For some, it might be an image of Samford Hall. Or the Toomer’s Oaks. Or the back of a No. 34 or No. 2 jersey. But for the last 46 years, the image that has come to mind for most when thinking of Auburn is the overlapping AU logo, thanks not to the work of a marketing firm or a professional artist but a 19-year old Auburn University student who just wanted his drum to look a little cooler.
Fritz Siler was a sophomore at Auburn University and a bass drummer for the Auburn University Marching Band in 1965, which for most was still the age of black and white television. When he caught glimpses of himself on Shug Jordan’s weekly Auburn Football Review, he thought there was a need for a more memorable emblem on his drum, something more than a simple—and gray, on television—’A.’
“I watched Shug’s show, and our TV was black and white,” Siler says. “I thought that ‘A’ could be anybody’s. So I decided to make some changes.”
At the time, Siler’s roommate happened to be working on a graphic for an industrial design project. To Siler, it looked similar to Indiana University’s overlapping “I” and “U” logo. A lightbulb went off.
Siler created a symmetrical stencil of “A” overlapping a “U”, or at least as symmetrical as possible.
“Everything was done by hand,” says Siler, who studied mechanical drawing in high school. “No CAD (computer-aided design). No screen printing. We didn’t know what that was. We thought that was something for T-shirts.”
Screen printing is for T-shirts—Auburn T-shirts that soon featured his design.
Today, Siler’s “AU” covers T-shirts, hats, boots, buses, and bodies. It’s everywhere. You have to try not to see it.
But it made its debut on Siler’s drum at the 1966 A-Day game: A navy blue interlocking AU with orange trim (he thought blue would help distinguish Auburn from orange-clad competition like Tennessee, Clemson, and Florida). He actually painted the logo on the $20 head of his bass drum before running the idea by band director Dr. Bodie Hinton.
“I thought it was easier to ask forgiveness than permission,” Siler laughs, though he says he figured Hinton would be fine with it. He was.
Siler never expected the design would become so popular.
“It wasn’t really that big of a deal,” he says. He just wanted a unique logo.
“It all had to do with being able to be seen and recognized and specifically Auburn.”
Of course, as with virtually every Auburn tradition, there are competing theories as to the logo’s origins. Former Auburn Athletic Director Jeff Beard has long been credited with coming up with the “AU,” but the design made its way onto Auburn’s football helmets during the 1966 season, a year after the date typically associated with Beard’s account. At the time, Jordan and Beard were reportedly looking for a new design for the helmets that then only featured the players’ jersey numbers.
“I think probably Shug or the Athletic Director (Beard) called Bodie Hinton and asked about it and asked if they could use it,” Siler says.
Siler left the Plains to enlist in the Army in 1967. He was a member of the 4th Army Musician Band in Germany. When he returned to Auburn in 1973 to finish his B.S. in music, the televisions were color and the “AU” was everywhere.
“I had no earthly idea it was going to be such a big deal,” he says, “I just liked the design.”
Siller, who is still involved with Auburn University and the Auburn Knights Alumni Association, was never compensated for the logo. He didn’t trademark it.
He’s amused that his name is slowly becoming associated with the logo, but isn’t looking for compensation or even recognition—at least not for himself.
“One thing I really wish would happen would be that the university band be able to reap some of the benefit (of officially licensed AU merchandise featuring the logo) since that’s where it came from,” Siler says. “They’re the ones that allowed me to put that on a bass drum to start with.”
Photos courtesy Fritz Siler.
Related: The True Story Behind Pat’s “Dry” Field.
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* Pat Sullivan orders a “Wishbone T” on Bob Hope
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* Auburn-educated astronaut wanted ‘War Eagle’ to be first words on the moon
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Awesome work! Great story.
Long live the Interlocking A-U. I never have liked the Tiger Eyes.
June Christian says
I loved this story! Allison nailed the TRUE story…It’s time AU fans recognized Fritz and friends for this major contribution to Auburn.
For those that don’t know him…..Fritz Siler is one hell of a nice guy. The least Auburn could do is make a significant contribution to the Auburn Knights Alumni Association. I know Fritz would like that more than anything.
Fritz Siler says
Dear Auburn family,
I am fortunate to be an Auburn graduate (several times over), and I will always love Auburn University. The love I have for Auburn is the source of inspiration in my creating what became the logo. The students are AUburn. The AU Band, and the teachers we had in the music department, the least of whom were our band directors, gave us life skills. The Auburn Knights gave me practical playing skills, which I badly needed. Contributions to the Dr. Billy Walls Legacy Scholarship (Auburn Foundation), or to the Auburn University Bands, or to the Auburn Knights Alumni Scholarship would be my suggestions. You can make a difference to other students and alumni too. Your thanks and acknowledgement for the logo is humbly accepted in the name of all students who have given so much out of love for our Alma Mater. War Eagle! Sincerely yours, Fritz
Spoken like a true Auburn Family man, Fritz. War Eagle to you, sir!
Rob Gilliam says
Glad that Fritz is getting credit. Last year Stuart Carter (StatTiger on the Inside the Auburn Tigers message boards) had seen some questions about the origin of the AU logo on ITAT to which I had responded telling the story about Fritz. I had played snare drum in the Auburn band (and with Fritz when we both went to Huntsville High School). Stuart contacted me and asked whether I knew anything about where Fritz was now. I told him I did since I still communicate with Fritz from time to time. I asked Fritz if it was OK to give Stuart his info and he said it was OK. Stuart’s article in the Inside the Auburn Tigers Magazine was a little longer and also mentioned the name of the section leader (Ken Smith) and his recollections confirming Fritz’s design. BTW, once in the above article Bodie Hinton’s name is correct and in another it shows “Buddy” Hinton. Bodie was correct. BTW, Fritz played bass drum in the marching band, but he’s a fantastic brass player (trombone, baritone, etc). I think of Fritz every time I see the AU. Most recently on the east side of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Sorry aubs, but the fact is Alabama had the interlocking A and U before Auburn was even called Auburn. Here’s a link to what it looked like:
Steppin' Up says
Hey bammer, quit trolling over here on an Auburn site. By the way, we could care less about bammer or anything relating to them.
its we couldn’t care less. and im not trolling. its the truth, auburn stole the interlocking A and U from Alabama
Ed Lewis FY'79 says
You guys (The War Eagle Reader, specifically) have GOT to write a book about all of these forgotten stories, and I have the title: “Auburn: The Truths Behind the Stories”. Please include every verifiable variation, they are all so good.
Surely you may use it with my permission without compensation to me. You’re welcome.
But it would be nice to get a free copy of the book… !!!
Van P in Southern IL says
The irony of course is that the AU Marching Band does not use the interlocking AU logo. They use the A with the eagle head, similar to Russell Athletics’ logo.
Van P in Southern IL says
Hey, bammer– award yourself a make-believe national logo championship and stfu. If you were dumb enough to fail to copyright or trademark your logo, you deserved to have it stolen. The mystery is how Clemson failed to steal it from us.
Van P in Southern IL says
I’m glad to see this version of the history of the AU logo. The only version I’d ever seen before was the Jordan & Beard story, which I uncovered in my PhD research project on Jordan-Hare Stadium and which I later recounted in the History of Jordan-Hare web site and in Season of Our Dreams, chapter 2 or 3. It will also be mentioned in our upcoming AU football history book, but now we might need to add this part of the story as well.
we dominate AU in everything so we just felt sorry for ya and let you have a nice little logo for free
Van P in Southern IL says
Wow– how pathetic to be spending so much of your time cruising around Auburn websites. If only history reflected that what you said was true, but alas, Alabama has not “dominated” Auburn at anything of note in many, many years.