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The Birth of a Nickname

Reprinted from Florida Times-Union, August 2, 1948

A Jacksonville lawyer 'christened' the University of Florida's football team 41 years ago when he gave a pennant-designing firm in Charlottesville, Va., the suggestion of "The Alligators."

"Austin Miller, who has practiced law here since shortly after his graduation from the University of Virginia in 1910, yesterday recalled the circumstances surrounding the choice of a name for Florida University's athletic teams. it happened in the fall of 1907, a year after the University of Gainesville had fielded its first team.

"Miller, a native of Gainesville, was enrolled in the University of Virginia at the time and was visited by his father, Phillip Miller, a Gainesville merchant. The elder Miller, who died nine years ago, then owned and operated a combination drug store and stationery store in Gainesville, a popular rendezvous for university students.

"While in Charlottesville the father decided to order some pennants and banners for the University of Florida from the Michie Company, which was engaged in the manufacture of such items. The Millers went to the firm, where thy were shown samples of pennants which featured the Yale bulldog, the Princeton tiger and other school emblems. When the manager asked for Florida's emblem, the Millers realized the new school had none.

"Austin Miller, said the name "Alligators' occurred to him as a suitable emblem, both because the Michie manager said no other school had adopted it and because the alligator was native to this state. "I had no idea it would stick, or even be popular with the student body,' Miller said. 'We wanted to get the Michie firm started on the pennants as quickly as possible, though, so they would be available in time for the opening of the 1908 school term.'

"The Michie manager complicated the christening when he told young Miller he'd never seen an alligator and didn't believe he could design one. The law student volunteered to find a suitable picture of a 'gator. After much search, he said, he located a picture of one in the library of the University of Virginia.

"The first appearance of the alligator emblem, Miller recalled was in his father's Gainesville store in 1908. The Michie firm had supplied Millers' with the blue banner measuring six by three feet, showing a large orange alligator, and also with several different types of smaller banners and pennants. Some of them showed the alligator lying down, some rampant, while others included only the alligator's head."

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