The Iron Bowl is the name given to the annual intercollegiate football game between the teams of Auburn University and University of Alabama. The deep-seated football rivalry between Alabama and Auburn has historically spilled over into the politics and society of the state of Alabama. As of November 2021 Alabama leads the all-time series 48-37, with one tie.
The winner of the game has statewide "bragging rights" until the next year, and as is typical of rivalry games of this nature, a win in this game can seemingly salvage an otherwise poor season for the winner, while a loss can ruin what had otherwise been a fine season for the loser. As is typical of such games, it is usually scheduled to be the final regular-season game for each team and is always played in late November.
For 40 years, from 1948 to 1988, the game was played annually at Birmingham's Legion Field, then the largest stadium in the state. The "Iron Bowl" name came about due to Birmingham's prominence as a center of iron and steel production. Birmingham News sportswriter Jimmy Bryan recalled Auburn coach Shug Jordan coining the name in advance of the 1964 matchup, a highly-anticipated and nationally-televised duel between the 6-3 Tigers, who had entered the season at the top of the rankings, and the upstart 9-0 Tide, led by quarterback Joe Namath. Another reporter asked Jordan how he would feel is his team failed to get a bowl invitation, to which he responded, "We've got our bowl game. We have it every year. It's the Iron Bowl in Birmingham."
In the following decades, Auburn began lobbying to move their home games at Jordan-Hare Stadium, complaining of the longer drive and disproportionate support for Alabama in Birmingham. Auburn hosted their first Iron Bowl in Auburn in 1989. Alabama continued to host its half of the Iron Bowl games at Legion Field from 1990 to 1998, but moved the game to Tuscaloosa in 2000.
|Alabama (48)||Auburn (37)|
| 1894 1903
| 1893 (Feb. & Nov.)|
The University of Alabama and the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College (later Auburn University) played their first football game in Birmingham's Lakeview Park on February 22, 1893. Auburn won, 32-22 in that contest, and then won a rematch the following November in Montgomery by a score of 40-16.
The series was suspended after the 1907 game when the schools could not come to agreement over the amount of expenses to be paid players, as well as from where officials for the game should be obtained.
Auburn president Ralph B. Draughon and Alabama president John Gallalee decided during the winter and spring of 1948 to end the disagreement and renew the series after fighting what they considered interference into their internal affairs by the state legislature. The teams met in Birmingham because it had the largest stadium in the state, 44,000-seat Legion Field. On the morning of December 4, the presidents of the Student Government Associations of the two institutions buried an actual hatchet in Woodrow Wilson Park to signify the end of the dispute that had interrupted the series. Alabama won that game, 55-0, in the most lopsided victory of the series.
For most of the 20th century, both schools played many of their home games in Birmingham (and for Auburn, Columbus, Georgia) due, in part, to the difficulty of travel to both Tuscaloosa (the location of the University of Alabama campus) and Auburn as well as insufficient on-campus facilities. Over the years, Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium was steadily enlarged and Auburn was able to convince most of its opponents to travel to Auburn for a true home-and-home series. Alabama, however, continued to play half its home games each season in Legion Field.
By 1980, when the west upper deck of Jordan-Hare was completed, the only remaining 'neutral site' game on Auburn's schedule was the Iron Bowl. Auburn fans now perceived a disparity in fan support in Birmingham due to Alabama's other home games in the city. Auburn officials, led by its athletic director and head football coach Pat Dye, set out to move their home game to Auburn with the addition of the east upper deck which would make Jordan-Hare the largest stadium in the state. On December 2, 1989, a sellout and (then) record crowd of 85,319 would witness Auburn win its first true 'home' game of the series, 30-20 over an Alabama team that entered the game unbeaten and ranked #2 in the country.
Alabama officials had fought the move from Birmingham and continued to hold their home game at Legion Field through 1998. In the 2000 season, however, Alabama once again hosted the game in Tuscaloosa at Bryant-Denny Stadium after the capacity of the Crimson Tide's on-campus home was expanded to more than 83,000, exceeding the capacity of Legion Field. The game had been played in Tuscaloosa only twice before early in the series in 1895 and 1901. A new attendance record was set in 2006 as an expansion to Bryant-Denny increased its capacity to 92,138.
As of November 2021:
- Since the resumption of the series in 1948, the only head coaches to win the Iron Bowl in the first year at their school are Gene Stallings (Alabama-1990), Terry Bowden (Auburn-1993), Dennis Franchione (Alabama-2001), and Gus Malzahn (Auburn-2013). The only coaches to win their final Iron Bowl appearance are Stallings in 1996 and Bowden in 1997.
- Since the resumption of the series, the only two Auburn coaches to win more than half of their Iron Bowls are Terry Bowden (1993-1997, 3-2), and Tommy Tuberville (1999-2008, 7-3). The only Alabama coaches to lose more than half of their Iron Bowl games as coach are the three who failed to win a single Iron Bowl: J.B. "Ears" Whitworth (1955-1957), Bill Curry (1987-1989), and Mike Shula (2003-2006).
- Alabama has shut Auburn out 16 times (1894, 1905, 1906, 1948, 1952, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1966, 1973, 1975, 1992, 2008 and 2012), while Auburn has shut Alabama out eight times (1895, 1901, 1902, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1987 and 2000).
- The largest margin of victory in the series is 55 points, when Alabama defeated Auburn 55-0 in 1948, the first game in the series since 1907. Auburn's largest margin of victory in the series is 48 points, when the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide 53-5 in 1900.
- Five games have been decided by one point. Auburn won by one point in 1949 (14-13), 1972 (17-16), 1982 (23-22) and 1997 (18-17), while Alabama won by one point in 1996 (24-23).
- Since 1981, the Iron Bowl has been televised nationally on either a broadcast or cable network every season except 1993, when NCAA probation prevented Auburn from appearing on television.
- Former Alabama head coach Mike Shula is the only Crimson Tide head coach to lose four consecutive games to Auburn, and is one of only three coaches to lose at least four consecutive games in the series. The others are Auburn's Ralph Jordan (1959-1962) and (1964-1968) and Doug Barfield (1976-1980).
- The longest winning streak in the series is held by Alabama at 9 games, from 1973 to 1981. Auburn won six in a row from 2002 through 2007.
- The game has been played in four cities: Auburn, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa.
- The greatest number of points given up by a team coached by Crimson Tide coach Bear Bryant occurred in the 1969 Iron Bowl. Auburn defeated Alabama, 49-26, ending a five-year Crimson Tide winning streak in the series.
- Auburn and Alabama have never both had losing records in the same season.
- Prior to 2012, Alabama had beaten Auburn in Tuscaloosa once (1-7), only scoring 35 points in the first six losses, and 36 points in their one win. Alabama scored 27 points in the 1-point loss in 2010. Alabama scored 49 points in the 2012 game.
- Alabama has entered the Iron Bowl undefeated and untied on 16 occasions (1961, 1964, 1966, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1989, 1992, 1994, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2017, 2020), while Auburn has entered the game with an unblemished record five times (1957, 1971, 1993, 2004, 2010). In the only Iron Bowl to match up two undefeated, untied squads, the Crimson Tide routed the Tigers 31-7 in 1971. Auburn and Alabama were both undefeated in 1994 (Auburn and Georgia had tied 23-23), and Alabama defeated Auburn 21-14. The only other teams to enter the game undefeated and untied and lose the Iron Bowl were the 1989 and 2017 Alabama squads, both played at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
- The trophy given to the winner of the game is called the Foy-ΟΔΚ Sportsmanship Award. It is named after James Foy, an Alabama graduate and former Auburn dean of students and Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society - which was established on both campuses during the 1920s.
- Per Auburn's media guide, Alabama holds a 30-19-1 record in neutral sites and went 6-1 in games played in Birmingham after the 1988 resolution. The teams split the four games played in Montgomery.
- Starting in 2007, the Iron Bowl is played during the week of Thanksgiving instead of games skipping that week. This is due to a change in SEC policy that began in 2007 that requires conference teams to play the week of Thanksgiving, which is traditionally the last week of the season before the SEC Championship Game. Many schools have complained that with the Iron Bowl taking place the weekend before Thanksgiving, if the winner of the Iron Bowl won the SEC West, that team would have an unfair competitive advantage by having a week off before the championship game. The game had been moved up in the 1990s as a response to the SEC title game, ending the bye week both teams held before the game.
- The 2021 Iron Bowl was the first ever to go into overtime. Alabama came out the victor (24-22) after four overtimes.
- "Iron Bowl" (January 29, 2007) Wikipedia - accessed February 1, 2007
- "Iron Bowl History" (n.d.) al.com - accessed February 1, 2007
|Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn)|
|Sites: Alabama State Fairgrounds, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Highland Park (Montgomery), Lakeview Park, Jordan-Hare Stadium, Legion Field, Riverside Park (Montgomery), and West End Park.|
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