Auburn Family

For more than 100 years there has been a shared rivalry between two Alabama universities. The competition between Auburn University and The University of Alabama has sparked conversations, fights,tears and even laughter, but what occurred this month has left many people speechless.

What started with an angry phone call to a radio show has spiraled into heartache for Auburn fans.

This January, an Alabama fan by the name of Harvey Updyke explained to sports commentator and radio host Paul Finebaum what he had done to jeopardize an incredible university tradition. 

"The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Alabama, because I live 30 miles away, and I poisoned the two Toomer's trees. I put Spike 80DF in them," said Updyke.

On February 16, Auburn University confirmed that this herbicide frequently used to kill trees was applied in destructive amounts to the soil around the Toomer's Corner live oaks on campus. According to sources from the university, there is little chance to save the trees.

It is understood that traditions are celebrated amongst colleges and universities across the nation, but this particular tradition will be hard to restore.

Statues can be rebuilt, buildings can be reconstructed, but two trees that have been in the hearts of fans, alumni, current students and the community for years might be gone forever. Estimated to be 130-years-old, the oaks at Toomer's Corner cannot simply be replaced.

"I can remember the first time I rolled the trees at Toomer's Corner as a college student," said Kaitlin Jones.

Jones is a junior at Auburn and has been a fan her entire life.

"Because I've grown up as an Auburn fan I always looked forward to partaking in the traditions as an actual student," said Jones. "I don't think anyone knew how they would feel if one of those traditions got tarnished or taken away."

In a feature story that can be found on Auburn University's website, the Auburn family has been asked to uphold its reputation.

"It is understandable to feel outrage in reaction to a malicious act of vandalism," said University President Jay Gogue. "However, we should live up to the example we set in becoming national champions and the beliefs expressed in our Auburn Creed. Individuals act alone, not on behalf of anyone or any place, and all universities are vulnerable to and condemn such reprehensible acts."

Updyke was arrested on February 17 on a warrant charging him with criminal mischief 1st degree and was taken to the Lee County Detention Center to await bond.

The university has created a task force for the Toomer's Corner oak trees and asks fans not to partake in the usual tradition activities. There is now a tarp and fence surrounding the area to protect the roots and trees.

"I think a lot of people were upset when they blocked the trees off at first," said Jones. "I wanted to go roll Toomer's Corner one last time, but I understand now that putting the fence up is what's best while they try to save the trees."

The Auburn University and University of Alabama rivalry has become recognized throughout the country. Fight songs, half-time shows and other iconic traditions have become part of the historical customs that come with being a fan.

Although Updyke's actions have wounded an Auburn tradition, it is believed that the Auburn family will continue to say, "All in!"

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Tags: All, Corner, Harvey, In, Students, Toomer's, Updyke


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