In the early days, the Alabama football team was simply referred to as the "varsity" or the "Crimson White" after the school colors. The "Crimson Tide" was supposedly first used by Hugh Roberts, the former sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald. He used "Crimson Tide" in describing the Alabama/Auburn game in 1907. That was the last time the two schools played each other until 1948. The game was played in a sea of red mud. Auburn was heavily favored, but 'Bama managed to hold on for a 6-6 tie, thus gaining the name "Crimson Tide."
Many college football fans have been confused as to what exactly the Auburn nickname really is. There is only one, the Auburn Tigers. The nickname comes from a line in Oliver Goldsmith's poem, "The Deserted Village," published in 1770, "where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey..."
The War Eagle legend dates back 1864. An Auburn student went to fight for Robert E. Lee in the Civil War. After a particularly fierce battle, the student was wounded and left for dead on the battlefield. When he awoke, the only living things on the field were himself and a baby eagle. The soldier took the wounded bird and nursed it back to health. After the war, he took the bird back to Auburn and named it the War Eagle.
The student became a member of the faculty and attended the Auburn-Georgia game in 1892. He brought War Eagle to the game, and when Auburn scored the first touchdown, the eagle broke free and soared high above the field. Auburn fans saw the familiar bird and began to shout, "War Eagle." At the end of the game, won by Auburn 10-0, the old eagle collapsed and died. Auburn fans still shout "War Eagle!" to this day.
War Eagle VI, Auburn's golden eagle mascot, is named Tiger. Get it?
In 1930, Sports writer Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal wrote about how big the Alabama linemen were, referring to them as "elephants." Strupper and other writers continued to refer to the 'Bama line as the "Red Elephants" and the elephant has been associated with Alabama football since.
Auburn players are sometimes called "Plainsmen." The term comes from the same Goldsmith poem that Tigers comes from, "Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain ..." Since Auburn athletes usually were men from the plain in the early days, they were sometimes called Plainsmen.