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    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    Mascot Wearing A Skirt

    In the early 1900’s, the alligator was chosen as the symbol of a fledgling college football team. How the University of Florida came to adopt the alligator as their symbol is a story that doesn’t start in Gainesville, but in Charlottesville, Va.

    It was 1908 when Austin Miller, a Gainesville native, was enrolled in law school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Austin’s father, Phillip Miller, had come up to visit his son and had decided to order some pennants and banners for sale in his store in Gainesville. The Millers went to the Michie Company, which was engaged in the manufacture of such items. It was here that they were shown samples of pennants that featured the Yale bulldog, the Princeton tiger and other school emblems. When the manager asked for Florida’s emblem, the Millers realized that the new school had none. Austin Miller said that the symbol of the alligator occurred to him because the alligator was native to the state of Florida and because he thought that no other school claimed the alligator as its symbol. The manager confirmed this, but admitted that he had never seen an alligator before and was unsure if he could design one. Austin set out to find a suitable picture and returned some time later with a photo that he had found in the University of Virginia library.

    Phillip Miller returned to Gainesville with an order of pennants and small banners. The pennants and banners had alligators in different poses with some lying down, some rampant, while other banners included only the alligator’s head. The Michie Company had supplied these along with a large blue banner with an orange alligator in the center. By all accounts, this is the first appearance of the alligator as the University’s emblem.

    The first live alligator, Albert, came to UF in 1957. Several different live alligators assumed the role of Albert over the years, and even a robotic, motorized reptile held the role. It wasn’t until 1970 that Albert became personified on the field as a full-body vinyl costume. Alberta the Alligator was introduced in 1986 as Albert’s sidekick.

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