Origins of SEC School Colors

After seeing Virginia Tech's uniforms last Monday night, which were the worst uniforms ever in the history of ANY sport ever played, it got me to thinking about uniforms and the colors that colleges chose years ago -- including those picked by the Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools. Why does LSU wear purple and gold? Why did Tennessee choose orange? And who was the woman who was behind the Auburn color scheme?

Some of these stories might surprise you, and in some cases, the stories are bordering on legend, rather than fact. May be this is one of those times when it is appropriate to quote the great film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

Eastern Division:

Florida Gators

This is one of those explanations that could be true, but nobody is 100% sure one way or the other.

One theory comes from two schools that were eliminated after the Buckman Act of 1905. The University of Florida at Lake City had blue and gold as their school colors, while East Florida Seminary at Gainesville were donned in orange and black. Once these schools were merged together in Gainesville, the colors were chosen from the two schools.

The next year, the Florida Times-Union reported the opening of the new campus, and it was written the buildings were draped in purple and gold. The next mention of colors appeared in the first campus newspaper, The University News, which wrote the school colors were blue and orange.

When 1908 rolled around, the successor to the University News, the Florida Pennant, wrote about the football team as "ol gold and blue." The colors seemed to stick for a few years, and were even mentioned in a song titled Florida, My Florida that ended with, "And royal robes her form doth fold, we sing the blue and gold--Florida, my Florida."

In late 1910, blue and orange make a triumphant return to campus and for the next year, the two color schemes were interchangeable. Eventually, for reasons nobody knows for sue, blue and orange eventually won out.

Learn all about current Florida Gators Football; Florida Gators Basketball; and Florida Gators Baseball. For more check out -- Florida Gators Football History and Florida Basketball History.


Georgia Bulldogs

I am sure you won't believe this, but the origins of Georgia's official school colors come from a disagreement with Georgia Tech.

The first known hostilities between the two schools trace back to 1891. The University of Georgia's literary magazine declared the school's colors to be "old gold, black, and crimson."

After the 1893 football game against Tech, Dr. Charles H. Herty removed old gold as an official school color, probably because Tech handily beat the Bulldogs 28-6.

Herty, the first UGA football coach, felt that old gold was too similar to yellow and that yellow "symbolized cowardice." He was responsible for organizing and cultivating interest in the football program, and organized the school's first Athletic Association. "Speaking with student leaders, we all agreed we didn't want yellow around Georgia athletics", reflecting extreme distaste for anything "yellow", or cowardly. Not only did the yellow change, but the crimson eventually became red.

Interestingly, Georgia Tech's choice of old gold and white came from their desire to mock the Dawgs former color choice.

Here's our current Georgia Bulldogs Football; Georgia Bulldogs Basketball; and Georgia Bulldogs Baseball page. For more check out -- Georgia Bulldogs Football History and Georgia Bulldogs Basketball History.


Kentucky Wildcats

The University of Kentucky adopted blue and white as its official colors in 1892, however, that wasn't the case just a year earlier.

Prior to the Kentucky-Centre College game on December 19, 1891, Kentucky students liked blue and light yellow. However, when there was some confusion as to what shade of blue was the official color, students wanted to know what the exact color was going to be.

Letterman Richard C. Stoll left a mark that will be remembered as long as they play sports in Kentucky by pulling off his necktie and held it up for the students to see. That cemented royal blue as the official blue for the Wildcats.

A year later, the students once again stepped forward to make a change, which was officially dropping light yellow for white.

Read all about Kentucky Wildcats Football History and Kentucky Basketball History. Check out our current page about Kentucky Wildcats Football; Kentucky Wildcats Basketball; and Kentucky Wildcats Baseball.


South Carolina Gamecocks

Not much in the way of a long, elaborate story on this one, but it's a good story nonetheless. At the turn of the century, South Carolina chose garnet and black as the official school colors. The reason? The colors are the dominant colors of the school's mascot, the Gamecock. Some officially licensed merchandise also contains gold, which represents the spurs historically worn by gamecocks in cockfights.

Who chose those colors? As it turns out, the family of Confederate war veteran Dr. J. William Flinn presented the football team with a banner in garnet and black before a game in November 1895. The colors weren't embraced on that day, and there was even an attempt to change the colors five years later, but to no avail.

Learn all about South Carolina Gamecocks Football History and South Carolina Gamecocks Basketball History. For more check out our current -- South Carolina Gamecocks Football; South Carolina Gamecocks Basketball; and South Carolina Gamecocks Baseball page.


Tennessee Volunteers

Maybe members of the Big Orange Nation would have guessed their beloved orange color came from General Neyland. Or maybe the Shields and the Watkins (For whom the field is named after). Or maybe it was some school president who liked the hue.

None of the above. The idea came from an undersized guard on Tennessee's first football team in 1891 named Charles Moore who got the idea from the color of the American Daisies that grew on the what is known as The Hill, where most of the classrooms were at that time.

In 1892 students endorsed the colors at a special meeting, but two years later were dissatisfied with the choice and voted to drop them. After a heated one-day debate no other colors proved satisfactory, so the students returned to orange and white.

Fast forward to April 1898 when Moore, now the president of the Athletic Association, chose to color the school's first field day in orange and white and the colors where there to stay.

However, the orange and white jerseys did not make their first appearance until the 1922 season as the Vols opened the year by beating Emory and Henry 50-0.

One recent student has called Moore "color-blind" after checking with a UT instructor of ornamental horticulture and design landscape who has never seen such a daisy, wild or hybrid. Several local florists concur.

Here's our current Tennessee Volunteers Football; Tennessee Volunteers Basketball; and Tennessee Vols Baseball page. For more check out -- Tennessee Volunteers Football History and Tennessee Vols Basketball History page.


Vanderbilt Commodores

There are a few disputes about the origins of the Vanderbilt colors. There is one opinion stating the original colors were orange and black and were given to them by Judge W.L. Granbery of Princeton.

Others say that Commodore Vanderbilt's legacy was called upon to develop school colors for the university that bears his name: black for the magnate's control of coal and gold for his money.

When questioned about the subject in the 1930s, the few remaining members of the school's first football squad from 1890 could not recall why they suddenly began appearing in black and gold.

Read all about Vanderbilt Commodores Football History and Vanderbilt Basketball History. For more check out our current page about Vanderbilt Commodores Football; Vanderbilt Commodores Basketball and Vanderbilt Commodores Baseball page.


Western Division:

Alabama Crimson Tide

The legend of the crimson comes from a sassy southern belle from New Orleans who fancied that particular shade of red.

In 1885 Alabama was a military school and the Company E cadets were to drill in competition in New Orleans. The sponsor for the event was a young lady named Mary Fearn, who asked the cadets for their colors so she could choose her attire for the day. They responded that they had none, but they wore black caps, gray coats and white trousers.

Fearn is reported to have said, "Black is too funereal, and gray was neutral." So she picked crimson, white and gray for her outfit. Somehow you have to love that it was a beautiful young southern woman who made a choice that is revered by Crimson Tide fans everywhere for generations who have come before and will go after.

In 1892, the football team made it standard issue to dress out in white uniforms with crimson stockings and large "U of A" in crimson on their sweaters.

Later that year, an article in the student publication The Journal reported that the team was successful so the colors would remain. "Cheer for the white and red boys as you would for Dixie," an editorial read.

Learn all about Alabama Crimson Tide Football History and Alabama Basketball History. For more check out our current Alabama Crimson Tide Football; Alabama Crimson Tide Basketball and Alabama Crimson Tide Baseball page.


Arkansas

Confusion reigns when there is talk of what exactly the Arkansas official school colors are.

In 1894, 23 years after classes were first held at the university, a contest was held on campus to select school colors. Cardinal was selected over heliotrope, which is a shade of moderate purple. (Do they even make heliotrope anymore?) White came on board at a later date as a companion color. It was in this year the first Arkansas football team was formed and it was called the Arkansas Cardinals.

Go forward 106 years and you see where the confusion begins. In 2000, black began making its appearance into merchandise and also into the team uniforms. Even the College Licensing Company reported the school colors were red and black. This lead to a sizeable faction of people believing the official colors was really red and black.

Read all about Arkansas Razorbacks Football History and Arkansas Razorbacks Basketball History. Here's our current Arkansas Football; Arkansas Basketball; and Arkansas Baseball page.


Auburn Tigers

"Fight on you orange and blue" are colors that were brought together by two dynamic people on the eve of the south's first football game between Alabama A&M, later renamed Auburn University, and Georgia.

The first name of note was Dr. George Petrie who was the first coach in Auburn history. In 1892 a reporter for the Atlanta Constitution wanted to know the colors to publicize a game between Alabama A&M (Auburn) and Georgia. There were no established colors at the time, so Petrie decided that those of his alma mater, the University of Virginia, would suffice. He wired orange and blue in response, and the school ordered navy socks for the uniform.

Let's rewind to the previous winter. Marie Allen Glenn or "Miss Allie" is sewing inside her home. She was an employee of Auburn, and came from a long line of family members who were involved with the school.

As she sewed, Miss Allie began to think about a meeting held two days earlier to discuss the South's first football game between Auburn and Georgia. She wanted Dr. Petrie to use the colors of his alma mater, Virginia, for the game, so she sewed together a letterman's sweater made form the orange and blue colors the Cavaliers wore. She even went as far as saying the sweater is a gift to the players, to further her hopes her request would be granted.

During the meeting, Dr. Petrie asks if UGA head coach Charles Herty is going to have the UGA fans dress in red and black. This prompted him to ask, "What colors should we use?"

Miss Allie then showed the committee the sweater. Dr. Petrie thought for a few seconds and asked, "Orange and Blue? What do you all think?"

Everyone agreed. "All right, let's go with it. Thank you Miss Allie," Dr. Petrie told her.

Dr. Petrie was the facilitator, but it was Miss Allie was responsible for bringing the idea to life. In appreciation, the team selected Miss Allie to be their Sponsor for the first game, a gesture that she later said in her published retirement remarks was her highest honor while at Auburn.

Check out Auburn Tigers Football History and Auburn Basketball History. For more check out our current page about Auburn Tigers Football; Auburn Tigers Basketball; and Auburn Tigers Baseball.


LSU Tigers

As with everyone else down on the Bayou, the story of how LSU got their stripes has to do with a party. However, there are a few conflicting reports as to how they got there.

One story has baseball captain E.B. Young responsible for choosing the colors. He supposedly got the idea before the Tigers played the Green Wave in a baseball game in the spring of 1893.

Fast forward to November. According to the LSU Student Handbook, the University's colors were originally supposed to be blue and white. However, several players decided to make a change to celebrate the importance of their first football game. Ironically, it was against their rivals to the south, Tulane.

Head coach Charles Coates agreed with the idea, and took some of his players into town to find some colored ribbon to adorn their drab grey jerseys before their first game.

Because Mardi Gras was only a few months away, the stores had begun to stock the shelves with the official colors of purple, gold and green. However, the green ribbon had not arrived in the stores, so all that remained were purple and gold. Coates and his QB, Ruffin Pleasant, bought all the fabric from a place called Reymond's, so they could make it into rosettes and badges.

As an interesting footnote, when the green fabric finally arrived, LSU's rival Tulane came in and bought all the green they could find, so the origins of where they got their colors can be traced to what the happened that day.

Learn more about LSU Tigers Football; LSU Tigers Basketball; and LSU Tigers Baseball. For more check out -- LSU Tigers Football History and LSU Basketball History.


Mississippi State

On November 15, 1895, the first Mississippi A&M football team (later renamed Mississippi State) was preparing for a road trip to Jackson, Tennessee to play Southern Baptist University (now called Union University) the following day.

The problem was, they did not have a school color.

To remedy this, the team gave the honor of picking a color to the captain W.M. Matthews. Without batting an eye, Matthews chose maroon and white.

Only once has a Bulldog team appeared in any other color combination. In 1938 football coach Spike Nelson secretly had cardinal and gold uniforms made. The secret plan did not endear him to the team, or the school, as both the uniforms and Nelson were chucked out of Starkville before the following season.

The color scheme has changed somewhat since 1895 as grey has been added to the uniforms, but maroon and white are still the official colors.

Here's our current Mississippi State Football; Mississippi State Basketball; and Mississippi State Bulldogs Baseball page. For more check out -- Mississippi State Bulldogs Football History and Mississippi State Bulldogs Basketball History.


Ole Miss

Down in the cradle of the south, Oxford, Mississippi, you would be amazed as to where the Rebels school colors had been delivered from.

As Ole Miss was preparing for their season, Coach A.L. Bondurant, who took care of all aspects of the team at that time, had a discussion of what colors the team should adopt.

As they batted idea back and forth, it was a manager who suggested blue and red, but not any blue and red. Yale Blue and Harvard Red. What Yankee treachery is this?

There were reasons why this idea made perfect sense. At the time, both Harvard and Yale were two of the top football programs in the country, so they were the standard many teams compared themselves to.

The manager, whose name is not mentioned, suggested, "These two colors together would be very harmonious, and it was well to have the spirit of both of these good colleges."

The colors were adopted as the football colors, and eventually by the University as its athletic colors.

Check out our current Ole Miss Football; Ole Miss Basketball; and Ole Miss Baseball page. For more check out -- Ole Miss Rebels Football History and Ole Miss Basketball History.


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By Mo Johnson, Copyright © 2006-2014 SECSportsFan.com

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