The red towel tradition began in the 1940’s. According to Chip Royal, an AP feature writer “A towel came flying down out of the air at Madison Square Garden and landed on a spectator’s head — and another basketball fan met Ed Diddle, the colorful Western Kentucky State coach.” Royal’s article was printed in the Daily News on February 14, 1943. The towels continued to appear and disappear as the athletics and physical education departments swiped towels back and forth. Diddle decided to dye the athletic department towels red to differentiate from the physical education supply.
Through the years the towel tradition has grown. Now few fans appear at a game without a red towel. In 1970, athletics director John Oldham drew a sketch of an arm waving a towel on the back of an envelope which he gave to Dr. Chuck Crume to develop into a logo. These original drawings are now housed in the University Archives along with personal papers of Ed Diddle, John Oldham, Chuck Crume and others involved with the athletic program.
Check out Hilltopper Heritage and KenCat for additional information on these and other University Archives collections.