Alabamiana: The first Iron Bowl in Auburn, 1989

On this day thirty years ago, the legendary Alabama-Auburn football game – the Iron Bowl – was played in Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time. In 1989, Auburn not only had the home field advantage, they had beaten Bama three years prior, in 1986, ’87, and ’88. The Tigers’ victory in ’89 would make it four in a row.

In the history of the series, which began in 1893, Auburn took off to an early lead, beating Alabama seven times in the first twelve games. In those days, the game’s location varied among Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Birmingham. Then, after the game ended in a tie in 1907, Alabama refused to play Auburn anymore . . . that is until, as historian Wayne Flynt put it, “Governor Chauncey Sparks and the legislature forced Alabama to renew its rivalry with Auburn in 1944.”

By the time the series resumed, The University of Alabama had become a football powerhouse. ‘Bama beat Auburn twenty-six times over the next forty-one years. Though Auburn did have a five-game winning streak in the mid-1950s, Bama’s domination led them to win the Iron Bowl two thirds of the time, including a nine-game streak from 1973 until 1981. That may have had something to do with the fact that, for Alabama, the annual game against their in-state arch-rival was always a home game. Since the changes that led to a more standard agreement of alternating venues, starting in 1989, the series is nearly tied. Of the last thirty meetings, Alabama has won sixteen and Auburn fourteen. The home team has won twenty of the thirty meetings.

Currently, Alabama leads the overall series by a ten-game margin, but Auburn has won more games in both Tuscaloosa and Auburn, including the one last Saturday. Personally, I don’t know which is sweeter: beating Bama in the heart of their campus or beating them in the heart of ours. War Eagle!

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