Iron Bowl

From Academic Kids

The Iron Bowl is an informal nickname given to the annual intercollegiate football game between the teams of the University of Alabama and Auburn University. The Iron Bowl is held by many fans of the sport to be the most heated intercollegiate football rivalry in the nation. The deep-seated football hatred between Alabama and Auburn has historically spilled over into the politics and society of the state of Alabama.

Like many intrastate rivalries between public universities in the United States, much of the animosity between the two schools stems from sociological differences between each school's fan base (alumni and other supporters). Many of the more heated in-state rivalries involve a state's perceived "flagship university" and a land-grant university. Traditionally, flagship universities educated the more urbanized and economically upscale portions of their state's population. Land-grant schools, which were specifically established to provide education in agriculture, engineering, and military science, drew heavily from rural and small-town dwellers. Although this is a gross oversimplification, and there are numerous exceptions to this rule on both sides, there is a core of truth to this divide. In the Iron Bowl, Alabama is the "flagship" school and Auburn the land-grant school.

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.


Alabama and Auburn played their first football game in Lakeview Park in Birmingham, Alabama on February 22, 1893. Auburn won, 32-22, before an estimated crowd of 2,000. As if a signal of the future, disagreement between the schools began immediately as Alabama considered the game to be the final matchup of the 1892 season and Auburn recorded it as the first of 1893. 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.

It would take a 1947 resolution by the Alabama House of Representatives to cause the rivalry to be renewed in 1948 where the teams met in Birmingham's Legion Field. Alabama won that game, 55-0, in the most lopsided victory of the series. The game would be played exclusively at Legion Field until 1989 when Auburn hosted the game in Jordan-Hare Stadium before a (then) record crowd of 85,319.

For most of the 20th century, both schools played many of their homes 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 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, as it had come to be called due to Birmingham's prominence as a center of iron and steel production. 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 crowd 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 until the 2000 season where it was once again played in Tuscaloosa in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game had been played in Tuscaloosa twice before early in the series in 1895 and 1901.


As of November 2004:

  • Alabama leads the series 38-30-1
  • The series is 13-12 in Auburn's favor since 1980. Currently, Auburn has won three straight, dating back to the 2002 season.
  • The game has been played in four cities: Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Auburn.
  • Auburn has won all five games played in Tuscaloosa.
  • Auburn and Alabama have never had losing records in the same season.

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