The last regular season week of college football is known to everyone in the country as rivalry week. This week brings out the football fan in everyone as they cheer on their favorite team or alma mater against their biggest rival. Rivalry week gives a football fan one of the biggest accomplishments if they win, bragging rights for the entire year.
But there is one rivalry game that runs deeper than all the others.
The Iron Bowl, the rivalry game that has more passion and history than any other rivalry game, played between the two biggest public universities in the state of Alabama, the University of Alabama and Auburn University
The first meeting between Alabama and Auburn took place on February 22, 1893 in Lakeview Park in Birmingham, AL. Auburn won the game 32-22. The rivalry continued almost every year until the series was suspended after the 1907 game. Auburn head coach, Mike Donahue, had threatened to end the series after that game if Alabama would not stop using their elaborate shifts and formations. His wish came true when the rivalry series was canceled, but the official reason was stated that it was because the schools could not agree on travel expenses and officials.
In 1948 the schools were threatened by the Alabama State Legislature to resume the rivalry or they would withhold state funding from the schools. The Alabama and Auburn presidents then decided to put their differences aside and revive the series.
It was determined in 1948 that the series would be played at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. This was a neutral site and the largest stadium in the state. This is where the rivalry series earned its name as the Iron Bowl since Birmingham is the center of iron production.
It is said that Alabama’s famous head coach, Bear Bryant, would rather call the game the Brag Bowl. Larry Campbell, a player for the University of Alabama during the Bear Bryant era, would agree, “No question about it, the Iron bowl was a game with a unique
significance. The results stayed with you ALL year especially if you lost. I am from the small town of Blountsville, AL and the folks in Alabama let you know that they don’t won’t to let the “other side” rag them all year long if we lost so DON’T LOSE!”
This game has become the biggest rivalry game in the country, but it can also determine another outcome, the SEC Championship. Both teams are chartered in the SEC and in the west division, some years the Iron Bowl can change who represents the west in the SEC Championship Game.
Auburn University student, Dow Birchfield’s favorite Iron Bowl memory has to do with the Iron Bowl determining his teams post-season fate, “My favorite memory of the Iron Bowl would have to be the “‘kick-six” game in 2013. I was a freshman at Auburn and the outcome of this game determined if we would play in the SEC Championship or not. After Chris Davis returned the missed field goal for a touchdown to give Auburn the win the entire student section and the majority of the stands stormed the field to celebrate the victory.”
This is what makes the Iron Bowl rivalry game so unique, it has a special meaning for each fan. It is not a friendly rivalry game in any way. If your team loses, for the next 365 days, you will have to live with the consequences, and the winning team’s fans will make sure you suffer. It a deep south rivalry to its roots. The schools despised each other so much that they didn’t even want to play the rivalry series in the beginning. They were forced to play each other, this shows the true meaning of rivalry.
University of Alabama student, Reed Gabriel, explains,“Everything that happened during the year can be thrown out the window, because a win in the Iron Bowl can make an otherwise unsuccessful season a success. I don’t think I knew just how much the Iron Bowl meant to the entire state of Alabama until I started living here over three years ago. I’ve heard many stories about just how much grief Auburn fans gave Alabama fans all those years before the Saban era when Auburn was winning more often than Alabama. I think winning this game is like winning a fight with your little brother, and it simply never gets old. It’s the one game circled on the calendar that each team must win no matter what.”
The Iron Bowl rivalry isn’t just for the diehard fans of one generation, this rivalry continues every day and is passed on from each generation. Alabama or Auburn fans teach their children at an early age which team to cheer for and which team to hate. The younger generation of fans take to social media now to express their thoughts of the rivalry. (To look at some of the tweets from fans leading up the this years Iron Bowl click here.)
The Iron Bowl rivalry game will live on for generations to come, and the rivalry will be as strong has it has been since it’s roots began at Legion Field.The hardest-fought rivalry game in the country will continue to be the Iron Bowl. The team on the losing side of this special game will continue to suffer until their 365 days runs out and the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers meet on the grid-iron once again.
video produced by AL.com