Auburn has a chance to repeat history

I am often asked to list the best rivalries in college football. My list is probably about the same as yours: Georgia-Florida, Texas-Oklahoma, Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Tennessee, Miami-Florida State.

I always leave out Alabama-Auburn and so the question is inevitably asked about the omission. Why do I not list Alabama-Auburn? Because, in my experience, Alabama-Auburn (or Auburn-Alabama) is much, much more than a mere football rivalry. It is a cultural war and the participants just use football to fight it.

If I ever had any doubt about this, those doubts were erased on Dec. 2, 1989, when I attended the most emotional football game of my career.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Alabama went to Auburn for the first time ever.

Auburn hosting Alabama doesn’t seem like a big deal to this current generation of college football fans. They don’t know that Bear Bryant vowed that as long as he was alive, Alabama would never leave Birmingham’s Legion Field and go to Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the game had been played since the series was resumed in 1948. His successor, Ray Perkins, took the same position.

But Bryant died in 1983 and Auburn coach Pat Dye, who took over in 1981, was determined that taking the Iron Bowl to his campus would be a major step towards putting the programs on a more equal footing—both competitively and psychologically. And in 1989 it finally happened.

There are so many memories of that day. But the one I will never forget was the Tiger Walk by the Auburn players down to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Alabama State Patrol told us there were between 20,000 and 30,000 fans lining either side of the street. I still remember seeing grown men crying because they were caught up in the historical significance of the moment.

“You have to understand that for so long Alabama looked down on us,” former Auburn athletics director David Housel told me at the time. “They wanted to keep the game in Birmingham because that was their power base in the state. On that day, for so many of our people, this was proof that they couldn’t look down on us anymore.”

Alabama was 10-0 ranked No. 2, and in position to win a national championship under Bill Curry. There were elements at Alabama who did not like Curry, who thought hiring a Georgia Tech man was a bad idea from the get-go. Curry had a great team in 1989 but all those critics remembered was that he had lost to Auburn in 1987 and 1988 as Dye’s Auburn program was in full throttle.

I will always remember what somebody with knowledge of the situation told me before the season. “If he (Curry) goes 10-1 and the one is Auburn, he is gone.”

Auburn won the game 30-20 and shared the SEC championship. Alabama finished 10-1 and played Miami in the Sugar Bowl. The next season Bill Curry was the head coach at Kentucky.

After the game Pat Dye was as emotional as I’ve ever seen him. As a former assistant at Alabama, he understood the historical significance of this day. He knew that the Alabama-Auburn rivalry had been changed forever and he had a tough time holding back the tears as he spoke to his team.

After the game Dye told us about a letter he received from an Auburn grad and a World War II veteran. Jim Fennel, who served under George Patton, wrote of being captured by the Germans and how he and his fellow soldiers managed the darkest days with defiance for the enemy. Fennel did not want Alabama to come to Auburn for the first time and walk away as victors. Dye read the letter to his team the night before the game. There was not a dry eye in the room.

This Friday, some two decades later, Alabama will arrive at Jordan-Hare Stadium with the No. 2 team in the nation. Next week the Crimson Tide will play No. 1 Florida in the SEC championship game. At stake will be a shot at the national championship. Auburn has a chance to repeat one of the most historic moments in the history of the school.

Can Auburn do that? Probably not. I think Alabama is the best team in the country. But Auburn will be motivated to play. Of that you can be sure.

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330 comments Add your comment

goldwreck

November 24th, 2009
7:00 am

I hope history doesn’t repeat itself.As a college football fan,I’d like to see Florida and Alabama be un-defeated going into the SECC game.
Now about the most important game being played Saturday,how about those yellow jackets!

True Blue

November 24th, 2009
7:09 am

Really, that day was painful for me, but I do miss my Aunt Janice a “huge” Aubie fan that got me a ticket … Do some reporting and find out what your school GSU Eagles are going to do about a new coach ?

Nachos

November 24th, 2009
7:13 am

I don’t think so Tony Jabroni

Jim

November 24th, 2009
7:30 am

seriously, it must be a very slow news day. Way too many vast differences between Auburn Alabama 2009 and Auburn Alabama 1989. But, if AU fans need to hang on to 1989 in order to feel some semblance of confidence in this game…..then so be it.

Reality Check, Where are you?

November 24th, 2009
7:33 am

Still waiting for you Reality Check, where are you. Did you pass as the result of a fumbling accident or maybe you were crushed under the weight of your own bs. LOL. Please stoop to telling me how, LSU or Miami or Dayton was the reality check, but it was never intended to be this week, please say that and confirm your inferiority, please! LOL

Carrie

November 24th, 2009
7:46 am

Georgia Tech 52, UGA 17. It will be a glorious day on the Flats as student-athletes take illiterate morons and thugs to the woodshed.

Paddy

November 24th, 2009
7:47 am

Great article! The true spirit of football is reliving fond and not so fond memories. Waiting on the train to take me to my first football game with dad! Priceless. 0-0 tie in a snowstrorm.

tony's a homer

November 24th, 2009
7:47 am

Texas’ biggest rival is A&M, not OU. It too is a cultural war. Bama Auburn is the best rivalry in the country followed by Texas / A&M. There even is a movie (bert reynolds) made around the texas and a&m rivalry.

jambee

November 24th, 2009
7:48 am

Thanks Mr. SEC football. Not even a breath of Tech v UGA. Perfect setup for a sure loss since it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Suspended Ref

November 24th, 2009
7:50 am

I hope Alabama and Florida bith lose to their in state rivals,
and Georgia Tech moves up from #7.

DAVID EARL GREEN

November 24th, 2009
7:53 am

WAR DAMN EAGLE!!!!!!!! YOU KNOW THAT EVERYONE IN THE COUNTRY THINKS THAT BAMA WILL RUN AWAY WITH IT BUT THOSE FIGHTING TIGERS DONT! YES I REMEMBER THAT DAY VERY WELL I REMEMBER THAT THE ATMOSPHERE WAS FANTASTIC ORANGE AND BLUE AND WHEN BAMA’S BUSES ARRIVED ON CAMPUS THEY WERE MET BY FANS TO SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL THEIR BUSES. THE MOMENTUM STARTED THEN AND CONTINUED ON THE FIELD AND AFTER THE GAME WAS OVER THE QUESTION WAS RAISED BEAR WHO? 10 AND WHAT? GUESS WHAT BAMA U R BACK IN OUR HOUSE THIS TIME!!! WAR EAGLE ITS GREAT TO BE A AUBURN TIGER!!

Gator Mike

November 24th, 2009
7:57 am

Tony last year about the same time as now you said Alabama was better than the Gators and would win the SEC Championship w/ ease ;Tebow and the better team prevailed then and will again . Saban will move on again realizing he isn’t going to win w/ Urban in the same conference. Gold Domers will get Saban w/ their unlimited $$$

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

November 24th, 2009
8:05 am

Wow Carrie, that’s a comment right on topic. What a buffoon

Greg

November 24th, 2009
8:08 am

Tony

What an idiot. Georgia-Florida over Georgia-Georgia Tech? Georgia-Florida is a “great rivalry” for the Dawgs who’ve one three times over 20 years? Good lord. It’s that kind of attitude that’s going to cost the Dawgs this weekend and over the next several years against the other team in THIS state!

Date Checker

November 24th, 2009
8:09 am

Hey Tony, If Alabama shows up for the game on Saturday, they’ll be a day late. The game is Friday. And i believe it will be the first UA-AU played on Friday ever. The 92 game was on Thanksgiving Day.

Tim Tebow

November 24th, 2009
8:15 am

four tickets, four hotdogs, four cokes, and four hundred yards is what i’ll run for against bama!!

Got 12?

November 24th, 2009
8:16 am

Gator Mike,

Your coach is a former ND Asst who once stated that the ND job was his dream job but our coach is leaving for ND? Really?

Johnny Fontane

November 24th, 2009
8:16 am

I was there in 1989 and I will be there on Friday. You have to have lived this rivialry as a fan of either school to really understand it.
It is ” us against them” 365 day a year.

Mike S

November 24th, 2009
8:16 am

Nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to Auburn-Alabama. This is truly one of those games that you can throw the season records out the window most of the time.

That said, this game comes down to two things :
1. Auburn cannot stop the run, and Alabama pounds the ball.
2. Auburn struggles in the passing game and Alabama D is all about pressuring the QB into mistakes.

I don’t see any way Auburn can force Greg McElroy to have to win the game for Alabama, and that is the only way AU can win. After watching Georgia pound Auburn D into the ground I would have to guess Mark Ingram will have at least 150 yds rushing.

Conversely I see Alabama forcing Chris Todd to win the game for AU, and I see no way he will be able to pull it off.

Auburn will play thier hearts out and keep it close for the first half, but this one will be a blow out in the end: Alabama 38 Auburn 13

Godawgs

November 24th, 2009
8:18 am

Way to chime in Carrie to an article about Auburn-Alabama with your witty woodshed comments for Tech-GA. The great thing is Tech never recruits any unsavory characters. You are an idiot

toga

November 24th, 2009
8:18 am

Tony – great read. I will never forget that game, it was one of the hardest days of my life and reminds me that anything can happen in football.

Some of the pain felt that day was finally healed when Bama ripped Miami to win the NC in 92. I believe Alabama was a 2 touchdown dog and no one gave them a chance.

Roll Tide!

Hollywould

November 24th, 2009
8:21 am

Good read Tony, Don’t like our chances but maybe we can have another “punt bama punt”
WAR EAGLE

Gen Neyland

November 24th, 2009
8:22 am

All eyes will be on Tate to see if he can back up his statements regarding being the best back in the state. That being said, Cheesestick probably doesn’t have a bunch of gimmicky qradruple reverse flea-flicker screen pass to tackle eligible plays left that haven’t been seen yet. But, it is Cheesey’s first opportunity to lose to Alabama and we all know Slive’s motives (wink-wink)…

Bubba

November 24th, 2009
8:23 am

Good job, Tony. It’s nice to still have sportswriters with a sense of history.

Chester Lucks

November 24th, 2009
8:24 am

What about Army-Navy Tony. What you make Tony about $50K a year. Whatever it is you are overpaid. Mr. College Football mu a$$. Alabama-Tennessee over Texas-Texas A&M are you kidding me. Miami-Florida State over Tech-Georgia. I understand that Oregon-Oregon State is quite a rivalry as well. For a guy who is suppose to cover college football you have quite a regional bias.

Sunny Purdue

November 24th, 2009
8:24 am

Is Florida – Georgia still considered a rivalry game? I don’t think so.

Rod

November 24th, 2009
8:26 am

WAR DAMN EAGLE!!!

Wake Up

November 24th, 2009
8:28 am

It’s a shame when the SEC writer for the AJC doesn’t even know when the big game is going to be.

Tony, it’s FRIDAY – not SATURDAY.

Got 12?

November 24th, 2009
8:29 am

Mike S.,

There was a really good article on al.com yesterday about the predictability of the Iron Bowl (http://blog.al.com/solomon/2009/11/iron_bowl_history_lesson_dont_1.html). Everyone likes to say “throw out the records” but, in this series, that simply isn’t true.

If the teams are evenly matched, obviously, anything can happen. But, when one team’s record is three wins better than the other’s, the team with the better record has won 91% of the time.

NC football fan

November 24th, 2009
8:33 am

Of course Auburn has a chance, that is why they play the game. IF Auburn can control the ball, stop the run, have very few turnovers and stupid penalties, push the pace like they did against Tennessee, force GMac to pass and put pressure on him they will win. Key word is IF.
‘Bama is good, very good. Auburn is not bad. They are thin, and IF ‘Bama controls the ball and pounds it, they will most likely win. Auburn is simply too thin on D to stay on the field for long drives.

As for the rivalry, it is certainly among the best. Every team feels the rivalry they share is the best. So many in the state of Alabama have very little else to hand their hat on. Among sane fans, there is a rational respect in the rivalry. As our society changes that respect becomes more and more nasty to the point of hatred. One need only peruse some message boards these days to see that.

All that is to say I believe the result this Friday will be different than in 1989. ‘Bama is much better than they were then, Auburn is nowhere near as good as they were then and the emotions of the day will not be as big an influence.

Personally I believe the game should have been moved on campus. If there was a neutral site like Dallas for Texas-OU then OK. Birmingham was not neutral. Roll Tide.

Rod

November 24th, 2009
8:33 am

Is this still even considered a rivalry? Aren’t rivalries close?

Auburn’s won 6 out of the past 7 games.

Auburn’s record at home against Alabama is 7-2.

Auburn’s record at Alabama’s home stadium (Bryant-Denny) is 4-1.

CASE CLOSED.

Nikki Sixx

November 24th, 2009
8:34 am

Barners are going down.

No rolling of Goobers Corner this Friday.

capstone

November 24th, 2009
8:35 am

David Housel’s pathetic they-looked-down-on-us drivel should embarrass any Auburn fan or graduate. The profound lack of statesmanship or leadership at that school (think Lowder et al) is sad. Grow up.

Jim Mora Jr.

November 24th, 2009
8:36 am

Greg-
Tech is only 6-14 over the same stretch vs UGA. That’s not much better than 3-17.

atlnole

November 24th, 2009
8:37 am

Florida-Georgia is a rivalry but not Florida-Florida State. Ask any ‘Nole who they hate more and it will be the Gators over the ‘Canes hands down.

JT

November 24th, 2009
8:37 am

Growing up as a kid in Tuscaloosa and playing football, my high school football team got to share a season ending meal in the presence of the ‘Bear’. That game was like yesterday, in my mind, just thinking of it now gives me goose bumps and reliving that pain from that stinging defeat. And Tony, funny you should mention that you left out BAMA/Auburn from the top rivalry list, most tv sports shows do, too. There IS NO OTHER RIVALRY! You know something that ticks me off too? The fact that sportscasters keep giving ALABAMA credit for 12 National Championships, when in fact, we have 13!! It’s like in ‘79(I believe) when we split the polls with USC…we were co-champions! That makes 13, count ‘em dammitt, THIRTEEN!!:-) WOW! I feel much better now…..

Gator Mike

November 24th, 2009
8:40 am

Got 12 ?,

Some football history for you :

Saban stood in Dolphin Headquarters and “I’m not going anywhere, college football is my past and this Dolphins team is my future” .NEXT NIGHT HE WAS IN TUSCALLOOSA, being introduced.
To quote Coach Meyer from yesterday ( not 5 years ago wen he said ND was a Dream job) “Yes, I am ready to dispel those rumors,” Meyer said of the latest batch of nonsense about the once envious Notre Dame head coaching position. “I am going to be at the University of Florida as long as they will have me. I want to make that clear.”

TommyJack

November 24th, 2009
8:43 am

Always look forward to this tussle. Hard to pull for either one of’em.

Felix the Cat

November 24th, 2009
8:43 am

As a Georgia Bulldog Fan I can only say two words about this game……..W-A-R E-A-G-L-E.

dawg07

November 24th, 2009
8:44 am

Saban loses to tigers and he probably doesn’t get fired like the 10 and 1 Bill Curry did but moves on to ND.

Forest Gump

November 24th, 2009
8:47 am

No way will Aubie win. They think they have the home field advantage, but they will be OWNED!

Like Coach used to say, “Run Forest, run!”

WhyLabel?

November 24th, 2009
8:48 am

Rod.

You’re either A) a moron or B) do not watch one lick of college football. Saying the Iron Bowl is not even considered a rivalry is ignorance displayed on the highest degree. Ask an Alabama or Auburn fan (not the West Ga / City of Atlanta version) and they will let you know how big of a rivalry this is.

The all time series stands at 39-33-1 heaven’s sake.

Got 12?

November 24th, 2009
8:49 am

Gator Mike,

Your timeline is a little skewed. Maybe you have a bad memory or you don’t have cable. Saban said he wasn’t going to Bama a month before the Dolphin’s last game. He then said he wouldn’t discuss the issue any more. Four weeks later, when Bama approached him (and his wife) with a formal offer, he went to Hiezenga and said he was considering leaving for Bama. That was all over ESPN, Fox, and other new outlets for the two days before he accepted the offer.

Got 12?

November 24th, 2009
8:53 am

Gator Mike,

In addition to not having cable, you seem to be new to this blog. A few months ago, a blogger posted Urban’s denials of leaving Bowling Green for Utah, and Utah for Florida.

For you reading pleasure: http://www.utefans.net/lies.php

It's Sad!!

November 24th, 2009
8:54 am

Todays athletes wouldn’t be motivated in the slightest by the story of the WWII veteran. Our problem as a society is that we don’t respect the past and revere those who have given us the great treasures of freedom and prosperity we currently enjoy. And we’re going to give them all away.

I don’t know if Auburn/Alabama is the best rivalry but it is certainly the most intense atlthough not quite as venomous as it used to be. As an Auburn fan there is no purer joy than watching Alabama fans after a loss to Auburn. I never thought in my lifetime we would fire a coach that beat Alabama six times in a row, but Auburn wants to be a national power now not just an SEC contender and Tuberville had lost that drive.

Top Dawg

November 24th, 2009
8:54 am

I am pulling for them to both lose.

KR

November 24th, 2009
8:55 am

I grew up in Georgia and went to Auburn. For years I’ve told my friends that the Auburn/Alabama rivalry is like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

I was there for the game in 1989. The atmosphere was indescribable. If you weren’t there, you will never fully understand. It’s not the same this year.

There are some examples of the underdog prevailing in this series, but they are not as often as people would have you believe. It think Bama wins this one easily. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

Got 12?

November 24th, 2009
8:56 am

For the record, I could not care less whether Urban stays or goes. I tend to be concerned with my own program. You should try that sometime, Gator Mike.

jabster

November 24th, 2009
8:57 am

Bill Curry NEVER beat Auburn at Tech, Bama, or UK.

But Chan Gailey and Reggie Ball did…TWICE.

jumbeauxtiger

November 24th, 2009
8:58 am

I believe the Tide covers and if so Saban would be my choice for National Coach of the Year. This would be the first season that I can recall in which Saban has had his team up for every game. He generally has one game a year in which they don’t show up. Of course in fairness, pretty much all coaches have this problem.

I predicted Bama to win the West last summer but I didn’t expect for them to be in the hunt for the NC.

Bama 31 Auburn 13