'Go teach the Bulldogs to behave': What to know about Alabama's fight song

Ken Roberts
The Tuscaloosa News

At any given moment inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, a chorus of University of Alabama football fans can be heard singing a command to "go teach the Bulldogs to behave."

It's an integral line in "Yea Alabama!" as the Alabama fight song name-checks one of the Crimson Tide's long-standing opponents.

But why, exactly, is the University of Georgia's mascot mentioned so prominently? 

With the Crimson Tide facing the Georgia Bulldogs on Monday night in college football's national championship, here's a look at the origin of "Yea Alabama!" 

The Million Dollar Band performs during the Battle of the Bands event outside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. The event featured the marching bands from the University of Alabama and the University of Cincinnati. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

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Who wrote Alabama's fight song? 

After UA's football team won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship in 1925, the Crimson White, the school's newspaper, began advocating for a fight song.

UA had a cheerleading squad and a Million Dollar Band, but was still missing a fight song. 

“Along with a championship team we should have a championship song," the Crimson White wrote. "… We want a new song and we want it now!”

In October 1925, the campus humor magazine, Rammer Jammer, offered $50 for anyone who could write the best fight song.

The desire for a fight song became “a mania” after UA won its first national championship on Jan. 1, 1926, in the Rose Bowl, according to author David Battles, who wrote a book about "Yea, Alabama!"

Ethelred “Epp” Sykes, the Crimson White editor who had written the editorials urging for a fight song, won the contest by writing the lyrics to "Yea Alabama!" Sykes donated his prize money to pay for a musical arrangement to be written so the Million Dollar Band could play the new fight song.

The Million Dollar Band performs during the Battle of the Bands event outside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. The event featured the marching bands from the University of Alabama and the University of Cincinnati. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

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Why does Alabama's fight song mention the UGA Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets?

Alabama definitely taught the Bulldogs to behave in 1925, defeating Georgia 27-0. The "Yea, Alabama!" lyric refers to that beating, as well as a rainy win over Georgia's in-state rival, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, which inspired the "Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave" line in the song.

Why isn't Auburn, Alabama's in-state rival, mentioned? The Alabama-Auburn rivalry was on a 40-year break when “Yea, Alabama!” was written. The two schools stopped playing from 1907-1949 because of disputes connected with paying players per diem money and officiating.

Why remember the Rose Bowl?

UA's win over the University of Washington Huskies in the 1926 Rose Bowl was a watershed moment for football in the South.

The best college teams were in the North and the West, so Alabama was given little chance to win.

After winning the Rose Bowl 20-19, the Crimson Tide team was met by cheering crowds all along the train route home from Pasadena, California, and received a champions’ welcome in Tuscaloosa.

The song calls for all Alabama fans to always remember that Rose Bowl victory, which brought Southern football and the University of Alabama to national prominence. 

The Million Dollar Band performs during the Battle of the Bands event outside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. The event featured the marching bands from the University of Alabama and the University of Cincinnati. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

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What are the lyrics to Alabama's fight song? 

Yea, Alabama! Drown ’em Tide!

Every ‘Bama man’s behind you,

Hit your stride.

Go teach the Bulldogs to behave,

Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave.

And if a man starts to weaken,

That’s a shame!

For Bama’s pluck and grit have

Writ her name in Crimson flame.

Fight on, fight on, fight on men!

Remember the Rose Bowl, we’ll win then.

Go, roll to victory,

Hit your stride,

You’re Dixie’s football pride,

Crimson Tide, Roll Tide, Roll Tide!!

Reach Ken Roberts at ken.roberts@tuscaloosanews.com.