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