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To Know Where You Are Going You Have To Know Where You Have Been (Iron Bowl ’89 Edition)

By on June 18th, 2013 in Football, Memories 5 Comments »

December 2, 1989 as former Coach Pat Dye put it,  “It’s going to be the most emotional day in Auburn history.” It was the first time Alabama played a football game in Jordon Hare Stadium and it was just that, emotional!

Once the series was resumed in 1948 after a 41 year break all the games were played in Legion Field in Birmingham. Both the AU and UA stadiums were not the cathedrals they are today it made sense at that time to use the much larger venue in Birmingham. The problem with that for AU was that it was a de-facto home game for Bama. They played 3 to 4 games a year there and it was only an hour from campus. Morris Savage, a former player and trustee said the field was “as neutral as the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.”

Bear Bryant was not willing to give up any competitive advantage he held and Bama dug in. Even after he retired, coach Ray Perkins said, “Alabama will never play in Auburn.” He even said he would support dropping the series before played on the Plains.

The pieces of the puzzle on how to get the game on campus started falling into place when Auburn hired Wyoming coach Pat Dye in 1981. He met with Bryant and the first words out of Bears mouth was, “I guess you’re going to want to move the game”, to which Dye said, We’re going to move the game.”  Bryant responded, “Well not as long as I’m coaching” Well, you ain’t going to coach forever, “ said Dye. Bear replied with, “Well, we’ve got a contract through ’88 to which Dye said, “We’ll play ’89 in Auburn. Little did either of them really know that he was dead on.

Alabama came into the game at 10-0 and aiming for a Natty after ruining the first game on the plains but things did not quite go as planned. Dye said, “We had a better football team than Alabama, they just didn’t know it.”

Over 20,000 Auburn fans lined Donahue Drive, fullback James Joseph was hyperventilating in the locker room afterwards, and now sideline reporter Quentin Riggins said, “That was the most electric, emotional Tiger Walk I’ve ever been a part of.” The AU faithful surrounded the Bama buses and rocked them so much, Curry had them pull inside the fence to off load the Bama players.

I will not go into the fine details of the game itself because everyone now knows Auburn won the game 30-20, and sent Bill Curry off to Kentucky. Stacy Danley ran for 130 yards and the AU defense held Bamas star running back Siran Stacey to only 53 yards rushing.

Then Athletic Director, David Housel put it all into perspective when he said, “Like the children of Israel entering the Promised Land, Auburn fans felt they had completed a journey they’d never imagined they would make, to Auburn to see the Alabama game. The children of Israel waited 40 years, Auburn fans had waited longer.”

Stop me if you have heard this one

An Alabama fan walks into the doctor’s office one day with a hat on.  He takes off his hat, and the doctor sees that there is a big frog sitting right on top of his head.  The doctor looks at the man and asks him why he has a frog sitting on his head.  It was the frog who replied “Actually doc, I was the one who wanted to see you. Can you remove this wart off my butt?”


  1. Autgr91 says:

    I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I had a front row seat to Tiger Walk (I was lucky enough that our Engineering Club earned money by parking cars in the old lot where Plainsman Park now sits, and it was my day to work!), and it truly was amazing. I have been a part of countless Tiger Walk’s, but you could just tell that everyone there felt like this day was Auburn’s. When I got into the stadium (we were supposed to man the parking lot until the official game start time, but of course when I heard the band come on the field I pulled the chain over the driveway and sprinted in) I saw only a cloud of dust that I later learned came from the shaker’s that were everywhere! I can remember that feeling, that KNOWING, that no matter what, Alabama would not beat us on that day. I never was worried the entire game becuase we all knew that Auburn would do what it took to win that game. It was an awesome day, and I’ll always be grateful to Pat Dye for pushing and pushing until the game was brought to Auburn. I know he had help, but he was the voice that helped make the issue public enough to actually happen. Anyway, thanks for stirring up those memories-not a bad way to start the day! War Eagle!

    • KoolBell KoolBell says:

      That’s funny you say it that way.

      I had told some Bama friends that they could dress out the 1963 Packers in that ugly Red and White uniform and they would still lose that day! You can’t imagine the laughs and gestures, but deep down they knew there was trouble ahead.

      My vindication was hearing them bemoan how bad a coach Bill Curry was.

      It never dawned on them how important this was to the AU faithful. Pat Dye read parts of letters from soldiers, and alumni in retirement homes to the players all week long. Our men in Blue had every bit of sense of what this game meant.

      On to vic’try!

  2. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Without a doubt the greatest day in ‘The’ history of Jordan-Hare. It was the watershed moment for Auburn Football. And for me, being there was one of the top 5 events of my lifetime. Coach Dye will always be like Moses. I look back on that day like the children of Israel look back on the parting of the Red Sea. Once again My Auburn … great post.

  3. wde21 says:

    Definitely one of the top five days in my life!! The crowd was so loud and I can still remember the orange and blue haze over the crowd from the paper shakers. I knew Coach Dye would do whatever it took to win after we went long to Alexander Wright on the first series. On a side note I was seven months pregnant and my husband was very worried that all of the excitement would send me in to early labor! I tell my daughter(who recently graduated from Auburn) that she gets her love for Auburn from experiencing the 89 game from the womb. Thanks for the article- great memories!

  4. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..The real reason that Legion Field was not like an Auburn game was a bit more complicated than some folks believe. The way that stadium was originally financed was the sale of “stadium certificates.” I’m not sure what the original figure was, something on the order of $25,000 per seat, which was an astronomical sum back in the early 20th century. In modern dollars, it would be like coughing up a million bucks. Over ten thousand of these certificates were sold, and the vast majority of the buyers were Bama fans. Auburn did not have the same following back during that era, and teetered on the edge of bankruptcy several times.

    …..The stadium certificate guaranteed the right to purchase a premium seat ticket (at face value) for any event held at the stadium. Whether it was a high school football game, Alabama/Auburn college game, or even a concert. When ever tickets were to go on sale, the certificate holders got first crack. In practice at the Iron Bowl, that gave Bama over 9000 fans in a 75,000 seat stadium BEFORE the so-called 50-50 split. So if you ever were at any of those Iron Bowls and it seemed like more Bama fans in the stadium than Auburn, it was not your imagination.