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1989 Iron Bowl Will Forever be One of the Top Events of a Lifetime (With Video)

By on November 26th, 2019 in Football, News 15 Comments »

AubTigerman's felt poster purchased at the 1989 Iron Bowl.

It’s finally here, the biggest week of the college football season. This is Iron Bowl week. There’s nothing else like it in college sports. It’s the renewal of the nation’s No.1 rivalry—Auburn vs. Alabama. This is a series where games are remembered by special names such as “Bo over the top,” “The Kick,” “Punt Bama punt,” “The Cam back,” and “Kick Six.” Yes, when it comes to college football, it doesn’t get any better than this.

But of all the great games of all the Iron Bowls, none stand out to me as much as December 2, 1989. This Saturday will mark the 30th anniversary of the greatest Iron Bowl in history. And to this day it ranks as one of the top five most important events of my life.  

Up until that Saturday, Auburn was forced to play every Iron Bowl at Alabama’s home away from home, nearby Legion Field in Birmingham. The Tide called it a neutral site, but it was anything but neutral. As Alabama’s stadium was too small at the time to host large crowds, it played all their big games at Legion Field.  And adding insult to injury, the so-called neutral site boasted a statue of Bear Bryant.

Since coming to Auburn eight years earlier, Coach Pat Dye had worked tirelessly to get the game moved to a home-and-home series. And Alabama’s administration along with Head Coach Ray Perkins had worked just as tirelessly to prevent it from happening. In fact, Perkins had said it would never happen. Even after it appeared Dye would win the tug of war, the city of Birmingham brought a lawsuit to prevent Auburn from hosting the game on the Plains.

But Dye prevailed, and the game came to Auburn for the first time ever. I remember it like it was yesterday. The atmosphere on campus was electric all week, building up to Saturday. In fact it was so much so that the Auburn players had to be bused out of town to get some rest the night before.

On Saturday, the stadium was packed out with an estimated 20,000 people outside the stadium listening to it on radio. And there must have been 25,000 people at Tiger Walk. Back then, players usually walked four and five abreast though the fans, but on that day the crowd was so large that there was only room to meander through the orange and blue throng as people shouted and slapped them on the back.

Grown men cried, and people climbed trees and stood on top of cars and RV’s just to get a glimpse of the team as the players filed by. It was so loud and emotional that some players hyperventilated. Running back Stacey Danley told reporters, “The game was over that morning at Tiger Walk. It wouldn’t have mattered who we played.”

Still there are no words that can adequately describe what it felt like to be there. It’s like trying to tell someone what it’s like to hold a first born child in his or her arms. Yon can tell people, but only when they experience it for themselves can they fully grasp the magnitude of the moment.

The 1989 Iron Bowl was more than a game. It was a deliverance from the oppression of not being allowed to play our home games at home. It was one of the biggest reasons for the Tide’s dominance for more than three decades. In the 30 years before the game was moved Alabama held an 18–9 record. Since the home-and-home format was instituted, Auburn leads the series 14–13 and is 9–5 in games played in Jordan – Hare.

Alabama came into Jordan-Hare undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation. But at the end of the day, the Tide left Auburn with a 30–20 defeat. There have been many great moments. Games like the “Kick Six” were thrilling at the end, but the first Iron Bowl in Auburn was thrilling every moment of the entire game. We stood most of the game, but when the Tigers went up 27–10, I was so excited, I had to sit down for a moment as I was getting faint headed.

Bama fought hard and made it close at the end but the emotional wave that poured over the stadium made it almost impossible for them to win. Talk about your 12th man, I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since. It was loud before the game, during the game, and after the game.

And when Auburn’s Alexander Wright caught a 44-yard pass on the opening drive, it was like a huge bomb went off in an already loud stadium. Alabama center Roger Schultz said, “The field was shaking it was so loud.” And it stayed that way till the final horn blew.

Being there still ranks as one of the Top 5 events of my lifetime. The first one was my spiritual conversion, No. 2 was marrying my wife. Nos. 3 and 4 were the birth of my two sons, and No. 5 was, and will forever remain, being at the first ever Iron Bowl on The Plains. War Eagle and …

Beat Bama!


  1. AUglenn says:

    Wish I could be at a game like that sometime. I wasn’t born yet but I’ve heard people talk about it and read so much about it that it makes me wish I had been born earlier. It just sounds like it was amazing. Thanks for posting. Enjoyed reading about how you felt being there.
    Beat Bama!

    • uglyjoe says:

      AUGlenn, I was there too and it was everything ATM says…….but stay away from born earlier sentiment; getting old is not all it’s cracked up to be.

  2. AUwaterboy AUwaterboy says:

    I was there! And your’re right, words can not fully express what it was like to be at that AU-some game. But thanks for trying, brought back a lot of feelings and a lot of memories. There’ll never be anything like it again. War Eagle!

  3. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..That was the last Iron Bowl I took in at my parents’ house. It had been an interesting year. Auburn’s offense had really struggled. In Knoxville, we kept snapping the ball over the punter’s head, and lost 21-14. We were down 19-3 at the half in Tallahassee, but battled back to lose to FSU 22-14. Even the wins were tight. Had to return a punt for a score to beat LSU 10-6 at Jordan Hare. A last second touchdown bomb to Shane Wasden rescued a 10-7 win over Florida. We only beat an awful Mississippi State team 14-0.

    …..In “Amen Corner,” we went to Athens and beat a fading Bulldog team 20-3. Of course, Vince Dooley had retired the year before, and it was clear that replacement Ray Goff was in over his head. Then Auburn hosted Alabama for the first time ever.

    …..Frankly, I was worried about this game. The Auburn offense could hardly buy touchdowns against anyone with a pulse. And, that Alabama/Bill Curry/Homer Smith offense was scary in 1989. They could move and score lots of points on anybody.

    …..Auburn struggled to score again in the first half, but some Slack to Wright bombs loosened the D up. In the second half, Auburn threatened to run away with the game, but went into prevent-D and O mode, and the final margin was 30-20.

    …..Auburn finished the season 9-2, 6-1 in the SEC. They were SEC co-Champions along with Alabama and Tennessee. Auburn got the short end of the straw on bowl picks, as Alabama went to the Sugar Bowl despite losing the Iron Bowl, and battled to a 31-26 loss to number one Miami. Tennessee went to the Citrus Bowl, and won, I think. Don’t remember who they played.

    …..Auburn headed to the Hall of Fame Bowl, in Tampa. It kicked off early on New Years morning, at 11:30 AM. New Years Day, but it was certainly hangover time for this still-single guy! Auburn played with a hangover early, as well, falling behind Ohio State 14-3. A brutal hit on Tiger running back Stacy Danley seemed to wake the team up. The Buckeyes would not score again, and Auburn ran away with a 31-14 win, and a 10-2 finish to the season.

    …..We thought Auburn had finally made it to the promised land, with 4 straight wins over Alabama, and 3 straight SEC titles. This feeling would persist through much of 1990, till the duo of Steve Spurrier and Eric Ramsey seemed to punt Auburn off the tracks for a few years.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Good recap Acid. I too was very nervous about that game. I truly think it was the once in a life time atmosphere that made the win possible. I hated it for Bill Curry. He was a good coach who probably should have stayed at Ga. Tech. He was never really accepted by the fan base and his days were numbered when he lost the third time to Auburn. As to the mention of Eric Ramsey, I looked up Benedict Arnold in the dictionary and saw a picture of Ramsey.

  4. WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

    Never been to a stadium that had a better atmosphere for a football game and I have been to a bunch including South Bend, Ohio State – Mich and the 2017 Super Bowl. It was because Auburn fans had waited a long time to get the game out of that so called ‘neutral’ Legion Field. Former Auburn A.D. David Housel said it best when he said, “Legion Field was about as neutral as the beaches of Normandy on D-Day”

  5. Orangeblood says:

    “The Tide called it a neutral site, but it was anything but neutral. As Alabama’s stadium was too small at the time to host large crowds, it played all their big games at Legion”

    “In the 30 years before the game was moved Alabama (only) held an 18–9 record”

    Looks like the Tigers won a pretty respectable share in the Tides own front yard.

    War Eagle!

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Six of those nine wins came in the 80's under Pat Dye. Bama held a 19 – 4 lead in the 23 years before Dye arrived on the Plains in 1981. Adding insult to injury, Bama had won nine straight. Coach Dye put the word "rivalry" back in the game.

  6. Orangeblood says:

    Hope Auburn kicks bammers talk of the CFP to the curb.

  7. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    All 9 of us were there [children included], however we only had 8 tickets. We had no ticket for our 2 year old son and planned on buying a single ticket from a scalper and have our 2 year old sit in my lap. Whew! The prices of a single ticket were astronomical. My wife said she would stay at our tailgate location [Funches Hall] and listen on the radio.

    I went into Funches to use the restroom and the fellow at the next urinal began talking about the game. I told him I needed one ticket to get our youngest child in the gate….and he stuffed a single ticket into my shirt pocket. I could not turn around as I was busy urinating. I yelled thank you and he shouted WAR DAM EAGLE! as he exited the restroom door.

    It was a great game! We all sat together and had the BEST time. So….Mr. Mercedes driver; if you are reading this comment, thank you, BEAT BAMA and of course WAR DAM EAGLE.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Great story Easy Edwin,
      That’s why they call it, “”the Auburn Family.”

  8. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Great story Easy Edwin,
    That’s why they call it, “”the Auburn Family.”

  9. Great post. Brings back so many memories. I was looking for tickets for weeks before the game and finally bought a couple outside the stadium. Face value of 2 tickets was $36.00 but I paid $180 for a pair which was an astronomical price in 1989. That was 5 times the face value of $18.00 ea. To compare that with 2019 money, I bought Georgia tickets this year that had a face value of $140.00ea. so if I had bought a pair for 5 times that face value, they would've cost me $1400.00.
    But I'm so glad I bought the '89 Iron Bowl tickets. It was worth it and after all these years, I still have the tickets.

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