|First meeting||February 22, 1893
Auburn 32, Alabama 22
|Latest meeting||November 26, 2016
Alabama 30, Auburn 12
|Next meeting||November 25, 2017|
|Trophy||James E. Foy, V-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy|
|All-time series||Alabama leads, 45–35–1 (.562)|
|Largest victory||Alabama, 55–0 (1948)|
|Longest win streak||Alabama, 9 (1973–81)|
|Current win streak||Alabama, 3 (2014–present)|
The Iron Bowl 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.
As the rivalry was played in Birmingham, Alabama for many years, the name of the Iron Bowl comes from Birmingham's historic role in the steel industry. Alabama leads the series 45–35–1. 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 at Legion Field in Birmingham, 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. Auburn has an 8–5 record in games played at Jordan–Hare Stadium and a 7–4 record in games played in Tuscaloosa, with 5 of those wins coming at Bryant-Denny.
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 the two schools have been among the nation's elite teams for most of the last 60 years. Together, they account for 33 SEC titles, 25 by Alabama and eight by Auburn. Both are among the winningest programs in college football history; Alabama is seventh while Auburn is 16th. 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 but 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 three editions, losing in a semifinal in 2014 and winning the title game in 2015.[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 reactionary "redeemer" forces from the Democratic Party gradually overturned the Radicals control of the legislature. The Democrats then attempted to over-turn most legislation passed during the Reconstruction Period, including the founding of the new land-grant college at Auburn.
During the 1870s, the state legislature 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. Then 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, still controlled by University of Alabama alumni, still appeared intent on letting Auburn "dry out". Meanwhile, tensions carried over to the football rivalry when, after both 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 official reasons being that the schools could not come to agreement over the amount of travel expenses to be paid to players, as well as from where officials for the game should be obtained.
Attacks on Auburn's existence continued by the legislature. In 1915, appropriations to Auburn were withheld, which continued at times through the 1930s. 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 had resulted from "the illogic inherent in the evolution of a democratic government." While it was indeed true that American higher education was relatively democratized, with the consequent scattering of resources, the Alabama report had a haughty tone that drew a sharp response from President Luther Duncan (then Auburn President), 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." Auburn could not be ignored at this point or "coldly and systematically strangled to death," or at least choked "until such time as it should become so weak that......it could be absorbed" by the University of Alabama. The return of the Iron Bowl in 1948 solidified the permanence of the land-grant university at Auburn.
In 1947, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a resolution encouraging the schools to "make possible the inauguration of a full athletic program between the two schools". The schools were disinclined to resume the series despite the passage of the resolution, since it did not have the effect of law. However, the Alabama State Legislature threatened to withhold state funding from the schools unless they did resume the rivalry. With that threat in mind, Alabama president John Gallalee and Auburn president Ralph B. Draughon decided during the winter and spring of 1948 to end the disagreement and renew the series.
The games would be played in Birmingham because it was home to the largest stadium in the state, 44,000-seat Legion Field, as well as Alabama's refusal to travel to Auburn due to the difficulty in reaching that part of Alabama for much of the 20th century. Alabama wasn't the only school that was skeptical about coming to the Plains; Tennessee refused to play in Auburn until 1974, and Georgia Tech did not travel to Auburn from 1900 to 1970. Tickets would be split evenly between the two schools. Alabama won the first game when the series renewed 55–0, still the most lopsided victory of the series.
By 1980 the series had come to be called the Iron Bowl due to Birmingham's prominence as a center of iron and steel production. The term Iron Bowl was coined by Auburn's coach at the time, Shug Jordan. Alabama's coach, Bear Bryant, said he preferred calling the game the Brag Bowl, since the winner's fans got to brag all year long.
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. Although ostensibly a neutral site, Legion Field is only 45 minutes east of Tuscaloosa. While Auburn frequently played important games at Legion Field, the stadium had long been associated with Alabama football. Most of Alabama's "home" football history from the 1920s to the 1980s actually took place at Legion Field; well into the 1980s, Alabama played most of its important games in Birmingham. For this reason, Auburn began lobbying to make the Iron Bowl a "home-and-home" series. Finally, the schools reached an agreement where Auburn could play their home games for the Iron Bowl in Auburn starting in 1989 (except for the 1991 game, which was played 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, exceeding Legion Field by a few hundred. 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 within the state 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 Award
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 scores all of the game's points in a 10–0 victory. Auburn contended Alabama player T. S. Sims was an illegal player. The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) denied the claim. Alabama coach Doc Pollard used a "military shift" never before seen in the south.
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. It 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 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.
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. In August 2010, ESPN.com ranked the game as the 8th most painful outcome in college 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's to become the all-time winningest FBS coach at the time. It was the final game in Alabama's 9 game winning streak over Auburn, the longest such streak in Iron Bowl history.
1982: With two minutes left, Auburn drove the length of the field and scored when running back Bo Jackson jumped over the top of the defensive line for a touchdown. Auburn won 23–22. The victory ended Alabama's nine-game winning streak over Auburn. This would be the last Iron Bowl coached by Bear Bryant, who would retire after the season and pass away just 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 him out of bounds and seal the victory.
1986: With Alabama leading 17–14 with 32 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter, Lawyer Tillman ran through traffic around the left end on a reverse play on 2nd and goal from the 8 to give Auburn a 21–17 victory.
1989: In the first Iron Bowl played at Jordan–Hare Stadium, Auburn defeated Alabama 30–20.
1993: #6 Auburn defeated #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.
2005: Auburn set a new school and series record by sacking Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle 11 times. Seven different Auburn players recorded at least half a sack in the game, leading Auburn to a 28–18 victory.
2006: Auburn defeated Alabama 22–15 in Tuscaloosa for a fifth straight win in the series. The loss led to the firing of Alabama head coach Mike Shula.
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 6 game Iron Bowl winning streak, their longest winning streak 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 4-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 after overcoming a 24–0 deficit, outscoring Alabama 28–3 over the remainder of the game. This was the largest comeback win in series history.
2013: With 1 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 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 won the ESPY Award for "Best Play".
2014: With Auburn leading 33–21 midway through the third quarter, Alabama outscored Auburn 34–11 in the last quarter and a half to defeat Auburn 55–44, the highest scoring game in series history.
Since 1893, the Crimson Tide and Tigers have played 81 times. Alabama leads the series 45-35-1. 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 (7–4) and Auburn (8–5). The series is tied in Montgomery (2–2). Alabama leads the series since it was resumed in the modern era in 1948 (41-28). 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||Ties|
- 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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