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STUDENT ATHLETES

The Iron Bowl: The Story of the Eternal Alabama-Auburn Feud

The history and tradition behind War Eagle, Rammer Jammer, and more, as Alabama and Auburn meet on the field once again.

The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers will meet in their annual Iron Bowl matchup on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET. Depending on what the other schools in the SEC West do, the Crimson Tide could clinch the SEC conference championship with a win. Auburn is looking to spoil its rival’s season. The Tigers’ year hasn’t gone the way that they had hoped but they are still in bowl game contention. Auburn is currently 6-4 and 3-3 in conference play, which has the Tigers sitting at fifth place in the SEC West. If they were to hand Alabama their second loss of the season, it could jeopardize the Crimson Tide’s playoff hopes.

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History

The first meeting between Auburn and Alabama predates even the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan. The Crimson Tide and Tigers played their first game in 1893 — right at the start of Grover Cleveland’s first presidential administration. Between 1893 and 1907, Auburn and Alabama played 12 times with Auburn leading the series at the time, 7-4-1. After 1907, a dispute over $34 (or $1,000 today) led to a 41-year pause in the rivalry. But it returned in 1948 after the Alabama state legislature encouraged the schools to play. Since then, they’ve met 73 more times, equaling 85 total matchups. Alabama leads the all-time series 47-37-1. Since 2000, the schools are locked at 10 to 10. 

Traditions

Tiger Walk (Auburn): On every gameday, the Tigers walk from the Athletics Complex to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The team is joined by herds of Auburn fans who are lined up and down the street cheering as the team parades through. The tradition began in the 1960s when kids would walk to the street to greet the team and get autographs. 

The most famous Tiger walk happened nearly 32 years ago when 20,000 fans lined the streets as Auburn welcomed Alabama to its campus for the first time. That day, the Tigers won 30-20. 

War Eagle (Auburn): Despite Auburn’s mascot being a Tiger, the school has a “War Eagle” battle cry. Auburn’s website says “the most popular legend about the battle cry dates back to the first time Auburn met Georgia on the football field in 1892 and centers on a spectator who was a Civil War veteran. In the stands with him that day was an eagle the old soldier had found on a battlefield during the war. He had kept it as a pet for almost 30 years.”

According to witnesses, the eagle suddenly broke free and began majestically circling the playing field. As the eagle soared, Auburn began a steady march toward the Georgia end zone for a thrilling victory. Elated at their team’s play and taking the bird’s presence as an omen of success, Auburn students and fans began to yell “War Eagle” to spur on their team. At the game’s end, the eagle took a sudden dive, crashed into the ground, and died.”

100 years later, the tradition endures. 

Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Walk of Champions (Alabama): The Walk of Champions begins roughly two hours before game time as players walk off the team bus and into the stadium, flanked by statues representing Alabama’s previous SEC and national championships.

Rammer Jammer (Alabama): One of Alabama’s most popular chants is called “Rammer Jammer.” The history of when and where the chant started is not clear. Some fans say it originated in the 80s but others say they sang it as far back as the 1960s. Nonetheless, the song’s lyrics are: Hey, (insert team mascot)! Hey, Tigers! Hey, Tigers! We just beat the hell outta’ you! Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer Give ’em hell, Alabama! For obvious reasons, Crimson Tide fans, students and alumni sing it extra loud when they play Auburn.

Money

Though Auburn and Alabama are even in Iron Bowl wins over the last 20 years, the Crimson Tide are spending and earning more money than the Tigers. Alabama’s athletic revenue hits $189.2 million whereas Auburn comes out at $153.7 million, according to Sportico’s Intercollegiate Finances database. As expected, Alabama has the advantage in terms of football operating revenue, football operating expenses, head coach salary and recruiting budget. The money is well spent, as Alabama has won six national championships to Auburn’s one. 

Auburn Athletic Revenue: $153.7 million 
Alabama Athletic Revenue: $189.2 million

Auburn Football Operating Revenue: $97.6 million
Alabama Football Operating Revenue: $110. 1 million

Auburn Football Operating Expense: $45.9 million
Alabama Football Operating Expense: $58.8 million

Auburn Football Head Coach Salary: $5 million
Alabama Football Head Coach Salary: $9.5 million 

Auburn Men’s Athletics Recruiting Salary: $1.1 million
Alabama Men’s Athletics Recruiting Salary: $2.8 million

Auburn Total NFL Players Salary: $389.3 million
Alabama Total NFL Players Salary: $1.13 billion

NFL Players

The NFL pipelines through both schools are gushing with talented players. Alabama, however, more than doubles the amount of Auburn players in the league, with a current 64 to 29 lead, according to Spotrac. And with the margin being so wide, the total salaries of all the players combined is even bigger. The Crimson Tide nearly triple the Tigers in total salaries: Alabama is at $1.13 billion and Auburn’s total is $398.3 million

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