By Grace Stratford
In a brisk 54 degrees Fahrenheit, I stood anxiously outside the stadium, excited to see it packed with decked-out fans, ready to cheer. I entered the stadium with an hour until kickoff in order to find a seat in the already-full student section. My sister and I found some seats, awaited the start of the game, watching the stadium rapidly fill up.
Jordan-Hare Stadium, home to Auburn University’s football team in Auburn, Alabama, was overflowing on Saturday, November 11 as Auburn faced Georgia, ranked first in the SEC that weekend. With a capacity of 87,451, this stadium traps noise and creates an electric atmosphere for the home team. It is named for Ralph ‘Shug’ Jordan and Clifford Leroy Hare. Jordan was Auburn’s football coach from 1951 to 1975, and he has the record for most wins in Auburn history, with a whopping 176. He was also an Auburn graduate in 1932. Hare was a member of the first football team at Auburn. The stadium has been the home of the Auburn Tigers since 1939. It is ranked number 21 on a list of the best college football stadiums.
As game time approached, the student section rose to their feet, grabbed their pom-poms, and the cheering began. The iconic cheer of “Waaaaaaaar Eagle, HEY” was on repeat until kickoff began, whether it was just pre-game cheering or when Spirit, the bald eagle, was released. One of the most memorable events from any Auburn game is when they release an eagle to circle the stadium before the game begins. This video captures the feeling and excitement of Auburn fans after the release of the eagle. Various “war eagles” have flown over the stadium since the tradition began. Spirit, the bald eagle that is flying this year, was rescued as a baby in Florida and transferred to Auburn to the Southeastern Raptor Center. Her beak is damaged and makes release into the wild impossible. Spirit is the only bald eagle to ever fly in Jordan-Hare, and her first appearance was in 2002.
The circling of the eagle was followed by the national anthem and then a pre-game performance by the marching band, dancers, and cheerleaders. Then, it was time for the team to come out of the locker room. As the Georgia Bulldogs entered the stadium, an eruption of boos echoed throughout, but as soon as the first Auburn player came out, the boos changed into the ripple effect of some of the loudest cheering I have heard. The seats in the stadium are angled almost straight up, creating a bowl of noise. The team took the field, and it was time for kickoff. The war eagle cheer began, and the game had started.
There was an excess of energy and enthusiasm as Auburn crept up to take the lead over Georgia, because it would be an unexpected upset based on the rankings for the weekend. The student section is underneath the jumbotron, which had videos and flashbacks of previous Georgia vs. Auburn games and highlights from various seasons.
After Auburn’s 40-17 victory, the students anticipated storming the field, but security guards were in place to prevent any possible storming. The players came into the stands and carried an overwhelming amount of pride. With the game over, many people headed to downtown Auburn to start celebrating the win. The town was jampacked with Georgia and Auburn fans.
One of the most widely known traditions after an Auburn win is to roll Toomer’s corner. Toomer’s marks the transition from downtown Auburn to the university campus, and is directly across the street from Toomer’s Drugs, a trademark symbol of Auburn for up to 130 years. Students and alumni travel downtown to roll the trees with toilet paper, and it makes the town appear to have a sheet of snow on it.
SEC football is full of traditions and superstitions. For many who have graduated, are about to graduate, and for children who have been raised in households strongly supporting one team, and it is incredible to experience SEC football and to witness such a monumental win for Auburn.