From ‘Roll Tide’ to ‘Gator Bait’, faculty soccer reckons with its problematic traditions


<span>Photograph: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images</span>
{Photograph}: Icon Sportswire/Getty Photos

In Alabama, “Roll Tide!” is a phrase for all seasons.

Love for the College of Alabama’s soccer powerhouse runs so deep within the southeastern state that the long-lasting faculty chant routinely doubles as shorthand for “hey”, “goodbye” and every part in between.

However it could even have forgotten Accomplice origins. The historical past of the phrase, in addition to the creation fable behind the Crimson Tide’s nickname, is murky at finest.

There’s some circumstantial proof to recommend that it was tailored from an outdated sea shanty referred to as “Roll Alabama Roll”. It’s a late Nineteenth-century music – an elegy of kinds – that mourns the sinking of the Alabama, a Accomplice raiding ship, by the Union warship Kearsarge. That one-on-one skirmish is essentially the most well-known naval battle in Civil Battle historical past and is immortalized in a French impressionist Manet portray.

Is it only a coincidence that the college’s struggle music “Yea Alabama” requires “Dixie’s soccer delight” to ship Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets “to a watery grave?” Does the “Roll Tide Roll” rallying cry come from “Roll Alabama Roll?”

Sure, based on the Alabama Division of the Sons of Accomplice Veterans. They’re the century-old nonprofit group chargeable for funding the development of lots of of Accomplice memorials everywhere in the south. “Roll Alabama Roll” undoubtedly impressed “Roll Tide”, says Joe Ringhoffer, a former commander of the Semmes Camp 11 of the SCV.

College of Alabama historical past professor John Beeler says he isn’t conscious of a direct correlation, however he wouldn’t be shocked if it have been true.

At a time when Black Lives Matter protests have sparked a scrubbing or contextualizing of campuses’ Accomplice iconography, many universities south of the Mason-Dixon line at the moment are grappling with faculty traditions extra delicate than larger-than-life Robert E Lee statues or “stars-and-bars” insurgent flags.

Two generations in the past, Accomplice battle flags flew free within the stands of Southeastern Convention video games and marching bands proudly performed “Dixie” – the Confederacy’s unofficial anthem. That’s now not the case. However universities at the moment are discovering that even seemingly innocuous struggle songs and fan-friendly chants aren’t protected from their problematic histories.

In June, the College of Florida banned its “Gator Bait” cheer at house video games. Historians say black kids have been used as bait to lure alligators within the Nineteenth century, and the time period “alligator bait” was additionally used as a racial slur. Some Florida vacationer spots even offered postcards depicting African-Individuals being attacked by alligators.

UF faculty president Kent Fuchs defined the ban by noting the “horrific historic racist imagery related to the phrase”.

Some Gator followers have protested the choice to discontinue the custom, saying that there’s nothing racist concerning the chant. Within the GOP major earlier this 12 months, Judson Sapp, a Florida Republican who misplaced a 10-way race to exchange consultant Ted Yoho, even campaigned on rescuing Gator Bait.

University of Florida
In June, the College of Florida banned its “Gator Bait” cheer in any respect house video games. {Photograph}: Andy Lyons/Getty Photos

The College of Texas additionally made headlines this fall after the Longhorn marching band opted to not play its struggle music “The Eyes of Texas’’ at a sport towards Baylor. The choice got here months after Texas athletes marched together with soccer coach Tom Herman from the campus to the state’s capitol constructing in Austin within the days following the killing of George Floyd. A bunch of pupil protesters referred to as on UT to drop the music due to its “racist overtones”. The tune – sung to the sounds of “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” – was initially carried out at minstrel reveals by white performers in blackface and was impressed by a quote from Accomplice basic Robert E Lee.

The college tweaked its guidelines to discover a center floor between activist college students and older alum and donors, ruling that gamers needed to stand throughout performances of “The Eyes of Texas” however have been now not compelled to sing it. Nevertheless it didn’t work. After a four-overtime loss to Oklahoma in October, solely Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger remained on the sector through the music.

Richard Reddick, UT’s affiliate dean for fairness, neighborhood engagement and outreach, is presently main a committee tasked with determining how you can maintain the college’s 117-year-old music “however with a extra full accounting and acknowledgment of its previous”.

It gained’t be straightforward.

Reckoning with historical past has been particularly messy for Southern faculty soccer packages as a consequence of its symbolic position within the former slave states since Reconstruction. The scions of the planter class embraced the sport as a option to reassert the Outdated South’s proclaimed values of masculinity and chivalry.

In consequence, many Southern faculty soccer packages chosen uniforms, nicknames and rituals that evoked Accomplice militarism. As an illustration, Louisiana State College selected the nickname “Preventing Tigers’’ in dedication in the direction of a insurgent Civil Battle regiment often called the Louisiana Tigers. Auburn used to wave ‘The Bonnie Blue Flag’ throughout video games and the College of Virginia initially selected silver gray and cardinal pink as their group colours “to symbolize the glory of the Confederacy, dyed within the blood of the fallen”.

As the game grew in reputation, and cross-regional matchups between segregated southern and built-in northern faculties performed, bowl video games grew to become perceived as proxy battles for the Civil Battle.

The College of Alabama’s 1926 Rose Bowl victory over the College of Washington was handled as a win for the Outdated South as a complete. “We have been the South’s child. We felt just like the Rose Bowl was extra than simply one other soccer sport,” stated Hoyt Winslett, Alabama’s first All-American, after the sport. That championship impressed “Yea Alabama”, the college’s new struggle music, and lyrics comparable to “Hit your stride, you’re Dixie’s Soccer Delight”, that trace on the group’s better symbolic significance.

Following Alabama’s tie with Stanford within the Rose Bowl the next 12 months, college president George Denny stated: “I come again with my head held just a little larger and my soul just a little extra impressed to win this battle for the luxurious Anglo-Saxon race of the South.”

Accomplice symbols in school soccer video games hit a brand new inflection level through the mid-Twentieth century in protest of integration insurance policies – particularly after the landmark Brown v Board of Schooling Supreme Court docket determination. As an illustration, within the 1962 Gator Bowl towards Penn State, Florida’s coach ordered a Accomplice battle flag patch positioned on the group uniforms and changed the Gators’ conventional numbers on the helmets with the insurgent flag.

A 12 months later, Alabama governor George Wallace notoriously threw himself in a doorway to protest College of Alabama’s first Black college students’ enrollment. In 1967, his spouse, Governor Lurleen Wallace, issued an govt order for the College of Alabama to play “Dixie” and to show the Accomplice flag in any respect house soccer video games.

“It wasn’t unintentional; it was southern establishments saying, ‘We oppose the Civil Rights Motion. Let’s reify this white previous and present these Accomplice artifacts as objects of devotion,’” says Timothy Lombardo, an assistant historical past professor on the College of South Alabama.

Change has been sluggish and regular for a lot of the previous 50 years. The Crimson Tide first desegregated in 1970. The NCAA and the SEC have banned Accomplice battle flags and the taking part in of “Dixie” from soccer stadiums. Overt symbols like Colonel Reb, the goateed caricature of an outdated, white plantation proprietor that danced on the sidelines of Ole Miss video games earlier this century, is gone as properly.

Now in 2020, with statues falling left and proper, it’s the extra granular symbols getting consideration.

“For thus lengthy, these items have been misplaced within the background however I believe what’s occurred is that they’ve been dropped at the foreground of our consciousness,” says Connor Towne O’Neill, an English trainer at Auburn and the creator of That Satan’s Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Reminiscence, and the Legacy of White Supremacy

It’s not inconceivable then that the Crimson Tide’s seemingly 94-year-old struggle music and omnipresent “Roll Tide” will make the listing within the close to future.



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