The Iron Bowl
p>Auburn-Alabama or Alabama-Auburn. In the heart of Dixie, whichever way you look at it, you live it 365 days a year. The passion is unparalleled in all of collegiate athletics.
The series between Auburn and Alabama began on Feb. 22, 1893, when the two teams met for the first time at Birmingham’s Lakeview Park. An estimated 2,000 fans were in attendance that day to see the Auburn Orange and Blue defeat the Alabama Crimsons 32-22. Thus began a rivalry that is today arguably the nation’s fiercest.
Disagreements between the schools started immediately after their first game. Alabama includes the loss as the last game of the 1892 season while Auburn puts the victory as the first game of the 1893 season. It was the first of many disputes that has made the rivalry more than just a football game.
The rivalry went on a 41-year hiatus after the teams met for the 12th time in 1907. The schools became involved in what seemed to be a minor dispute involving teams’ expenses and officiating. Auburn wanted an expense of $3.50 per day for its 22 players while Alabama offered just $3.00 per day for 20 Auburn players. Also, Auburn head coach Mike Donahue wanted a Northerner to officiate the game, while the Alabama coaching staff demanded a Southern man call the game. Both sides blamed each other and the small dispute turned into a 41-year drought in the series.
People across the state wanted an end to the dispute, but both schools disregarded the idea of a football game, stating a belief that the game would "result in an accelerated over-emphasis of football in the state." It took a resolution by the Alabama House of Representatives to renew the rivalry. In 1947, the Alabama House wrote a resolution that encouraged the schools to "make possible the inauguration of a full athletic program between the two schools." After a pair of meetings between the schools’ presidents. They agreed to renew the series on Dec. 4, 1948, at Birmingham’s Legion Field. Alabama defeated the Tigers 55-0 to begin the rivalry a second time.
From 1950 to 1963, defense was the key to the game as the losing team never scored more than eight points in a game. Nine shutouts were registered in the 13-year span, with Alabama winning six of those games. Alabama’s most prosperous years in the series were from 1960 to 1981 as the Tide amassed an 18-4 record against the Tigers. Alabama currently holds a 36-26-1 advantage in the series, mainly due to nine consecutive victories over Auburn from 1973 to 1981. Auburn’s longest winning streak against Alabama is five games, 1954 to 1958.Â
To Auburn people, one of the most incredible Auburn-Alabama games came on Dec. 2, 1972. A few days before the game, Alabama head coach Bear Bryant incited the rivalry when he told reporters that he would rather, "beat that cow college once than beat Texas 10 times." That set the stage as second-ranked Alabama brought a 10-0 record into Legion Field to meet the ninth-ranked Tigers, who were 8-1.
For the entire game, Bama’s defense held the Auburn offense in check. With 5:30 remaining in the game, 16-point favorite Alabama held a seemingly insurmountable 16-3 lead. The Tigers, perhaps fueled by Bryant’s remarks, came roaring back for one of the best finishes in Auburn-Alabama history. Auburn’s Bill Newton blocked two Alabama punts and David Langer ran both in for touchdowns as Auburn came back to win 17-16. Newton and Langer will forever be remembered by Auburn fans for their play in the now famous "Punt Bama Punt" game.
Though Alabama dominated the series through the 60s and 70s, the rivalry reached new heights in the 80s as the average margin of victory was a mere 6.4 points. Some classic battles were waged in the decade. Two games that epitomize the series came in 1985 and 1986. Auburn won the 1986 meeting on a Lawyer Tillman reverse into the end zone with 32 seconds remaining to down Bama 21-17. Alabama won the 1985 game, 25-23, on a 52-yard Van Tiffin field goal as the clock expired.
An historic new page was added to the rivalry in 1989 when Alabama came to Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time. The game was held on Dec. 2, 1989; exactly 17 years after Auburn’s 1972 miracle win over the Tide. Just like the 1972 meeting, Bama came into the game with a 10-0 record and a No. 2 ranking. Before a Jordan-Hare Stadium record crowd of 85,319, Auburn ended Alabama’s national title hopes with a monumental 30-20 victory.
The Auburn-Alabama game has been played in four different cities and seven different stadiums, but since the rivalry was renewed in 1948, the game had only been held at Legion Field in Birmingham and Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. Alabama has a 32-15 advantage at Legion Field, but until the 1999 season Auburn had never lost in Auburn or Tuscaloosa.
In 2000, an old chapter in the storied rivalry was re-opened as Auburn returned to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 1901. Rain, sleet and freezing temperatures greeted the Tigers in their first-ever visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tigers prevailed with a 9-0 victory to remain unbeaten and unscored upon in Tuscaloosa. The victory not only avenged the Tigers’ first-ever loss to the Tide in Auburn the year before, but it also clinched the SEC Western Division title and sent Auburn to its second SEC Championship game.
There have been 22 shutouts in the rivalry.
The most points scored is 55 (UA, 1948) in the series renewal.
The most combined points is 75 in Auburn’s 49-26 win in 1969.
The team leading at halftime has won 73 percent of the time (49-of-67).
There have been five one-point games, with Auburn winning four: 1949 (AU, 14-13), 1972 (AU, 17-16), 1982 (AU, 23-22), 1996 (UA, 24-23) and 1997 (AU, 18-17).
Auburn and Alabama have never had losing records in the same season. Also, since 1956, at least one of the two have been ranked in the final AP poll.