Alabama basketball superfan Luke Ratliff dies: Four things to know about 'Fluffopotamus'
Here are four things to know about Ratliff, who's also known as Fluffopotamus:
He was an Alabama basketball superfan
Ratliff and his mother, Pamela, were Alabama fans growing up, in contrast to the allegiance his father, Bryan, had to North Carolina basketball.
Ratliff's connection to Alabama basketball was deeper and more intimate than it was to Alabama football because, "football, especially here, it seems larger than life," he told The Tuscaloosa News earlier this year. " It seems like it's not something you can touch. You go to the games but you don't really have a connection with it.
"College basketball is different because it's literally right in front of you: You can see it, you can touch it, you can go to it 16 home games a year. It's tangible, that's what's endeared me to it," he added. "... College basketball as a whole is just a chaotic entity where every person has a hand in what happens, and I enjoy that because as a student I can have an influence; me and a group of other people can have influence what happens on the court.”
Ratliff, who was scheduled to graduate with a degree in public relations in August, was the leader of the Crimson Chaos basketball support group on campus. He said he missed just one home game in his time as a student and had an active streak this season of attending more than 32 consecutive road games.
He attended Alabama's Sweet 16 loss to UCLA in Indianapolis last month.
Why he's called Fluffopotamus
Ratliff's Twitter handle, "fluffopopotamus88" helped inspire a nickname that made him an icon on campus.
His plaid sport coat and bulky frame made him easy target for TV cameras at Alabama games. When he arrived on campus as a freshman in 2016, his fandom "exploded," he said earlier this year.
"I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the history of Alabama basketball, and you couple that with being a student here at the university and something special happens.”
He had complications related to COVID-19
Ratliff died from complications related to COVID-19, multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Tuscaloosa News on Saturday.
Ratliff had been hospitalized at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa with breathing complications.
Nate Oats, SEC coaches mourn his death
Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats called Ratliff's death "devastating news."
"Doesn't seem real," Oats wrote in a Twitter post. "Fluff has been our biggest supporter since day one."
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said of Ratliff: "He will be missed but never forgotten."
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said, "RIP my brother."