Auburn SGA president Kurt Sasser in conjunction with Alabama SGA president James Fowler jointly announced that the two schools are planting trees on each other’s campuses as a sign of mutual respect and in an effort to soothe tensions in a rivalry poisoned by the destruction of the majestic oaks at Toomers Corner, an act allegedly perpetrated by long-time Alabama supporter Harvey A. Updyke.
While the Never To Yield Foundation supports the concept of defusing some of the more vitriolic aspects of the rivalry between the two schools, our concern is that this well-meaning gesture is misdirected and could actually cause more harm than good in the long-term. Typically it isn’t the students who are the offenders in the rivalry. It wasn’t an Alabama student who poisoned the Auburn trees.
While we applaud the spirit of the gesture, it is our fervent hope that the planting of the trees in Auburn will not take place at Toomer’s Corner.
Even before the initiative was announced a segment of the Alabama fanbase celebrated the idea as an opportunity to “gain ownership” of something uniquely Auburn. On sports talk radio and message boards those fans enthusiastically backed the idea of planting trees at Auburn, not in the spirit of friendship, but because it would afford them the opportunity to roll “their trees.” Combine that concept with an already intense post-game atmosphere and you have the potential for confrontation.
The concept of cooperation is certainly well intentioned. But the fact that this is a rivalry, a rivalry that has always been ranked as one of the most intense in all of sports, cannot be overlooked. Anyone who doubts the intensity need only to spend an hour listening to Finebaum or the Opening Drive in Birmingham or Tide and Tiger Talk in Mobile. If that’s not convincing, read the comments on al.com or spend ten minutes on a message board.
Part of what makes the rivalry between Auburn and Alabama unique is that it crosses families, it splits husbands and wives, pits brother against brother. This creates a highly charged atmosphere that no symbolic gesture is likely to impact. We have no objection to the attempt, but request that any such effort be carried out far from Toomer’s Corner.
For that reason, the Never To Yield Foundation is contacting Sasser to express our position. We encourage you to contact him as well and let your voice be heard.
He can be reached via email at email@example.com.