The interlocking AU logo, the symbol that has covered the helmets of national champions and Heisman Trophy winners for almost 50 years, is the University’s primary logo. But the birth of the prestigious logo is debated.
Al Eiland, creative supervisor for the Office of Communications and Marketing, said the origin of the AU is kind of the like the story of “War Eagle,” in the way that there are several versions.
“There are two basic stories, one of which has always been accepted, [and] the other one of which came up about a year ago that nobody ever heard of,” said David Housel, athletic director emeritus at Auburn.
Housel said he holds one of these to be true because he remembers when it happened.
Housel said one day head football coach Ralph Jordan was just doodling on his pad on his desk and playing with the AU, Housel said.
When athletic director Jeff Beard walked in the room, he told Jordan he liked the sketch, according to Housel.
“They put it on the Auburn football helmets in 1966,” Housel said. “It almost didn’t last because Auburn had a losing record that year, and a lot of people blamed [that] on the new logo.”
The other story, Housel said, is that two members of the band claimed to have come up with the AU.
The band members supported their claim with a picture of a bass drum that displayed the symbol. They claimed they showed it to the band director, Bodie Hinton, and then athletics took over the design from there, Housel said.
“I can’t tell you with certainty what they’re saying is wrong,” Housel said. “I think they’re mistaken in the sense that their version is where the AU logo came from.”
The AU symbol was intended solely for the football helmets and never to be an official Auburn University logo, Housel said.
“It became so popular with Auburn fans once they got used to it that it quickly spread through the University,” Housel said. “I don’t think it’s really changed.”
Greg Schmidt, Auburn University librarian, said he has seen various unofficial drawings of the AU.
“I really don’t know how it progressed other than the fact that it’s not only the University itself that is involved with this logo, but businesses,” Schmidt said. “The leaping tiger you see on the War Eagle Supper Club is as much an image that holds special significance to Auburn fans than anything else.”
Today, the AU logo is no longer just the main athletics logo, but a representation of the University.
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