A Case For Renewing Auburn’s Second Oldest Rivalry
Starting in 2016, all SEC teams will be required to play at least one game against a team from one of the other Five Power conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, or ACC). As a result Auburn announced a two game series last week beginning in 2016 with a familiar old foe.
In fact, too familiar for a lot of fans. The news that Clemson was the chosen opponent was met with about as much enthusiasm from fans as hearing their spouse had scheduled a family reunion of the in-laws at their home.
Clemson is definitely a worthy opponent and would be good for anyone’s strength of schedule. The problem? Auburn has played the purple Tigers four times in the last seven years. Most fans want to see someone different. Some would like to see a team from the Pac12 or Big 10.
Others point to the long history of the two sets of Tigers as a reason to keep them on the schedule. When the two teams meet in Jordan-Hare on Sept. 3, 2016, it will mark the 50th meeting between the old non-conference rivals. I for one like the old sectional rivals. League expansion is doing away with a lot of those treasured series.
Series like the Auburn – Florida game. The Gators were the first SEC team to ever play Auburn at home and is one of the closest geographically to Auburn. The two teams have met 84 times. With expansion there’s not anything that can be done to put the two back together short of moving Auburn to the east and the league has rejected that idea.
However, there is another old rival that could be put back on the schedule …
A rival that dates back to 1892. When the two teams stop playing each other on a regular basis (in 1987), the game was known as the second oldest rivalry in the south.
The Deep South’s oldest rivalry began on February 20, 1892, when the Tigers defeated the Georgia Billy Goats 10-0. Nine months later on November 25, 1892, John Heisman’s Tigers defeated Georgia Tech 26-0. Twelve years later Heisman would become Tech’s Head Coach.
Having met 92 times, the Auburn – Tech series is still one of the oldest and most storied series in college football. There were great moments on both sides. I especially remember the 1985 game when Bo Jackson broke loose down the sideline to score a late touchdown and give Auburn a 17-14 victory.
And the ’87 game in Atlanta was really special when Auburn scored twice in the final 22 seconds to beat the Jackets 20-10. Defensive End, Aundray Bruce intercepted three passes returning the last one on the final play of the game for a 45 yard touchdown and kept on running right through the end zone and into the tunnel. But an even greater moment was when AU announcer Jim Fyffe made what was to become one of his most famous calls on the other score, “Tillman, Tillman, Tillman … At The Baseline Of The End Zone! A Bullet By Burger! Auburn Goes Ahead!” - The tape still brings goose bumps today.
From 1905 to 1987, Auburn and Georgia Tech played every year with the exception of 1943 when Auburn did not field a team because of World War II. The Yellow Jackets were the first team to play Auburn at home in 1896. And to this day that contest remains one of the most famous games in the history of the sport.
The game gave birth to Auburn’s “Wreck Tech Pajama Parade.” An old Auburn tradition before the annual game and one that Auburn students are missing out on today. As the story goes, Auburn students went out at night in their pajama’s and greased the railroad tracks the night before Tech was to arrive in the morning at Auburn.
Older Auburn alum remember the story of how the train couldn’t stop and slid through Auburn almost to Loachapoka 10 miles away. The Tech team had to walk back to Auburn carrying their luggage, and the tired Yellow Jackets were trounced by the Tigers 45-0. The event is so legendary that in 2013, USATODAY picked it as the second all-time greatest prank in the history of college football.
You can call me a sentimental old fool but rivalries are the fuel for college football and every time we lose one we lose a little bit of what makes the college game so special.
Auburn and Georgia Tech need to be back together. And now that the SEC and the ACC have to schedule one non conference opponent from the power 5 … the time has come for the two school’s administration to make it happen.
The picture at the top of the page is of Auburn playing Tech in Atlanta Nov. 24, 1921.