Albert E. Gator and Alberta Gator are the official mascots of the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. Costumed in plush, Albert and Alberta are representations of the American alligators which are commonly found throughout the state. The American alligator is the Florida State Reptile.
The University of Florida fielded its first official intercollegiate sports team – football – in the fall of 1906. It adopted orange and blue as its official colors, combining the orange and the black of the former Florida Agricultural College in Lake City with the blue and white of the former East Florida Seminary in Gainesville, the university’s two oldest predecessor institutions. In 1908, local merchant Phillip Miller with no official sanctions from the university or athletic association, selected the alligator as an emblem to represent the university on pennants offered for sale in Millers Gainesville store. With the state of Florida being home to millions of alligators, the “gator” proved a popular choice among members of the student body, and the Florida football team began to refer to itself as the “Gators” during he 1911 fall season.
A live alligator named Albert first appeared at football games during the 1957 season, and served as the mascot of the football team on the field before the costumed version of Albert became the mascot in 1970. He was joined by a female version, Alberta, in 1984. They often appear as a couple, but also appear alone. They both cheer on the football team, but Albert appears solo at Gator baseball and men’s basketball games, while Alberta cheers on the women’s basketball and gymnastics teams among others.
Like many college mascots, Albert and Alberta have made appearances in the highlights of national sports and highlight shows. In June 2007, Sports Illustrated On Campus ranked Albert as the No 1 mascot in their “Mascot Power Rankings.” Mascot Books has published three children’s books featuring Albert and Alberta, entitled Hello, Albett, Albert’s Journey Through the Sunshine State and Albert and Alberta’s Game Day Rules.
In the following two weeks, I will wrap up my blog series of the mascots of the SEC teams with the completion of the mascots of South Carolina, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and the University of Missouri. Then back to the “Signs … Signs, Everywhere a Sign” that surround us.