The football team was the big attraction inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday for the annual A-Day Game.
But outside the stadium fans flocked to meet Tuska, a 7-ton bronze elephant statue that was relocated to the northeast end of the stadium on the corner of University Boulevard and Wallace Wade Avenue.
The statue, sculpted by English artist Terry Mathews 20 years ago, was originally erected at the NorthRiver Yacht Club. Standing nearly 20-foot tall, Tuska was given to UA by the Westervelt Co., based in Tuscaloosa. It was moved to its new home earlier in the week, just in time for A-Day.
Fans couldn’t get enough of it.
“They needed something like this,” said Bill Lumpkin, who resides in Helena and Dallas. “That’s beautiful with the way the stadium is right there in the background.”
The statue stands on a 6-foot-tall pedestal with a landscaped plaza surrounding it. The relocation of Tuska was made possible by former UA athletic director Bill Battle and his wife, Mary.
“I read about it online. You don’t get a true idea of how big it is until you get right up on it,” said Alabama fan Joseph Danzey of Ozark. “It truly represents the University of Alabama. We stand tall above everything else.”
The Walk of Fame that surrounds Denny Chimes, the Bryant Museum, the Walk of Champions and statues of national champion coaches at Alabama are popular photo-op musts for Tide fans. But the latest attraction captured the fans’ attention on Saturday.
“That’s one of the first things we noticed and said we have to come get our picture made in front of the elephant,” Lumpkin said.
Athletic Director Greg Byrne has been playfully hassled by Crimson Tide fans demanding a live elephant for a mascot, and was called out by @BarstoolAlabama on Twitter last week upon Tuska's arrival at the stadium.
"@Greg_Byrne we know we just got a statue of an elephant... but what are the chances we could get a live elephant on campus?," read the tweet.
Byrne dashed those hopes quickly by tweeting back, "Odds of a live elephant - less than one in a bajillion."
So, a 7-ton bronze statue will have to do.
There will be some more upgrades outside Bryant-Denny Stadium. With Alabama’s latest national championship, a new commemorative plaque must be made and placed alongside the others that line the Walk of Champions in front of the stadium.
The statue of Nick Saban also needs an update. Painted on the wall surrounding all the statues are the championships won by each coach. Saban’s 2020 title has yet to be added.
There was no timetable given on when these additions will be made.