By Kelly Baughman
Few things are more important in the great state of Alabama than football, and no game compares to the Iron Bowl. Whether it’s an Auburn or an Alabama fan, one thing is for sure…..there’s never a lack of passion for their team. With the biggest game of the year on the horizon, here’s a few things that make this college rivalry great.
Believe it or not, there’s more than football that makes these Alabama schools bitter enemies. It all began shortly after the Civil War when the state legislature initiated a bitter debate over the location of a new land-grant college that was developed under the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. The University of Alabama alumni lobbied for the legislature to build the school in Tuscaloosa as part of their already established University.
For four years the debate continued, until the City of Auburn donated more than 100 acres of land and existing buildings in return for the new school. For the next few decades, the heavily Bama influenced legislature withheld funding and caused hang up after hang up leaving the school on the verge of financial collapse. The school’s failure would mean U of A would gain control.
Somehow Auburn prevailed through the tough times, but a bitter hate for Bama emerged and was fueled once again in 1945 when it came to light that the University of Alabama was referring to Auburn as “the illegitimate child of Alabama born out of the misery of the reconstruction period.” For years, the two schools refused to play one another, and upon the state threatening their funding, play resumed in 1948 in Birmingham.
The ‘Iron Bowl’, as it is referred to, was said to have been named in 1964 by Auburn’s legendary coach, Ralph “Shug” Jordan when asked about a disappointing season and lack of a bowl bid, he replied, “We’ve got our bowl game. We have it every year. It’s the Iron Bowl in Birmingham.”
The name stuck as Birmingham was one of the nation’s top iron and steel producers after the Civil War, and the “Pittsburgh of the South” was as tough and resilient as the teams she hosted.
This year’s Iron Bowl will be the 83rd meeting between the two rivals, with the 2018 game being the 71st consecutive year the teams have met. Bama holds the lead in the series with a 46-35-1 record.
And while the majority of the games, 53 to be exact, have been played in Birmingham, the Iron Bowl has actually been played in four cities, including Auburn (13), Tuscaloosa (11), and Montgomery (4). In 1998, the schools decided to alternate meetings at their respective stadiums, and left the Iron City behind. This year, Alabama will have home field advantage as the game takes place in Tuscaloosa.
So what makes this game so important? Usually a National Title is on the line for one, if not both, teams. In fact, Auburn’s two championships came after beating Bama in the Iron Bowl, and ten of Bama’s titles came after taking Auburn down. Neither team has gone on to win a National Championship after losing to the other, so a win in the Iron Bowl is pivotal.
This year, Alabama is once again favored to win the Iron Bowl as they continue to ‘Roll’ through the season with impressive wins over every opponent they’ve faced. And although Auburn hasn’t been favored to win the Iron Bowl since 2007, everyone knows that anything can happen in this wild card game. Who could forget the legendary “Kick Six” back in 2013?
The rivalry that has divided homes and ended friendships still runs deep in the state of Alabama and beyond. So whether you say “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle” this Thanksgiving weekend, the 83rd Iron Bowl is sure to be full of excitement, passion, and pride for all those who call Alabama home.