Love to hate: Iron Bowl rivalry stands alone atop the college football world
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

You won't get far in the state of Alabama without hearing an emphatic "Roll Tide" or "War Eagle" - it's just the first sign that people in the region take their college football a little more seriously than the rest of the country.

And when it comes to rivalries across the United States, there is none that brings more hate from the opposing side than the annual Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama.

Distance between schools: 155 miles
Other Power 5 schools in state: 0
Series record: Alabama leads 45-36-1

Why they hate each other

Obvious reasons? The close proximity in which fans of the schools live, and the fact that there aren't any professional sports teams around to steal attention. With 4.8 million residents, Alabama is the second-largest state in the country, behind Virginia, without a professional sports franchise.

However, there's more to the hate, as a quick dive into the history of the rivalry will show.

The animosity actually dates back to 1862, when a vicious debate ensued in the state legislature over the location of a new land-grant college. The government was heavily influenced by University of Alabama alumni, and the majority pushed to have the new school in Tuscaloosa, the same city as the main campus of Alabama.

After four years, the debate was finally settled when Lee County and the city of Auburn donated 100 acres of land and existing buildings for a site. It wasn't done there, however, as the legislature withheld funding and put the school near financial ruin.

The withholding of funds for Auburn, and the continued attempts to move the school to Birmingham by the heavily influenced Alabama legislature, would continue for years as tensions between schools only rose.

The combatants first met on the football field on Feb. 22, 1893, with Auburn winning 32-22. The series was so heated in the early years that a suspension was needed after the 1907 game, and lasted all the way until 1948. The main sticking point in the suspension, which would seem unbelievable in today's world, was per diem expenses and what area the game officials would come from.

Finally, in 1947, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a resolution telling the schools to get past their differences and re-institute the game. The school presidents would eventually do just that and decide to play the contest at Birmingham's Legion Field. One of the main reasons for the Birmingham venue was Alabama's refusal to travel to Auburn in the eastern part of the state.

Legion Field was supposed to be a neutral site that didn't favor either side, but former Auburn player and trustee Morris Savage disputed that, claiming Birmingham was "as neutral as the beaches of Normandy were on D-Day." (Ledger-Enquirer)

It would be decades before Alabama finally agreed to make the trip to Auburn in 1989, a decision Tigers coach Pat Dye likened to the falling of the Berlin Wall.

"I'm sure that (the scene) must have resembled what went on the night the wall came down in Berlin," Dye said, as per the Los Angeles Times. "I mean, it was like (Auburn fans) had been freed and let out of bondage, just having this game at Auburn."

The rivalry has featured on the national stage since Nick Saban took the head coaching position with the Crimson Tide in 2007, with the Iron Bowl often serving as a pivotal game in the race for the College Football Playoff.


"The rivalry runs a whole lot deeper for the fans because they're the ones cheering. You've got husbands sleeping in basements and wives sleeping in the master bedroom and good friends don't speak. But unless you've experienced it, the things I'm telling you about are just the tip of the iceberg. And it's a big-ass iceberg." - Bo Jackson (ESPN's 30 for 30, "Roll Tide/War Eagle")

"Alabama accusing Auburn of cheating is like Snooki telling Halle Berry she's ugly." - Charles Barkley (ESPN's 30 for 30, "Roll Tide/War Eagle")

"Sure I'd like to beat Notre Dame, don't get me wrong, but nothing matters more than beating that cow college on the other side of the state." - Bear Bryant (Tuscaloosa News)

The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn because I lived 30 miles away, and I poisoned the two Toomer's trees. I put Spike 80DF in 'em. They're not dead yet, but they definitely will die." - Alabama fan Harvey Updyke to broadcaster and columnist Paul Finebaum

*Updyke would serve six months in jail and was ordered to pay a $800,000 fine to Auburn for the act of poisoning the on-campus trees


The craziest ending to an Iron Bowl, and arguably of any college football game, was the 2013 edition that was won by Auburn on Chris Davis' 109-yard return for a touchdown on a missed Alabama field goal as time expired

Another game that ended on a kick - this time in Alabama's favor - was the 1985 contest that saw Van Kiffin nail a 52-yarder as time expired.

Arguably the most talented player to ever grace the field in the rivalry was Bo Jackson, whose over-the-top plunge gave Auburn the win in Alabama coaching legend Bear Bryant's last Iron Bowl.

Love to hate: Iron Bowl rivalry stands alone atop the college football world
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