DKW 86 6,371 Posted August 28, 2006 Share Posted August 28, 2006 http://www.al.com/sports/huntsvilletimes/j....xml&coll=1 A clean rivalry, most of the timeSunday, August 27, 2006 Special Sections Dirty play unheard of when Alabama and Auburn meet In keeping with the theme of this year's special section on the upcoming 2006 football season, we've been asked to discuss the notion that the Alabama-Auburn rivalry isn't actually as dirty as the average fan might think. Happy to oblige. But first, we should offer an abbreviated overview of the impassioned series that splits an entire state along unbending lines of loyalty, not merely for a single Saturday in November but for 365 days a year: Bigger than big Several years ago, a graduate of the University of Missouri's school of journalism joined The Times newsroom as a special projects editor. One of his duties was to work closely with the sports department. When introducing the new man to the sports staff, the newspaper's editor said: "Just so you'll know, this poor guy isn't that familiar with the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry. He actually thinks Missouri-Kansas is a big game.'' It didn't take long for the new man to learn about the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. One season was more than enough. How big is Alabama-Auburn? Or Auburn-Alabama, if you prefer? Bigger than most. Bigger than big. As big as it gets. Long ago, someone said: "If you grow up in Alabama, or even if you just move to Alabama later on, even if you attended another university, you still have to choose. It's either Auburn or Alabama. There's no middle ground.'' It's even more true today than in the late 1940s, when the rivalry was finally patched up after a nasty 41-year divorce. This is a rivalry that often divides marriages, siblings and extended families. This is a rivalry that sometimes touches off mayhem and actual bodily harm. This is a rivalry that frequently threatens long-standing friendships. Silly and childish? Sure. After all, it's just a game, isn't it? Sure it is. But try selling that idea to hundreds of thousands of Alabamians who somehow believe the very self-worth of their existence hinges on the outcome of the Alabama-Auburn football game. In every meaningful poll every taken, Alabama-Auburn ranks alongside Michigan-Ohio State, Notre Dame-USC, Oklahoma-Texas, Army-Navy (and lately, Alabama-Tennessee) on a list of the bitterest rivalries in the country. Most put it at the top. Historically, Alabama-Auburn has been a streaky series, both in the early days and especially after 1948, when the series resumed at the initiative of the two school presidents. Auburn was ahead seven games to four when the rivalry, which began in 1893, ended with a 6-all tie in 1907. A dispute over finances and travel expenses - not a fight on the field, as many suppose - halted the series after 11 games. It returned with a bang. Alabama won 55-0 in 1948, but then lost 14-13 the following year in what is still considered the biggest upset in the history of the rivalry. Alabama won four in a row from 1950-53, but then Auburn, under coach Shug Jordan, won five straight from 1954-58 to take a 13-9-1 advantage. Alabama pulled away dramatically over the next quarter-century when Bear Bryant returned to his alma mater. Bryant lost his first game to Auburn (in 1958) and his last (in 1982), but his overall record against Alabama's cross-state opponent was 19-6. His teams won five in a row from 1964-68 and nine straight from 1973-81. When Bryant retired after the 1982 season, Alabama was leading 28-18-1. Since 1983, however, Auburn has closed the gap to 38-31-1 by winning 13 times to Alabama's 10. The Crimson Tide's longest streak since the Bryant era has been three (under Gene Stallings from 1990-92). Auburn, on the other hand, won four in a row under Pat Dye (1986-89), and the Tigers have won the last four (and five of the last six since 2000) under Tommy Tuberville. So ... how big is Alabama-Auburn? Put it this way: It's not Missouri-Kansas. A higher plane Back to our original premise. It's true, you know. Despite its larger-than-life reality, the rivalry between Auburn and Alabama really isn't as dirty as many people imagine. Not on the football field, anyway. In contrast to many in-state rivalries (Ole Miss-Mississippi State, for example), nobody can remember the last time - or even the first time - an ugly brawl broke out in an Alabama-Auburn game. Indeed, it's difficult to recall a single fight between any individual players in the past 50-something years. The fans, particularly those on the lunatic fringe, are a different story. On the Internet message boards and chat rooms, rumor-mongering and mindless sniping between the two factions worsens with each passing year. It also seems anything goes nowadays on many of the radio talk shows, where shopworn slanders and pretentious prattle abound. Good sportsmanship, sadly, has become as outmoded as the single wing. But thankfully, the players at the two schools always seem to rise above such manufactured nonsense. An oft-told story comes to mind. Former Auburn linebacker Gusty Yearout remembers a pregame coin toss when he and the Alabama captain, Ken Stabler, met at midfield one day in the '60s. Yearout says he was trying hard to work up a mad-on for everybody on the opposing sideline ... until Stabler said, "Hey, Gusty. Win or lose, we're having a big party tonight at our hotel. Why don't you come and bring along a bunch of your guys?'' And that's what they did. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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