AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn has no shortage of iconic traditions unique to the loveliest village on the plains; the War Eagle taking flight over Jordan-Hare Stadium, Samford Hall casting its impressive shadow, and Toomer’s Corner being transformed into a white wonderland after a sports victory. There is a long list of symbols that help give a face to Auburn University and the interlocking AU logo takes its place on the list with its own unique history. (Image, right: Auburn’s interlocking logo)
No one knows the actual origin of the interlocking AU design
Similar to the tales of the War Eagle and how people really got started throwing toilet paper on the old oak trees at Toomer’s Corner, there is a debate about who came up with the design for the interlocking AU logo.
According to the available stories online, the logo has been attributed to two stories.
First, in September 2012, The War Eagle Reader reported the story of Fritz Siler, bass drum player for the Auburn University Marching Band in 1965.
Siler, along with his roommate Ken Smith, created a stencil of the logo and painted it on the drum head of his bass drum. The design made “its debut on Siler’s drum at the 1966 A-Day game.” The old drum head hung on Siler’s wall when he later worked at Auburn University. (Photo, left: Siler’s bass drum head)
Recently, another version of the story appeared. The Auburn Plainsman reported a story in February 2016 that attributes the logo to former Auburn football head coach Ralph Jordan.
“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. (Note: Actually it was first reported four years ago, in 2012.)
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.” (Source)
No date is provided for when Jordan supposedly created his doodle. Was it before A Day? Was his doodle inspired by Siler’s bass drum? No one seems to know.
The logo was originally only used for Auburn athletics
Today, it is one of the first images that comes to mind when people think of Auburn University, but it wasn’t always associated with academics. No matter which origin story you choose to believe, the logo first emerged at an Auburn Tigers football game. Some say it was first used as decoration of a marching band member’s bass drum and others claim it first appeared on the helmets of the football team to replace what previously held just the players’ jersey numbers.
2016 is the 50th anniversary of the logo
The interlocking AU made its debut in 1966 though its expected lifespan was unsure at first. Some people blamed a particularly underwhelming football season on the adoption of the interlocking AU onto the uniforms for the first time and wanted it removed permanently. Obviously, that did not happen and 50 years later the logo is one of the most universally recognizable Auburn symbols.