There’s only one day that matters in the Heart of Dixie. It is discussed ad nauseam for the other 364, and in a state with no major professional sports teams, it divides families, high school classrooms, Kiwanis Club meetings and Cub Scout troops. It is the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers, and the Iron Bowl is perhaps the best rivalry game in all of college football.
Why is it called the Iron Bowl?
The rivalry used to be played only at Birmingham’s Legion Field from 1904 until 1988, a neutral site for both teams. Often nicknamed “Lesion Field” for its ghastly metal benches and general disrepair, it’s not exactly luxurious. But Birmingham is also a city with deep ties to the steel industry, as even their Alliance of American Football franchise was the Birmingham Iron.
And before the 1964 tilt which was the first to be shown on national television, Tigers head coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan was asked if he’d be disappointed his team wouldn’t make a bowl game with a 6-3 record heading into the final game vs. Alabama.
“We’ve got our bowl game. We have it every year. It’s the Iron Bowl in Birmingham.”
Who won last year?
Alabama beat Auburn 42-13, the last game for Gus Malzahn as the head coach of the Tigers. 2021 will bring Bryan Harsin to the series as head coach of Auburn, but an upset is considered highly unlikely as the Crimson Tide are a 19.5-point favorite on the road.
Alabama leads 47-37-1 in this rivalry, but the series has been split the last four seasons. Nick Saban is 9-5 at Alabama vs. Auburn.
How much hate is there? They stopped playing after 1907 season for 41 years because the teams could not agree on referees and player per diems.
Punt Bama Punt. 36-0. Kick Six. Van Tiffin. These only need an explanation if you’re not from somewhere south of Huntsville and north of Mobile.
I am lucky enough to have been to games at both Bryant-Denny and Jordan Hare Stadium, but am not from Alabama and have no real ties to the state. But for me, this is the greatest moment in the history of college football.
For a rivalry with as much hatred between the schools as any, the trophy that goes to the winner is almost an afterthought. After the game, the James E. Foy, V-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy is traditionally presented at a basketball game between the teams by a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society from the losing school to the winning one. The loser also sings the fight song of the winner after the presentation.