This Saturday Auburn will honor the 1983 SEC Championship Team. To younger fans the men on the field will be nothing more than balding former players from a long-ago generation.
For me they will always represent the best-of-the-best. Regardless of how many championships Auburn wins in the future, there will never be another team like that 1983 squad – my all-time favorite.
I was born in 1969. I was an eighth grader before I ever had a recollection of an Auburn win over Alabama. It wasn’t easy growing up Auburn in the 1970’s. At times, it was downright miserable.
Then along came Pat Dye and by 1983, Auburn was a national power for the first time in my life. As hard as it is to believe now, I used to wonder as a kid whether the rest of the country even knew about Auburn football.
Then it happened.
For a young high school kid, it was the most magical football season of my life. Randy Campbell. Bo Jackson. Lionel James. Gregg Carr. Donnie Humphrey. Doug Smith. Tommy Agee. I could list every single player.
Despite being 30 years ago, I can still remember sitting with my family in Section 43 in the north end-zone of Jordan-Hare Stadium. I can still see the faces who sat around me so long ago.
That season made all those years of futility worth it. I finally understood what it meant to be an Auburn man, even if I was still a boy.
This team would go on to finish 11-1 and defeat Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. It was Auburn’s first SEC Championship in 26 years. You guessed it, the first conference title since Auburn claimed the national championship way back in 1957.
There would be no national title that season. Like other years, Auburn came up short. Many would say they were flat out robbed. When second-ranked Texas lost on New Year’s afternoon and number one Nebraska lost in the Orange Bowl that night, Auburn players thought they had a title.
Unfortunately, NBC who was carrying the Orange Bowl, quickly touted the contest as the national title game following the Texas lost and voters were persuaded, awarding the championship to Miami who upset Nebraska on the final play of the game.
It remains one of the great travesties in college football history.
More than any other team, the 1983 squad set the stage for Auburn dominating the decade. Those of you who sit in the east upper deck can thank this team for your seat. It would not be there without them.
Their success paved the way for an Auburn renaissance that continues today. When they are introduced Saturday night, put your food and drink down for a second and stand up and give them a loud ovation.
Auburn wouldn’t be Auburn without them.
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