The Iron Bowl is the name given to the Auburn vs Alabama college football rivalry. It is an American college football rivalry game played annually by the football teams of the two largest public universities in the U.S. state of Alabama, the Auburn University Tigers and University of Alabama Crimson Tide, both charter members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The series is considered one of the most important football rivalries in the annals of American sports.
|First meeting||February 22, 1893|
Auburn 32, Alabama 22
|Latest meeting||November 24, 2018|
Alabama 52, Auburn 21
|Next meeting||November 30, 2019|
|Trophy||James E. Foy, V-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy|
|All-time series||Alabama leads 46–36–1 (.560)|
|Largest victory||Alabama, 55–0 (1948)|
|Longest win streak||Alabama, 9 (1973–81)|
|Current win streak||Alabama, 1 (2018–present)|
As the rivalry was played in Birmingham, Alabama for many years at Legion Field, the name of the Iron Bowl comes from Birmingham's historic role in the steel industry. Auburn Coach Ralph Jordan is credited with coining the rivalry game's nickname as the "Iron Bowl" in a 1964 interview. When Jordan was asked by reporters how he would deal with the disappointment of not taking his team to a bowl game, the coach responded, "We've got our bowl game. We have it every year. It's the Iron Bowl in Birmingham."
Alabama leads the series 46–36–1. The game is traditionally played on Thanksgiving weekend. In 1993, both schools agreed to move the game up to the week before Thanksgiving to give themselves a bye for a potential SEC Championship Game berth. In 2007 the conference voted to disallow any team from having a bye before the league championship game, returning the game to its traditional Thanksgiving weekend spot.
For much of the 20th century, the game was played every year in Birmingham at Legion Field, with Alabama winning 34 games and Auburn 19. Four games were played in Montgomery, Alabama, with each team winning two. Since 2000, the games have been played at Jordan–Hare Stadium in Auburn every odd-numbered year and at Bryant–Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa every even-numbered year.
The rivalry has long been one of the most heated collegiate rivalries in the country. For many years, the two schools were the only Alabama colleges in what is now Division I FBS. It is all the more heated because Alabama has been the nation's elite program for most of the last 10 years. Together, they account for 33 SEC titles, 25 by Alabama and only eight by Auburn. Both are among the winningest programs in major college football history; Alabama has won 17 national championships and is fifth all-time total wins among Division I FBS schools while Auburn is 13th with two national championships. The two schools have been fixtures on national television for the better part of the last four decades, and the season-ending clash has been nationally televised for all but one year since the late 1970s, the lone exception being 1993, when Auburn was barred from live TV due to NCAA sanctions.
Between them, one of the two teams played in the final five BCS National Championship Games, with Alabama winning in 2009, 2011, and 2012 and Auburn winning in 2010 and losing in 2013. Alabama has also made the four-team field of the successor to the BCS, the College Football Playoff, in each of its first five editions, losing in a semifinal in 2014, winning the title game in 2015 and 2017, and losing the title game in 2016 and 2018. Auburn has yet to participate in a playoff game.[n 1]
The contest became the extension of the bitter political debate that took place in the Alabama State Legislature regarding the location of the new land-grant college under the state's application under the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 during the Civil War Reconstruction Era. The state legislature, influenced by a heavy contingent of representatives who were University of Alabama alumni, pushed to sell the land scripts of 240,000 acres acquired from the Morrill Act or have any new land holdings held in conjunction with the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The debate lasted over four years, until Lee County and the City of Auburn won the location of the new university in 1872, after donating more than 100 acres and the remaining buildings and property of the East Alabama Male College. At the time of the Auburn decision the state legislature and governorship was controlled by Radical Republicans such as "Scalawag" Southern Republicans and Freedman African-Americans. By 1874, former Confederate and Redeemer forces from the Democratic Party gradually overturned the Radicals' control of the legislature. The Democrats then attempted to overturn most legislation passed during the Reconstruction Period, including the founding of the new land-grant college at Auburn.
During the 1870s, both the state legislature and Auburn board mismanaged Auburn's endowment, putting the school on the edge of collapse. Collapse of Auburn (then named the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama) meant that the University of Alabama could assume the remaining land scripts, thus profiting from the closure of the new land-grant college. "By 1877, competition between the University of Alabama and the Agricultural & Mechanical College for patronage had intensified. In January, Auburn President Isaac Tichenor, reported to the board of trustees that Alabama had reduced its tuition and lowered its graduation standards. Tichenor responded by requesting that the board drop tuition and create a boarding department to further lower expenses."
Alabama and Auburn played their first football game in Lakeview Park in Birmingham, Alabama, on February 22, 1893. Auburn (then named the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama) won 32–22, before an estimated crowd of 5,000. Alabama considered the game to be the final matchup of the 1892 season while Auburn recorded it as the first matchup of 1893.
During the 1907 state legislature session, a debate surfaced to move the land-grant college from Auburn to Birmingham. Later in that same session, the legislature approved the first appropriation to Auburn some 35 years after it first opened its doors, for a promised $800,000. The college only received a third of that appropriation, while the University of Alabama remained fully funded through the State Board of Education. The state legislature, largely made up of University of Alabama alumni, appeared intent on letting Auburn "dry out". Meanwhile, tensions carried over to the football rivalry when, after both the 1906 and 1907 contests, Auburn head coach Mike Donahue threatened to cancel the series if Alabama head coach "Doc" Pollard continued employing his elaborate formations and shifts. The series was suspended after the 1907 game. The Alabama-Auburn series was originally thought to have been discontinued in response to violence both on the field and among fans during and after the 1907 game. Instead, the game was canceled due to a disagreement between the schools on how much per diem to allow players for the trip to Birmingham, how many players each school should bring, and where to find officials. By the time all these matters were resolved, it was too late to play in 1908.
In 1915, appropriations to Auburn were withheld, which continued at times through the 1930s. In exchange, Auburn was allotted a percentage of the revenue generated by state taxes on fertilizer and farming equipment sales. Auburn faculty and staff perceived the withholding of funds to be another attack on the university's existence by the state legislature. During a 1945 legislative session, "The University of Alabama's report to the commission argued that the Tuscaloosa school had well-established and broad responsibilities for higher education in the state. Four times in Alabama history, higher education responsibilities had been delegated to other institutions. In three of the four cases, this occurred under a state government established during the Reconstruction period: creation of the normal schools, higher education for blacks, and establishment of the land-grant college at Auburn. The fourth case was the state women's college at Montevallo. In each case, this was argued to have resulted from "the illogic inherent in the evolution of a democratic government." The Alabama report drew a sharp response from then Auburn President Luther Duncan, who said that he had never seen "a bolder, more deliberate, more vicious, or more deceptive document." He predicted that if the friends of Auburn and Montevallo did not rise up to combat "this evil monster," it would consume them "just like the doctrine of Hitler." Duncan also remarked that according to Alabama, "Auburn is the illegitimate children…born out of the misery of the Reconstruction period." With the end of World War II, "The GI Bill had inundated Auburn (then officially named the Alabama Polytechnic Institute), with students—doubling enrollment twice between 1944 and 1948." With the increased enrollment, it was now obvious that Auburn would never "become so weak that...it could be absorbed" by the University of Alabama.
In 1947, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a resolution encouraging both universities to "make possible the inauguration of a full athletic program between the two schools". But the resolution did not have the effect of law, and both schools were disinclined to resume the series. However, the Alabama State Legislature threatened to withhold state funding unless the rivalry was renewed, convincing Alabama president John Gallalee and Auburn president Ralph B. Draughon to end the disagreement and renew the series in 1948.
It was agreed that the games would be played as a neutral site series in Birmingham, home to the largest stadium in the state, 44,000-seat Legion Field. Alabama refused to travel to Auburn, citing poor roads and the small size of Hare Stadium. Alabama was joined in this sentiment by the Tennessee Volunteers (who refused to play in Auburn until 1974 and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (who did not travel to Auburn from 1900 to 1970).
Between 1969 and 1987, Auburn made additions to Jordan–Hare Stadium until it eclipsed Legion Field in size. Auburn fans began feeling chagrin at playing all Iron Bowl games at Legion Field. Despite the equal allotment of tickets, Auburn fans insisted that Legion Field was not a neutral site, as it was only 45 minutes east of Tuscaloosa. While Auburn frequently played important games at Legion Field as late as 1991, the stadium had long been associated with Alabama football. Well into the 1980s, Alabama played most of its important games in Birmingham - most of Alabama's "home" football history from the 1920s to the 1980s actually took place at Legion Field. For this reason, Auburn began lobbying to make the Iron Bowl a "home-and-home" series. In the late 80s, the schools agreed that Auburn could play their home games for the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare starting in 1989 (with the exception of 1991) and Alabama would continue to play its "home" games at Legion Field. On December 2, 1989, Alabama came to "the Plains" for the first time ever as a sellout crowd witnessed Auburn win its first true "home" game of the series, 30–20 over an Alabama team that entered the game undefeated and ranked #2 in the country.
Alabama continued to hold its home games for the rivalry at Legion Field. In 1998, Alabama expanded Bryant–Denny Stadium to a capacity of 83,818, narrowly eclipsing Legion Field. Alabama moved their home games in the series to Bryant–Denny Stadium in 2000. That year, Auburn came to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 1901 and won in a defensive struggle, 9–0. A new attendance record for the Iron Bowl was set in 2006 as the latest expansion to Bryant–Denny Stadium increased its capacity to 92,138. The record was reset again in 2010, after another expansion to Alabama's Bryant–Denny Stadium, when a crowd of 101,821 witnessed a 28–27 Auburn victory.
In 2009 and 2010 CBS Sports and the two universities arranged to have the game played in an exclusive time slot on the Friday following Thanksgiving. The 2009 game was the sixth Iron Bowl to be played on a Friday and the first one in 21 years. CBS did not attempt to renew the agreement after 2010 due to criticism from both fan bases, returning the game to its traditional Saturday date. Although CBS has broadcast the majority of Iron Bowl games since 1996 through its SEC coverage, ESPN has aired the game several times, from 1995 through 1999, 2003, and 2007. In 2014, CBS's decision to broadcast the Egg Bowl due to a number of factors (which included contractual limits on how many times CBS may feature certain teams, and the larger prominence of the Egg Bowl due to its potential effects on Mississippi State's participation in the College Football Playoff) resulted in ESPN broadcasting the first Iron Bowl played in primetime since 2007.
Foy-ODK Sportsmanship AwardEdit
The trophy given to the winner of the game is the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Award. It is named after James E. Foy, a former Auburn dean of students and Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society – which was established on both campuses during the 1920s. The Foy Trophy is presented at halftime of the Alabama-Auburn basketball game later in the same academic year at the winner's home court. At the start of each season the SGA Presidents of both schools agree to bet on the outcome of the Iron Bowl by agreeing that after the trophy presentation, the SGA President of the losing team will sing the winning team's fight song.
February 22, 1893: This was the first meeting between Auburn and Alabama. Auburn beat Alabama in Birmingham 32–22.
1906: Alabama's star running back Auxford Burks scored all of the game's points in a 10–0 victory. Auburn contended that Alabama player T. S. Sims was an illegal player, but the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) denied the claim. Alabama coach Doc Pollard used a "military shift" never before seen in the south to gain an advantage over Auburn.
1948: The rivalry resumed after being suspended for 41 years due to issues related to player per diems and officiating. Alabama beat Auburn 55–0 at Legion Field, which remains the largest margin of victory in series history.
1967: This was the first night game in the series. Thunderstorms soaked Legion Field, making the field extremely muddy. The game was frequently stopped to clear raincoats and other wet weather gear from the field. Late in the game, Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler ran 47 yards for a touchdown to give Alabama a 7–3 victory. This run became known in Alabama lore as the "run in the mud".
1972: Down 16–3 late in the game, Auburn blocked two punts and returned both for touchdowns, leading to an improbable 17–16 Auburn win and the coining of a new phrase among Auburn fans, "Punt Bama Punt!" In August 2010, ESPN.com ranked this game the 8th most painful outcome in college football history.
1981: Alabama coach Bear Bryant earned his 315th career victory after Alabama defeated Auburn 28–17. With the victory, Coach Bryant passed Amos Alonzo Stagg to become the all-time winningest FBS coach at the time. This was the final game in Alabama's nine-game winning streak over Auburn, the longest one in Iron Bowl history.
1982: With two minutes left, Auburn drove the length of the field and scored a touchdown when running back Bo Jackson jumped over the top of the defensive line. Auburn won 23–22. The victory ended Alabama's nine-game winning streak over Auburn. This was the last Iron Bowl coached by Bear Bryant, who retired after the season and then died 60 days after the Auburn game.
1984: Trailing 17–15 late in the game, Auburn had 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line. Opting to go for it, Auburn called a pitch to running back Brent Fullwood. Running back Bo Jackson, who was supposed to block for Fullwood, ran the wrong direction, allowing the Alabama defense to easily force Fullwood out of bounds to seal the victory.
1989: In the first Iron Bowl played at Jordan–Hare Stadium, Auburn defeated Alabama 30–20.
1993: No. 6 Auburn defeated No. 11 Alabama 22–14. The game, at Jordan Hare Stadium, was not televised due to Auburn's probation but was shown on closed-circuit television before 47,421 fans at Bryant–Denny Stadium.
1997: Trailing 17–15 late in the fourth quarter, Auburn recovered an Alabama fumble, setting up a 39-yard field goal with 20 seconds left. Auburn made it and won 18–17.
1999: Alabama beat Auburn 28–17, giving the Crimson Tide its first victory at Jordan–Hare Stadium.
2000: In the first game played in Bryant–Denny Stadium and the first game played in Tuscaloosa since 1901, Auburn kicked three field goals to beat Alabama 9–0.
2007: Alabama head coach Nick Saban began his record in the Iron Bowl with a 17–10 loss at Auburn. It was the final game in Auburn's six-game Iron Bowl winning streak, their longest one over Alabama.
2008: Alabama defeated Auburn in Tuscaloosa for the first time in series history, 36–0, in Tommy Tuberville's last game as Auburn's head coach.
2009: Greg McElroy threw a four-yard touchdown pass to fullback Roy Upchurch with 1:24 remaining to lift No. 2 Alabama to a 26–21 win over Auburn at Jordan–Hare Stadium. That play capped a 15-play, 79-yard drive that consumed seven minutes and three seconds.
2010: No. 2 Auburn defeated No. 11 Alabama 28–27 in Tuscaloosa after erasing a 24–0 deficit - the largest comeback win in series history.
2013: With one second remaining and the game tied 28–28, Alabama attempted a 57-yard potential game-winning field goal. The kick fell short, and Auburn cornerback Chris Davis caught the ball at the back of the endzone and returned it 109 yards for a game-winning touchdown in what famously became known as the "Kick Six" game. The 2013 Iron Bowl won the ESPY Award for "Best Game" of the year in any sport, and the final play by Davis won the ESPY Award for "Best Play" of the year.
2014: No. 1 Alabama defeated No. 15 Auburn 55–44, the highest scoring Iron Bowl ever.
2017: No. 6 Auburn defeated No. 1 Alabama, 26–14, their largest margin of victory over Alabama since 1969. Even though Alabama did not win the Western Division or SEC Conference title, the loss did not ultimately prevent Alabama from winning the 2017 national championship, marking the first time that either school went on to win a national championship after losing the Iron Bowl.
2018: No. 1 Alabama defeated unranked Auburn, 52–21, to get revenge for the loss the year before. This extended the Crimson Tide's FBS record of consecutive wins against unranked opponents to 82 games, as Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa set an Alabama record with 6 touchdowns (5 passing and 1 rushing) and the Tide finished the regular season with a perfect 12–0 record for the fourth time in the Saban era.
Since 1893, the Crimson Tide and Tigers have played 83 times. Alabama leads the series 46–36–1. The game has been played in four cities: Auburn, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. Alabama leads the series in Birmingham (34–18–1). Auburn leads the series in Tuscaloosa (7–5) and Auburn (9–5). The series is tied in Montgomery (2–2). Alabama leads the series since it was resumed in the modern era in 1948 (42–29). For the first time in the series history, five consecutive Iron Bowl winners went to the BCS National Championship Game: Alabama in 2009, Auburn in 2010, and Alabama again in 2011 and 2012. Auburn also went in 2013, but lost to Florida State. Alabama's 2009 BCS National Championship followed by Auburn's 2010 BCS National Championship marks the first time that two different teams from the same state won consecutive BCS National Championships.
|Alabama victories||Auburn victories||Tie games|
- The years mentioned in this passage are college football seasons. Under both the BCS and CFP systems, the championship game is held in January of the calendar year following the season.
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