By Lauren Richardson
College football is like a religion in the South. Whether you’re gathered around the TV with your family or throwing back cold ones at a tailgate, you’ll most likely find football fans decked out in their teams’ colors and praying for a win on any given Saturday in the fall.
As a die-hard Florida Gators fan, I find myself dressed in orange and blue more often than not. We wear these colors out of pride and loyalty, but do we really know why we dress in these specific hues? The history of some Southeastern Conference colors is filled with rumor and opinion, but it’s fascinating to learn where these traditions began.
The University of Alabama: crimson and white.
The origin of Alabama’s colors is still a mystery. According to SEC Sports Fan, rumors suggest a woman named Mary Fearn didn’t know what to wear as a spectator at a competition. Alabama didn’t have official colors yet, but the competitors commonly wore black and gray. Fearn thought these colors were too boring, so she wore crimson. By 1892, the football team had adopted the color.
University of Arkansas: cardinal red and white.
Arkansas’ student body voted in 1895 for cardinal red as the official color over heliotrope, a pink-purple shade. According to SEC Sports Fan, white eventually followed as a secondary color, but black is also commonly associated with the university.
Auburn University: navy blue and burnt orange.
Multiple theories exist regarding the official color history. According to Auburn’s athletics website, one of the most popular theories involves Maria Allen Glenn. She was the third treasurer for Auburn and is credited with helping George Petrie form the football team in 1892. Before the team’s first game against Georgia, “Miss Allie” sewed an orange “A” on a navy sweater and presented it to Petrie. Another popular theory is that Petrie came up with the colors on the spot during an interview.
University of Florida: orange and blue.
The university adopted its colors in 1910. According to the university’s Registrar, the famous hues originated from the two schools that combined to form UF. Blue and white were the University of Florida at Lake City’s colors, and the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville had orange and black.
University of Georgia: red and black.
Georgia’s original colors were gold, crimson and black, according to SEC Sports Fan. In 1893, the team lost to the Georgia Institute of Technology 28-6. Embarrassed, head coach Charles Herty claimed the gold shade was too close to yellow, which is commonly associated with cowardice and removed it. Red eventually replaced crimson.
University of Kentucky: blue and white.
Students at Kentucky initially chose blue and light yellow to represent their school, according to UK’s website. When asked which shade of blue to use, football player Richard C. Stoll removed his tie and held it up. That shade was chosen. In 1892, students chose to replace the yellow with white.
Louisiana State University: purple and gold.
The most widely accepted theory claims the colors were worn for the first time by the baseball team in 1893. According to LSU’s website, football coach Charles Coates and some players wanted to add ribbon to their jerseys before their first game later that year. It was close to Mardi Gras, so stores had purple, gold and green in stock. The Reymond’s Store ran out of green, so the team bought all of the purple and gold.
University of Mississippi: Yale blue and Harvard crimson.
According to Ole Miss’ athletics website, Harvard crimson and Yale blue were suggested by a manager in the 1890s because “it was well to have the spirit of both of these good colleges.”
Mississippi State University: white and maroon.
In November 1895, the first football team was preparing to play Southern Baptist University, according to Mississippi State’s athletics website. Every college was supposed to have its own colors, so team captain W.M. Matthews chose maroon and white.
University of Missouri: black and gold.
The nickname “Tiger” was given to the university around 1890, according to Mizzou’s website. The university then adopted the colors of a Bengal tiger.
University of South Carolina: garnet and black.
According to the university website, Gamecock fans first wore garnet and black on Christmas Eve 1892. These colors have been associated with the school ever since.
University of Tennessee: orange, white and gray.
Orange was chosen as Tennessee’s signature color in honor of the orange daisies that grew on “The Hill” at the center of campus in the late 19th century, according to UT’s website. White and gray were later chosen as accent colors.
Texas A&M University: maroon and white.
Little is known about the history surrounding the Aggies’ maroon and white. According to Texas A&M’s website, the colors were chosen sometime before 1925 and have since been incorporated into the alma mater.
Vanderbilt University: black and gold.
The origin of Vandy’s colors is mostly unknown. According to SEC Sports Fan, some rumors claim black and orange were the original colors until the orange was simply replaced. Others say Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the business magnate who the university is named after, chose the colors: black for his control of coal and gold for his money.