As the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry returns, I have to say that I really don’t dislike Auburn fans, unlike the supporters of a couple of our other longtime rivals. The two schools share a lot of ties and have intermingled for years. We’re better than them, of course, but they don’t rub me the wrong way like some other rival fan groups.
A lot of alums and supporters of the two schools seem to feel that way, judging from what I’ve heard over the years. It’s a sentiment that was also reflected in some of the reader comments when I wrote the other day about the series with Auburn being my favorite of Georgia’s football rivalries.
As one reader calling himself Dan put it: “You really can throw out the records when these teams play. The games are usually pretty hotly contested, and it always seems that one team [ruins] the other team’s season (and it’s usually the underdog). Both programs are very similar in history and tradition and they’re only a couple hours from each other. And most Auburn fans I know are a respectable bunch. I mean, we’ll talk trash to each other, but I feel there is a genuine respect there whereas I don’t feel like that’s the case with Tech and Gator fans.”
Said an Auburn alum: “The one thing you can say about this one is that it isn’t ugly, with players or fans. I’ve been to countless games in both Athens and Auburn and both fans seem to ride the others, but with lots of respect. Anyone familiar with both schools knows that both are a great deal alike, in campuses as well as fan bases.”
It is, said a UGA fan going by HBTD, “the greatest rivalry on UGA’s schedule. Mutual respect by both schools’ players and fans of the other. Win, lose or draw, it’s always a hard fought game that the fans have a blast at.”
Vince Dooley, who played and coached at Auburn before becoming a four-decade fixture at UGA, summed up the Georgia-Auburn rivalry as “feuding cousins.” Pat Dye, who played at Georgia and later became the head coach and athletics director at AU, said the rivalry between the two schools is “a unique thing. It’s like playing against your brother.”
To which my pal Scott has a sharp retort: “I don’t turn a fire hose on my ‘brother.’”
Ah yes, the infamous “between the hoses” game in 1986 at Auburn does tend to come up in these discussions. And after querying some of my Bulldog buddies this week, the conclusion I’ve drawn is that the closer you live to War Eagle country, the greater the disdain you have for fans of the former Alabama Polytechnic Institute.
Said Clay: “Your attitude towards Auburn fans is based on where you live, in my opinion. I lived in Columbus (40 miles from Auburn) for over 20 years and I cannot stand Auburn fans. I know that Georgia and Auburn have been more like competitive cousins over the years rather than full-blown adversaries, but Auburn is the team I hate the most. … The mere sight of an interlocked AU on someone’s shirt or vehicle makes my blood pressure jump 20 points.”
My friend Steve chastised me for my view of Auburn fans, saying, “Personally, I am offended when you say Georgia fans and Auburn fans are alike. Can’t stand to read that. It’s not true. I hold them in disdain.”
He went on: “I know Mississippi State takes a lot of abuse about its ugly campus. Auburn is the same. Those are the two ugliest campuses in the SEC, hands-down. Before [a] big-shot in Birmingham built a few new buildings there a few years ago, 75 percent of their campus looked like Works Progress Admininstration buildings built in the 1930s. Hideous.
“And as ugly as the place physically is, their fans are worse when they win a football game. As an Alabama fan says, let them lose and keep them quiet, and they’re tolerable. The only way you can stand them. ‘War (Damn) Eagle!’ — I dread hearing it.They are worse than Tennessee, Florida, Tech, you name it. Trust me!”
Back to Scott, who says he has “never felt that ‘brotherly’ connection that is always talked about. During the Dye and Bowden eras I found them as insufferable as Gator and Vol fans.”
Scott says one thing that colors his view of Auburn is that “they’ve single-handedly cost us at least six or seven SEC titles, far more than any other rival school the past 40 years, and untold higher bowl bids.” He cites the games in 1971, 1978 (a tie that kept Georgia from being co-champs with Bama), 1979, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 2004. Conversely, he notes, there have been “times we’ve derailed their title hopes: 1970, ’82, ’86, ’96 and ’06.”
Of course, the placement of the game late in the season tends to give it that impact on both teams’ conference title hopes. And, it must be noted, although losses to Auburn may have denied the Dogs some titles, Georgia has clinched most of its SEC championships since 1959 against Auburn — many times at Auburn. Another reason it’s my favorite of UGA’s rivalry series.
In the end, though, while I may find Auburn fans less obnoxious than other rivals’ fans, it’s hard to argue with my brother Tim’s succinct summation:
“They wear orange and blue … enough said!”