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Everybody Hates Auburn: A Look at the Deep South's Oldest Football Rivalry

It's a well-known fact that I hate Auburn.

In my defense, the Plainsmen are Georgia's oldest and fiercest rival. Accordingly, I feel at least somewhat justified in adopting a negative attitude regarding the Plainsmen.

I could tolerate their consistent rudeness, their constant cheating, and their complete lack of academic standards, but I just can't get past the fact that their spelling is atrocious!

On the other side of the divide, of course, many Auburn fans (albeit not including my respected SB Nation colleague Jay Coulter at Track 'Em Tigers) feel the same way about Georgia fans like me, which certainly is understandable. Consequently, it should have come as no surprise when Jerry Hinnen fired back.

Now, I can appreciate a fine piece of invective, even if it happens to be directed at me, so I can tell you that Jerry's posting is well worth your time. Jerry's sarcastic tone makes for a funny and entertaining read, and I will grant that he makes a fair point in an effective manner. Naturally, I would quibble with him over a detail or two, though.

For instance, Jerry mentions "those noted hooligans at Georgia Tech" and "other dastardly rogue institutions like UCLA, Rutgers, and Oregon." I know he's just kidding, but let's not forget that the Yellow Jackets have had a recent history of shenanigans and, likewise, all is not well in Bruin Nation.

According to A Sea of Blue, Oregon at least has issued a specific denial:

The University of Oregon said the school has no contract with UFS [University Financial Services]. However, it said ESPN Regional Television, the university's marketing agent, has an agreement with UFS to sponsor Oregon athletics.

The agreement allows UFS to set up a table at football and basketball games to distribute marketing literature.

It also permits advertising on the Web site, provides specified advertising in game programs, and provides announcements of UFS as a sponsor of Oregon athletics.

"It does not provide any special access to student-athletes or other students and does not recommend UFS in any way," according to the statement from university spokesman Phil Weiler.

U.C.L.A. likewise issued a blanket statement that "[t]his athletic department does not have an agreement with that (loan) company."

Rutgers, by contrast, simply reminded the news media that Kristin Davis was one of the school's alumni, at which point it was agreed that any institution that had graduated someone so wholesome could not possibly be up to no good.

Auburn, the only S.E.C. school to have received a subpoena, was, shall we say, a bit more noncommittal:

Auburn athletics spokesman Kirk Sampson said the university has no preferred provider of student financial aid.

"However, the Auburn Athletic Department will thoroughly examine and respond to any suggestion that the university's name, logo or any representation of it has been used improperly in connection with specific lenders," Sampson said.

Once again, all we know is that subpoenas have been issued. We don't even know if crimes have been committed, much less whether particular people or particular institutions committed them. We are, after all, talking about a state attorney general with a famous last name who is issuing press releases in the course of an investigation. My strongest suspicion is that this is political grandstanding by a guy who plans to run for governor.

There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to go about denying allegations. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's spokesman, Jeffrey Lemer, said: "We suspect that UFS has relationships with these athletic departments, and we want to know exactly what these relationships entail." Here is how "these athletic departments" answered General Cuomo's suspicions:

  • "The University of Oregon said the school has no contract with UFS."
  • "At UCLA, spokesman Marc Dellins said, 'This athletic department does not have an agreement with that (loan) company.'"
  • "Auburn athletics spokesman Kirk Sampson said the university has no preferred provider of student financial aid."
Clearly, U.C.L.A.'s denial was the best of the bunch. The Bruin program has flatly stated that it "does not have an agreement with that (loan) company." Oregon said essentially the same thing, although the Ducks may have allowed themselves wiggle room by saying that "the school has no contract with UFS."

"Agreement" probably could be read to include an informal understanding or usual course of dealing, whereas the denial that there is a "contract" probably limits the statement to legally binding promises and does not incorporate less formal arrangements. Of course, Oregon also spelled out in detail every interaction, even indirectly or through third parties, between the educational institution and the student loan provider, so it is difficult to believe that the school in Eugene has anything to hide.

To say that a school "has no preferred provider of student financial aid," though, is a denial neither of a relationship with a particular company nor of an agreement with that company, formal or otherwise. Auburn's denial may be every bit as sincere as the other schools' and a tepid disclaimer by no means overcomes the presumption of innocence, but, in a situation in which the verdict to be rendered in the court of public opinion warrants consideration, the Alabama Polytechnic Institute would do well to use fewer weasel words.

War dang weasel!

Still, Jerry has a valid argument to make and he makes it effectively, which is to his (and, by extension, the Auburn fan base's) credit. I thank him for his rejoinder, which is well taken, and I suppose that makes this the sort of "teachable moment" at which the rivalry between the Bulldogs and the Tigers might be put into its proper perspective.

Lately, I have been quoting liberally from Dr. John F. Stegeman's The Ghosts of Herty Field: Early Days on a Southern Gridiron. A pair of passages from Dr. Stegeman upon this subject should suffice:

Pop Warner's first team had not been a success in the won-lost column but the people were not deceived. "His excellent work has been seen constantly," wrote an Athens correspondent. "He has built up the team wonderfully in the short time he has been with us." Warner was asked to coach the 1896 team with a $6-a-week raise in salary which, under a 12-week contract, gave him a total income of $480.00. "I will always prize that contract," Warner said. "My first raise! . . . The Georgia management [told me] they wanted to beat Auburn if they lost every other game."

With a minute to play the Red and Black trailed, 11 to 6, in a game entirely dominated by Auburn. Up to that time, said the Constitution, "the only thing that marred an otherwise beautiful game was the inclination on the part of some of Auburn's men to give utterances to petty, unmanly remarks about their Georgia antagonists. There were cries of 'baby' and 'give-up'. . . ."

Bill Cromartie called his book about the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry Clean Old-Fashioned Hate, but, in my opinion, he wasted a great title on the wrong rival. The Georgia Institute of Technology generally has been an annoyance to Georgia, rather like the insect that symbolizes its sports teams.

The first legendary coach in Georgia history received a raise and was told to go beat the Red and Black's oldest rival even if he didn't beat anyone else . . . and that was when Georgia and Auburn had played one another just three times. Objectionable behavior has typified the Plainsmen's conduct towards the Bulldogs since at least the late 19th century (although, by today's standards, "baby" and "give-up" seem like the sorts of minor insults that would cause some Alabamans to call you "Princess" if you took offense to them).

With all due respect to Maize 'n' Brew Dave (who argues persuasively that opposing fans should treat one another with all due respect), that's what makes this a great rivalry . . . the timeless sincerity with which we always have disliked one another, collectively if not individually.

I don't have any particular reason to believe Auburn is up to no good in this specific instance; I'm just ribbing an old foe in the way that he would josh with me if given the opportunity. It won't surprise me if nothing comes of this, but surely I'm within my rights to enjoy anything that makes Auburn sweat a little, right?

Jay Coulter and Jerry Hinnen are fine fellows who represent their favorite team well, but I am sure they will understand that there is an institutional rivalry, even if we all agree that it is not a personal rivalry. (That distinction explains why so many coaches with ties to one institution wind up working for the other, including Vince Dooley, Pat Dye, Rodney Garner, Shug Jordan, Will Muschamp, Hugh Nall, Erk Russell, and Stacy Searels.)

When called upon to do so, I am perfectly capable of defending the Plainsmen. I picked them to win in a rout against a Big 12 opponent with a fat quarterback. Late last November, I argued why Auburn ought to be ranked as high as sixth. Finally, I recognize that some things in life are more important than college football.

I respect Jay and Jerry. I am grateful to the former for his recent comment and to the latter for his capable retort. Nevertheless, while I like them personally, I must, in the spirit of time-honored rivalry, say that, as an institutional matter, I hate Auburn.

Go 'Dawgs!