Toomer’s Oaks: Slowly Killed in a Hate Crime

Toomer’s Corner, on the edge of Auburn University and downtown Auburn, has provided a place of happiness for decades. Underneath the two trees, known as Toomer’s Oaks, games were celebrated amongst Tiger fans as toilet paper was thrown in every direction, catching and holding onto everything it could. Times were great. Then things changed.

As confessed on the Paul Finebaum Show, Harvey Updyke was a poor sport. He could not handle Auburn’s 28-27 comeback win in the 2010 Iron Bowl to beat his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide. So what did he do? Updyke did something that some Alabama fans have joked about doing for years, poisoning Toomer’s oaks. Allegedly, of course.

Sparing the details, Updyke was unintelligent enough to call the nationwide radio show and arrogantly admit his actions with no remorse, ending the call by saying the Tide’s then-new unofficial chant that caught on, “Roll Damn Tide.”

With the trial delayed again after Updyke confessed to a reporter for The Auburn Plainsman outside the courtroom during jury selection, where does that leave things? Well, it leaves Auburn fans with one last season to roll the 100-plus year old trees. It leaves Alabama fans saying Updyke is actually not part of their fan base. It leaves the trial pushed back to October. And lastly, and most importantly, it leaves the oaks inching closer to death.

There was and probably still is question of if the rivalry has gone too far. Thinking logically, it is a dumb question. The rivalry has not gone too far; one side of the two is the only that has made poor decisions, and don’t forget, it was “just one crazy.” See, while the Auburn Family is mourning the eventual loss of one of its greatest traditions, there is the king of the Alabama sidewalk alum living life as he pleases while his minions ask why this is a big deal, it was just trees.

That same Updyke, who has proclaimed several times he is too sick to be present for trial, was not only spotted in New Orleans nights before the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, but was mobbed by Alabama fans who wanted a picture with him.

Toomer’s Oaks Wednesday after the pruning process. (Image Courtesy-Jason Caldwell)

The poisoning of Toomer’s Oaks is a dark spot in something amazing that the great state of Alabama–sarcasm intended–has created in the world of football. Winning two of the last three Heisman trophies and three straight national championships is a one-of-a-kind accomplishment. Not being able to control yourself, though … that’s a shame.

Auburn needs to stand together now more than ever. There was no retaliation, and there will most likely never be. One of the many things that sets Auburn apart from Alabama is class. Never have you heard of a Tiger fan sexually molesting another team’s fan. That is simply not how Auburn men and women conduct themselves.

Toomer’s Oaks are going to die. It is hard for everyone in the Auburn Family to accept even a year and a half after the news broke, but it is and always was going to happen. With official plans being formulated for a replacement and Updyke still awaiting trial, football season is less than four weeks away. How much crazier can things get in 2012?

Toomer’s Oaks in December 2010. (Author’s Personal Collection)

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