Drawing insight from many former players, coaches, and others directly tied to the storied and revered football program of Auburn University, this resource for fans places firsthand accounts alongside essential team history for a one-of-a-kind guide to Tigers football. With more than a century of history, two National Championship victories, and three Heisman Trophy winners distilled into the greatest highlights, the book serves as the ultimate compendium of everything that is special about the football program and includes the stories and memories of everyone from Ralph “Shug” Jordan and Pat Dye to Bo Jackson and Tracy Rocker. Taking Tigers fandom outside of Jordan-Hare stadium and into everyday life, the book also includes beloved landmarks and top hangouts on the Auburn campus and in the Montgomery area. Updated to include the 2011 season, this revised edition includes Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and the 2010 National Championship team coached by Gene Chizik.
About the Author
Evan Woodbery has covered Auburn University sports for the Press-Register since 2004. He previously worked for the State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, and the Anniston Star in Alabama. He lives in Auburn, Alabama.
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100 Things Auburn Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Evan Woodbery
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2012 Evan Woodbery
All rights reserved.
The 2010 National Championship
"For the quarterback who spent the season engulfed in controversy, the coach whose hiring was once mocked, the fans who have experienced great seasons — undefeated seasons — that didn't end with championships, this was their night, their celebration."
Those were the first lines written in the Birmingham News after No. 1 Auburn beat No. 2 Oregon 22–19 on January 10, 2011, to win its first national championship since 1957.
It was perhaps the biggest win in the program's history, and tens of thousands of jubilant fans were in Glendale, Arizona, to enjoy it in person. Others were back on a chilly evening in Auburn celebrating at Toomer's Corner.
When Wes Byrum's 19-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, confetti shot onto the field, rolls of toilet paper were tossed from the stands, camera flashes lit up the stadium, and players rolled around on the turf.
"Nobody felt sorry for Auburn this year," said quarterback Cam Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner whose on-field prowess and off-field controversy dominated the news of college football in 2010. "We got the last laugh."
Coach Gene Chizik, who inherited a five-win team and guided it to a national championship only two years later, savored the moment.
"I'm not sure 15 weeks ago anyone believed we could do this but us," he said. "If I tried to describe [what this feels like], I would cheapen it."
Befitting an unpredictable season in which nearly every game seemed to go down to the wire, very little went as planned in the championship game. Rather than the battle of offensive juggernauts that most anticipated, both the Tigers and Ducks struggled to reach the end zone. Auburn's defense, which so rarely got credit but always found a way to win games, stopped the Ducks on 10 third downs and allowed scores on only three of 12 drives.
Wes Byrum's last-second field goal gave the Tigers the win.
"Fifty-three years, baby!" Chizik shouted in salute to the fans. "This is for you!"
The path to that incredible night was equally memorable. Unlike the undefeated season in 2004, when most of the games after Week 3 were lopsided, Auburn had several nail- biters in 2010. Six of the first eight games were decided in the fourth quarter, some by the narrowest of margins. But the game against Arkansas on October 16 seemed to mark a turning point. The game was still close for the first three quarters, but in a game against Arkansas high-powered offense, the 65–43 final score showed no point total was insurmountable.
"I'm sitting there on the sideline saying, 'Wow, we have this many points, and they have that many points,'" Newton said at the time. "At one point, we didn't want to score too fast because it was like a heavyweight boxing match."
The Iron Bowl game against Alabama, of course, warrants its own chapter in this book, and the SEC championship victory against South Carolina was almost anticlimactic. Then came the exceedingly long wait before the BCS title game in Glendale, Arizona, and the final crowning victory at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The championship was even sweeter because so few had predicted it. Auburn started the season ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press poll and didn't crack the Top 10 until Week 6. Then there was the Cam Newton saga (also documented elsewhere in this book) that transformed Auburn from a Cinderella story to a villain in some quarters.
"Anything is possible," Newton said after the victory against Oregon. "I guarantee you five or six months ago, nobody would have bet their last dollar that Auburn University would win the national championship. And now, on January 10, 2011, we're smiling."CHAPTER 2
The 1957 National Championship Team
Fifty years later, their place in history was not only secure, but celebrated. The players on Auburn's 1957 team mounted an incredible run to a perfect season, an SEC title, and the school's first national championship.
When they were honored in 2007, the roar of the fans let them know their magical season hadn't been lost to the history books.
Like many great seasons — including Auburn's perfect runs in 2004 and 2010 — this one approached suddenly. There may have been mild optimism entering the season, but few were thinking in terms of championships.
"We had no idea," said defensive end Jimmy "Red" Phillips. "We expected to win. We were used to winning. But nobody was talking about national championships or even an SEC championship. We were just trying to do what our coaches wanted."
The Tigers were a respectable 7–3 in 1956, but the team's aspirations for 1957 took two big hits before the season even started. Auburn's starting quarterback and running back departed that summer, leaving coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan to search for solutions. He decided to hand the reins of the offense to Lloyd Nix, a left-handed halfback who hadn't played quarterback in years.
"I'm not worried about Lloyd's ability to get the job done," Jordan said at the time. "He's not flashy, but he gets that job done, and that's what counts."
Nix welcomed the move. "When Coach Jordan told me I was moving to quarterback," he said, "it wasn't that big a deal. I was getting to play, and that was all that mattered."
Although he would throw the ball only 60 times (completing 33) in 1957, Nix became one of the team's most valuable unsung heroes. Halfbacks Tommy Lorino and Bobby Hoppe combined with fullback Billy Atkins to lead the rushing attack.
When it was all said and done, Auburn had put together a 10–0 season and won the conference championship. It was the first time Auburn had gone undefeated since 1932 and the first perfect season since 1913. The Tigers led the nation in every defensive category in 1957, and some consider Auburn's defense one of the greatest in college football history. Led by nose guard Zeke Smith, linebacker Jackie Burkett, and ends Jerry Wilson and Phillips, the Tigers allowed an average of 2.8 points per game and shut out opponents six times. Of 28 points allowed all season, one touchdown was scored on an interception return and three touchdowns were said to be scored on the second- team defense.
After starting the season unranked, Auburn steadily moved up in the polls. A 7–0 win over Tennessee on a cold and rainy day in Knoxville jumped the Tigers to No. 7 and started them on the championship path. A win against Florida State moved them to No. 1.
Auburn's closest call came in the eighth game of the season against Georgia. Auburn led 6–0 at halftime, but the Tigers fumbled on their 10-yard line on the third play of the second half. Auburn held and got the ball back ... only to fumble again! But the Bulldogs failed to score in eight plays (and had only three first downs the entire game), giving Auburn the narrow victory.
Auburn's rise to the top was aided by losses by Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M, and a poor performance by Michigan State.
The Iron Bowl provided a fitting exclamation point for the season. When the Tigers jumped out to a 34–0 lead at halftime, Auburn fans started to chant "56! 56!" in reference to the 1948 Iron Bowl that Alabama won 55–0. But Jordan declined to run up the score, and Auburn won by a still-impressive 40–0 margin.
Auburn still wasn't a shoo-in for the national title. The Tigers were prevented from playing in a postseason bowl game by NCAA sanctions (although the Associated Press poll was voted on before the bowls were actually played). And Ohio State coach Woody Hayes was adamant that the 9–1 Buckeyes deserved to climb over Auburn to No. 1.
Fortunately for Auburn, the Tigers had a plan to win the ballot. At this time, every AP subscriber was automatically given a vote in the poll. Auburn administrator Bill Beckwith contacted every paper and radio station in the Southeast — big and small — and lobbied them to vote for the Tigers. The plan worked, and Auburn finished atop the final AP poll for the school's first national championship. It was the first and only time that a school on bowl probation won the AP national title.
Today, memories of that season dot campus, from the murals in the stadium to the memorabilia at the athletic complex to even the phone number for ordering tickets (1-800-AUB-1957).
The landscape of college football has changed dramatically since then, but the season endures as one of the most significant moments in the program's history.
Auburn's 11 Conference Championships
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association: 1913, 1914, 1919
Southern Conference: 1932
Southeastern Conference: 1957, 1983, 1987–1989, 2004, 2010CHAPTER 3
When Alabama Came to Auburn: The 1989 Iron Bowl
To the thousands of fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and the many thousands more outside who didn't have a ticket but merely wanted to soak in the atmosphere, it was more than a game.
The meeting between Auburn and Alabama on December 2, 1989, was a testament to Auburn's tenacity and a repudiation of those across the state who said it would never happen.
It happened. And those who witnessed the day will never forget it.
First, the background: since the resumption of the rivalry in 1948, Auburn and Alabama had met at Legion Field in Birmingham. The venue made sense because it was centrally located in the state and had a larger seating capacity than the campus stadiums in Auburn or Tuscaloosa. It wasn't uncommon for other schools to use off-campus stadiums for one or several games a year. But as times changed and on-campus stadiums grew and grew, off- campus sites fell out of favor.
Auburn felt it was time to bring the rivalry to its home stadium on the Plains. The move was complicated, though, because Legion Field was technically a "neutral" site. While each team was allotted an equal number of tickets, Alabama always seemed to have more fans, perhaps because of the tickets distributed locally in Birmingham.
Understandably, Auburn was ready to withdraw from an arrangement in which the Tigers effectively played a "road" game in Birmingham each year. Alabama was less eager to sacrifice the historic Birmingham location for which the Iron Bowl was named. It was Ray Perkins who reportedly said, "It won't happen," when asked about the chances of moving the game to Auburn. But in 1988 Alabama gave in and agreed to come the following year.
The anticipation started instantly. Auburn coach Pat Dye compared Alabama's visit to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"Like the children of Israel entering the Promised Land, Auburn fans felt they had completed a journey they'd never imagined they would make — to Auburn to see the Alabama game," said longtime Auburn administrator David Housel. "The children of Israel had waited 40 years. Auburn fans had waited longer."
Ivan Maisel, then of the Dallas Morning News, opened his story this way: "Take a long look at that dateline. That this story is being written here, that 85,000 fans will congregate at Jordan-Hare Stadium on this particular Saturday, means more to Auburn University than any donation, any building, any academic achievement ever will."
The atmosphere surrounding the game would have been astronomical under any circumstance, but the game also had huge championship implications. The Tide came in with a perfect record and a No. 2 national ranking. Auburn was 8–2, but had only one SEC loss and was No. 11 in the country. (The records and rankings were remarkably similar to the 1972 "Punt, 'Bama, Punt!" game).
Alabama approached the trip to Auburn cautiously, with coach Bill Curry announcing that players had received death threats and that the FBI was investigating.
The game itself was wrapped in so much emotion that it may have taken players extra time to get focused. Auburn running back Stacy Danley was hammered on the first play of the game by Alabama nose guard Willie Wyatt, and a parade of trash-talking began. Players on both sides wanted badly to win.
"He was yelling and screaming and slobbering at the mouth," Danley said. "It looked like his head was coming through his helmet. He told me I wasn't getting anything that day. He was in my ear talking to me all that day."
Danley had 130 yards on 28 carries as Auburn built a 27–10 lead and held on for a 30–20 victory. The win gave the Tigers their third-consecutive SEC championship and fourth in seven years. The loss sent Curry (0–3 in Iron Bowls) packing to Kentucky. The Tigers went on to defeat Ohio State in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa, Florida.
Believe it or not, Alabama eventually followed Auburn's lead. The Tide kept its home game in Birmingham for about a decade, but decided to move its games to Tuscaloosa in 2000.
With Bryant-Denny Stadium recently enlarged and Legion Field increasingly decrepit, few Alabama fans opposed the decision.
The first game back in Tuscaloosa had none of the fanfare of Auburn's first game. Auburn won 9–0 on a cold, dreary day.CHAPTER 4
Ralph "Shug" Jordan
In 1950 Auburn's football team failed to win a game, an embarrassing low point that ended Earl Brown's three-year tenure. Georgia coaching legend Vince Dooley, then a freshman at Auburn, called it "probably the worst football team I've ever seen."
Auburn football was at a crucial juncture, and making the right hire was critically important. Auburn athletics director Jeff Beard knew who would turn the program around, and he wasted little time making it happen.
Ralph "Shug" Jordan, an Auburn man still stung by his snub three years earlier, sent a one-sentence application letter at Beard's urging. The search committee, stocked by Beard with Jordan partisans, had an easy choice. Newspapers said the Tigers were "starved for a winning ball team," and Jordan would waste little time satisfying fans and alumni.
Jordan was born on September 25, 1910, in Selma, Alabama. His dad worked for the railroads while "Shug," as he came to be known for his love of sugar cane, was deeply involved in youth sports at the local YMCA. Jordan enrolled at Auburn in 1928 and became a three-sport athlete — a center in football, a guard in basketball, and a left-handed pitcher in baseball. After college, his application to teach at one school was rebuffed because of his Catholic faith, so he returned to the Plains as an assistant coach for Chet Wynne.
During World War II, Jordan was a lieutenant who was part of invasions in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, and Okinawa. Wounded during the D-Day invasion, he received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Returning from the war in 1946, Jordan coached briefly for the Miami Seahawks of professional football before joining Wally Butts' staff at Georgia. Auburn picked Brown over Jordan in 1947, but corrected the mistake three seasons later.
Jordan turned things around in his first season. In his 25-year career, he won 176 games, an SEC championship, and a national championship. His teams played in 12 bowl games (missing another four due to NCAA probation) and featured 20 All-Americans, an Outland Trophy winner, and a Heisman Trophy winner. His teams finished in the top 20 of the Associated Press rankings 13 times, in the top 10 seven times, and in the top five four times. Twenty-two of his 25 teams finished with winning records.
Jordan planned to retire after his 25th season, and Doug Barfield was immediately tabbed as his successor. There were high expectations for the 1975 season (at least one preseason magazine picked Auburn to be national champions), but the Tigers struggled to a 4–6–1 record. Jordan went on to serve five years on Auburn's Board of Trustees until he died of leukemia in July 1980 at the age of 69.
He was posthumously inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1982. When fans selected Jordan as the coach for Auburn's 100-year team in 1992, he had been a part of 29 of those 100 seasons.
But Jordan was remembered for his character as much as his victories. "His record doesn't speak for him as a man," said Beard, one of his close friends. He cared deeply about his players. Lloyd Nix, quarterback of the 1957 championship team, remembered that "I never saw him when he didn't ask about my mother."
Excerpted from 100 Things Auburn Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Evan Woodbery. Copyright © 2012 Evan Woodbery. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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Table of Contents
1 The 2010 National Championship 1
2 The 1957 National Championship Team 3
3 When Alabama Came to Auburn: The 1989 Iron Bowl 6
4 Ralph "Shug" Jordan 9
5 The 2004 Undefeated Team 12
6 "Punt, 'Bama, Punt!": The Story of the 1972 Iron Bowl 15
7 Jordan-Hare Stadium 18
8 Bo Jackson 21
9 Pat Dye 27
10 Pat Sullivan 31
11 The Iron Bowl 35
11 Jimmy Hitchcock: Auburn's First All-American 38
13 Mike Donahue 40
14 Auburn-UGA in 1971 44
15 The Auburn Creed 46
16 2010 Iron Bowl: The Comeback 48
17 George Petrie: Coach and University Leader 50
18 The 1983 Season: Shunned by the Poll 53
19 Cam Newton 55
20 First Auburn-Alabama Game in 1893 58
21 Experience Tiger Walk 59
22 Media Watch 62
23 The History of Auburn's Uniforms 65
24 Terry Beasley 67
25 The SEC: How the League as We Know It Came to Be 71
26 The "Wreck Tech" Tradition and Auburn's 1955 Win 73
27 David Housel 76
28 Recruiting Players to the Plains 80
29 Pumping Iron: Auburn's Strength Program 82
30 On the Air: Auburn Radio Broadcasters 85
31 A Modern Rivalry: Auburn-LSU 88
32 Backfield Built for Two: Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams 91
33 John Heisman 94
34 Jeff Beard 98
35 Zeke Smith 100
36 Gene Chizik 103
37 The Sacrifices of James Owens and the First Black Players 107
38 Jason Campbell 110
39 Tommy Tuberville 113
40 Shake Hands with the Coach at an Auburn Club Meeting 117
41 Jimmy "Red" Phillips 119
42 Auburn's History in the Bowls 122
43 In the Classroom: Great Student-Athletes 125
44 The Eric Ramsey Case and Other Run-ins with the NCAA 128
45 Vince Dooley 131
46 The Changing Nature of Two-a-Days 134
47 Tucker Frederickson 137
48 The 1942 Georgia Upset 139
49 The Auburn University Band 142
50 The Bacardi Bowl 145
51 Aubie, the Lovable Mascot 147
52 Watch the Pregame Eagle Flight 151
53 Learn How to Tailgate on the Plains 153
54 Know What to Do When Auburn's on the Road 156
55 A Greatly Exaggerated Demise: 1972 Showed New Life 162
56 The Powerbrokers: Behind-the-Scenes Influences 164
57 Walter Gilbert and the Award That Bears His Name 166
58 The Championship Season of 1913 169
59 Tracy Rocker 171
60 Crowd Control 175
61 How Auburn Made Nine Picks in One Game 177
62 Jimmy Sidle 179
63 An Era of Defense: Bill Oliver, Gene Chizik, Will Muschamp 181
64 The LSU-Auburn Hurricane Ivan Game in 2004 185
65 Watch Auburn Get the ODK Trophy at Halftime 189
66 Roll Toomer's Corner on a Saturday Night 191
67 How a "Hiring Committee" Landed Jordan and Dye 194
68 Aundray Bruce 196
69 Go to Fan Day and Get an Autograph…from a Backup 198
70 Paul "Bear" Bryant and Auburn 199
71 Why Legion Field Never Really Felt Like Home 202
72 The Miserable 1950 Season 204
73 The Alma Mater and the Fight Song 206
74 Kendall Simmons 210
75 Have a Sip of Toomer's Legendary Lemonade 213
76 Bring the Kids to the Game 215
77 Terry Bowden 217
78 Doug Barfield: Following a Legend 221
79 How Auburn Snagged Carnell Williams 223
80 The Coldest Game Ever in Alabama? The 2000 Iron Bowl 225
81 Fob James 227
82 Auburn: The "Loveliest Village of the Plains" 230
83 Auburn's Athletic Facilities 232
84 Dameyune Craig 234
85 Topping Florida in 2001 237
86 Alabama-Auburn Freshman Game of 1968 239
87 Al Del Greco and Other Great Kickers 241
88 The Legend of War Eagle 244
89 Carlos Rogers 246
90 Jay Jacobs 249
91 Auburn Players in the Hall of Fame 251
92 Auburn in the NFL 253
93 Al Borges 255
94 Know Where to Eat in Town 260
95 The Story of Team Chaplain Chette Williams 262
96 Fear the Thumb 264
31 Bowden's First and Last Seasons 267
18 Know Where to Grab a Cold One 269
99 Tony Franklin and Gus Malzahn 271
100 The Story of the 1988 Sugar Bowl 274
About the Author 292