you feel more at home and represented. I hope you enjoyed this list of college colors and mascots. These are just six examples; if your university was not included in the list, I encourage you to go do some research on the origin of your college colors and mascot. Sometimes the way things came to be is simply fascinating and connects you to your school even more than before. Your campus colors and mascots give you somewhere to belong. 

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