Colleges typically choose their own school colors, but the selection process varies depending on the college. Some colleges, such as the University of Arkansas, have the students vote on the colors. Others allow an important school figure, such as a team captain or coach, to choose them. Charles H. Coates, the first football coach at Louisiana State University, claimed to have chosen the school's colors of purple and gold because they were the only ribbon colors available at the store.
At some colleges, such as Vanderbilt University and Auburn University, the origins of the school colors are unknown, though rumors surround them. Vanderbilt University's colors are black and gold, and rumors suggest Commodore Vanderbilt's family chose the black to represent coal, an industry in which he had succeeded, and the gold to represent his wealth. A popular theory regarding Auburn University's colors of blue and orange is that in 1892, its football coach, George Petrie, chose the colors after seeing an orange "A" stitched to a blue jacket.
Some colleges share the same colors. For example, all University of California schools have used blue and yellow as their colors since 1873. The blue represents the ocean, and the yellow represents wildflowers, both features of California.