Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Project Rivalry: Iron Bowl; Alabama vs Auburn

The Iron Bowl.

Alabama Crimson Tide vs Auburn Tigers.

Roll Tide vs War Eagle.

The Iron Bowl is one of the most storied rivalries not only in the SEC, but in all of college football. The first game of the rivalry was played on February 22, 1893. Auburn won 32-22. The game was played in front of a crowd of roughly 5,000 people at Lakeview Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

After the 1907 game, which ended in a 6-6 tie, the schools could not agree on the amount of expenses to be paid to players, as well as where they would obtain the officials for the game. Therefore they put the feud on hold.  The Alabama congress threatened to withhold funding from both schools unless the rivalry resumed. Fortunately for Alabama and Auburn fans, the rivalry resumed in 1948. It was agreed that the games would be played in Bimingham because it had the largest stadium in the state, Legion Field which held 44,000 seats.

In 1980 the series had come to be called The Iron Bowl due to Birmingham's prominence as a center of iron and steel production. Auburn's coach at the time, Shug Jordan coined the term "Iron Bowl". Alabama's coach Bear Bryant wanted to call the game the "Brag Bowl" due to the fact that after you win in the game, you have a whole year to brag about the victory.

In 1989 the Iron Bowl began being a "home-and-home" series. On December 2, 1989 Alabama came to Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time in the history of the rivalry. A sold out crowd witnessed Auburn win it's first true "home" game of the series, 30-21. Alabama came into that game unbeaten and ranked #2 in the country.

Alabama held their "home" games at Legion Field, but in 1998 they expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium to a capacity of 83,818, exceeding Legion Field by a few hundred. In the year 2000 Alabama moved their home games to Bryant-Denny Stadium where their home games are still played to this day.

The winner of the game is presented with the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Award, which is named after James E. Foy, who is an Alabama graduate, and also a former Auburn dean of students and Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society.

One of the most shocking things to come out of this rivalry was on January 11, 2011 a man going by the name of "Al" called into the Paul Finebaum sports radio talk show and admitted to poisoning two trees (known as "Toomer's Trees), which were the center of a long tradition that Auburn fans would take part in called "rolling the corner" (the trees were located on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and College street across from Toomer's Drugs). After soil samples were taken, it was determined that the trees were poisoned. Sadly the trees are scheduled to be taken down in April of this year.

The rivalry has seen many oustanding players such as Bo Jackson, Cam Newton, Johnny Musso and Pat Sullivan. It also has seen many great coaches, such as arguably the greatest coach ever Paul "Bear" Bryant.

This rivalry is a long bitter rivalry which is one of the most heated rivalries in college football. Both teams have been among the nation's elite teams for decades. They have also accounted for 30 SEC titles and are two of the most winningest college football teams in college football history.

- Matt Lytle

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