TTU News

Eagle Bait pep truck returns to Tennessee Tech

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Eagle Bait was Tennessee Tech's pep truck from the mid-1960s through the early 1990s. The truck was recently purchased and returned to campus.

It’s been a while since the old Eagle Bait pep truck made a lap around Overall Field in Tennessee Tech University’s Tucker Stadium.

In 1991, the truck, which had been on campus for more than 20 years, stopped appearing at games and campus events. However, a Tech alumnus recently spotted it on a lot in Manchester, Tennessee. Recognizing the truck immediately, he contacted the university and the Tennessee Tech Alumni Association bought it, bringing it back to campus just in time for 2017 homecoming festivities.

“When you drove by in that truck, suddenly you were the hero for a second,” recalls Michael Allen, alumnus and now associate professor of mathematics at Tech with close ties to Eagle Bait. “It was really fun.”

In 1964, Coca-Cola donated an old Chevrolet delivery truck to the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. Vernon Allen, Michael’s father, was a chemistry professor at Tech and the fraternity’s advisor. He restored the truck and it was donated to the Associated Student Body, now referred to as the Student Government Association, in 1968, but APO members maintained and operated it throughout its time on campus.

Michael has early memories of the truck and is pictured in the 1969 university yearbook with his dad in the truck. He was only 3-years-old at the time, but he did go on to attend Tech and join the APO fraternity, giving him a chance to be behind the wheel at homecoming.

“I was driving the truck when I met my wife,” Michael recalls. “She walked by the truck and said, ‘Hello.’ If I had not been driving the truck, I wouldn’t have met her.”

Eagle Bait was used to transport cheerleaders to athletic events and games and can be seen in many yearbook pictures leading the homecoming parade. The truck also drove around Overall Field each time Tech scored. Eagle Bait was also a term used to refer to Tech’s athletic opponents, as fans cheered “Eagle bait, eagle bait” from the stands.

When a new track was installed around Overall Field, the truck was no longer able to drive in the stadium at games and eventually ended up at auction. The man who purchased the truck says he never did much with it, other than driving his grandkids around on his Manchester farm.

What’s in store for Eagle Bait’s new life back at Tech? Well, Michael Allen and his family have volunteered to get it back in running condition, with hopes it will be ready for the 2017 homecoming parade and festivities Saturday, Nov. 4.

“We are going to restore it to as close to original condition as possible,” he said. “It is a relic in Tennessee tech’s history that will be preserved.”

The Alumni Association has heard that the College of Engineering at Tech is interested in having mechanical engineering and manufacturing and engineering technology majors work on the truck. Among the students who will get a chance to work on Eagle Bait is Michael’s son Addison Allen, now an MET major at Tech.

An Eagle Bait fund is being established to help pay for the restoration project and the upkeep of the truck. The first thing that has to be done: installing new brakes before homecoming. It will be a while before it is painted, and Michael Allen suspects the students, including those on the university’s formula SAE and Baja SAE teams may have ideas for making Eagle Bait better than ever.

“It is an old truck,” Michael said. “It has never been a very smooth ride.”

If all goes as planned, Eagle Bait will make its return at the front of the homecoming parade this year and Tech students will practice their learning on a piece of university history.