In Auburn, tradition is everything. From rolling Toomer’s Corner after a major win, avoiding stepping on the sacred seal before graduating or chanting “War Eagle” as a bald or golden eagle touches down at center field before a football game, tradition is the norm on the Plains and all across the SEC.
But who decides what is a tradition? Who gets to make the choice on what traditions are most important? With the expansion of the SEC to bring in Oklahoma and Texas, the football program may face the threat of losing traditional rivals — new and old.
Since the announcement of the addition of the two Big 12 powerhouses, athletic directors have been discussing a new scheduling format. The most popular formats floated around include an eight- or nine-game conference schedule with no divisions.
With the eight-game format, each team would play one permanent opponent every year with seven other rotating opponents yearly. The nine-game format would have teams play three permanent opponents every year and rotating the remaining six.
Auburn athletic director John Cohen has yet to take a solid stand on what he will be vouching for when decision day comes. Cohen’s indecisiveness will not win over many fans on the Plains who cling to the traditions and rivalries that make Auburn unique.
At recent AMBUSH events, Cohen has done a fine job of avoiding giving a straight answer to where his vote lies, but if he truly wants to keep Auburn fans in mind – there are a few things to take into account.
While on the surface it, may seem simple that Auburn would receive Alabama in the eight-game format and Alabama and Georgia and an easier opponent in the nine-game format, there is a lot of history and tradition to take into account.
Tradition carries more weight in Auburn than most other places. Obviously, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and the Iron Bowl are not just two of the most important rivalries at Auburn, but in all of college football. Both rivalries pre-date the SEC by nearly 30 years, but they are not the only great rivalries for Auburn.
Another rivalry deserves a place in the discussion that younger Auburn fans probably would have never taken into consideration. Once upon a time, there was a fierce rivalry between two teams with similar color schemes played in two stadiums where the unthinkable seems to always happen.
There is so much to be said about the Auburn-Florida rivalry that shamefully has never been given a proper nickname. The best way the rivalry has ever been described was by sports columnist Pat Dooley who wrote following Auburn’s 20-17 win over No. 4 Florida in 2007, “Florida-Auburn delivered another game that made one side ecstatic and one side heartbroken. That's what it does."
Since rankings first became so important, the rankings have been historically unimportant in this rivalry. While the team with the higher ranking tends to end up on top more often than not, the Auburn-Florida rivalry has provided 17 upsets since 1965.
If college football were a post-apocalyptic TV show, the Auburn-Florida rivalry is the old man who has a few loose wires but is still loved by everyone that got killed off too soon.
In recent history, the traditional yearly rival games have been Alabama, Georgia and LSU. While Alabama and Georgia are Auburn’s longest standing rivals, there is something to be said about the importance of the Tiger Bowl.
Although Alabama and Georgia have history behind them, the Tiger Bowl has become a spectacle of sorts since LSU and Auburn began playing yearly in the 90s. The yearly clashes have been seeded with tension and drama from the start, no matter the ranking of either team.
The Tiger Bowl receives its own special pregame video every year, filled with scenes from The Interceptions Game, The Barn Burner, cigars or the last seconds of Les Miles’ tenure at LSU.
While the Auburn-LSU rivalry can hardly hold a candle to the rivalries with Alabama and Georgia, it has become a staple to both programs and carries a youthful feel to it. The new schedule threatens killing off the flame of something special before the wick could even be lit.
The Tiger Bowl is on the verge of facing the same fate of Auburn-Florida, but if one of these two teams does manage to get the third slot, Auburn would be at a slight disadvantage every year with a tougher schedule.
While the expansion of the SEC brings about new competition to such a conference that is arguably the toughest in college football, it is important for SEC officials to keep in mind the traditions that make the SEC what it is.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.