In a 1977 story mourning the end of Aubie’s appearance on the cover of Auburn Football Illustrated, Plainsman sports editor Brad Davis wrote that from 1959 to 1976 “Auburn’s game programs were unique—unlike any other in the country.”
You can’t blame him. I mean, that’s what we all thought—what we all wanted to believe. But… it’s not true. The dirty little secret is that Phil Neel had a second family—Clemson.
From October 10, 1959—just a week after Aubie made his gameday debut—through 1976, Neel illustrated at least 49 program covers for Clemson (and they’re of course awesome, just not AUsome), as well as several media guides and brochures.
He didn’t love them as much, obviously—his real-life kids went to Auburn, played for Auburn—but sometimes he gave those people in South Carolina the same presents. Many of the early Neel-drawn Clemson covers have their tiger playing the same dirty tricks on opponents as Aubie with only slight modifications.
But Neel’s obvious (and of course understandable) preference for Auburn is evidenced by (among other things) the fact that he never diminished Aubie when he drew him for a Clemson program. Sure, Clemson’s tiger is about to club Aubie in the head as he primps his fur in what he thinks is a mirror, but he’s looking sharp in that “mirror.”*
(Not that it wasn’t still disturbing for Auburn fans—you follow the team to Death Valley, you hand the kid his 50 cents, you sit down and look at the program and see your tiger, the tiger that means it’s an Auburn home game, the tiger who wins every contest he’s in, only now he’s the bad guy, now he’s the one getting punned to death…by his doppelganger.It’s trippy. Neel stepped out on us with a few other teams, too. A cartoonist has needs. More on all this down the road.)
The first time Auburn hosted Clemson while Neel was at the helm, he drew the lesser tiger literally lesser—shorter—and carrying a suitcase, a country bumpkin come to town. He was shorter in 1967, as well as in 1969 on the program where Aubie became Aubie.
It wasn’t until 1971 that Clemson’s tiger—who despite being known as “Cousin Clem” on Auburn programs was never named by Neel on his Clemson programs—looked like Aubie’s same-sized twin (though he appeared to be missing some teeth). That particular cover played off the clamor of Zero Population Growth. It’s one of Neel’s great timely pop culture tie-ins. There’s Aubie reading “Tiger Family is Too Big!” headlines at a Family Planning Conference where he waits with a “DE-Population Explosion” bomb. Up walks dumb, innocent Cousin Clem. He’s a dead man.
Neel said it, and his other Aubie vs. Clem covers, were probably his favorites.
Here they all are… as well as The Others.
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* A complete set of 1988 Phil Neel’s Auburn pinback buttons
* Cam Newton on the cover of GQ
* Pat Dye would have killed Jerry Sandusky
* Toomer’s Corner Before and After shot
* Auburn-educated astronaut wanted ‘War Eagle’ to be first words on the moon
* Show Some Pigskin: An Illustrated Guide to Auburn’s Playboy All-Americans