Home / Featured / Shug Jordan’s houndstooth hat is prized possession of former Auburn coed who caught it after ’69 Iron Bowl, claims it predates Bear’s

Shug Jordan’s houndstooth hat is prized possession of former Auburn coed who caught it after ’69 Iron Bowl, claims it predates Bear’s

What’s wrong with this picture? NOTHING.

Kathy Moates’ most prized piece of Auburn memorabilia is a houndstooth hat.

Each fall, she takes it out of her closet, dusts it off, and places it on her coffee table, where it stays all football season long. It’s the centerpiece to her living room’s Auburn decor. Folks come over for games. They look down. They look back up. “I thought y’all were Auburn people.” Kathy laughs and tells them the story.

She got the hat at the 1969 Iron Bowl, Auburn’s first win over Bama in five years, Bear Bryant’s worst defeat ever. It was a crazy game. Auburn players were faking punts from their own goal line on a whim. Auburn students were running onto the field to kneel and shout “hallelujah” when the fake punts turned into touchdowns. People were writing songs. Even Shug let his hair down.

Fedorable: Kathy Owsley and Bobby Moates (AU ’71) at the 1969 Iron Bowl, before the game. They were on a date. They eventually got married. Photo taken from the Legion Field press box by Robert “Scoop” Owsley, Kathy’s father.

“He was walking down the sideline after the game was over and everybody started yelling ‘throw us your hat, throw us your hat!'” says Moates, an Auburn freshman in 1969 who was at Legion Field that day, sitting with her date above one of the field’s tunnel exits. “He just hauled off and threw it and I caught it.”

And in that moment, Shug Jordan’s houndstooth hat became, for a time, the most famous houndstooth hat in Alabama, maybe the country.

In 1969, that houndstooth hat across the state—and likely across the field that day—was still several years away from iconic. According to a January story in the Birmingham News in, Bear Bryant didn’t start wearing a houndstooth hat until he was given one that year or possibly 1968 by a Birmingham tailor (any “houndstooth” hat you may possibly see before then is merely checked, the tailor claims), though judging by a photo of Bryant in a houndstooth hat at the 1968 Cotton Bowl, which was played New Year’s Day, it would have had to have been no later than 1967. Shug, had also been wearing his houndstooth headpiece for at least a couple of years, often at games; there are several shots of him wearing or holding it on the sidelines in the 1969, 1970, and 1971 Glomerata, not to mention that Golden Flake ad. And no one batted an eye at the pattern choice. No one thought copycat—there was no cat around to copy, except of course maybe Shug himself, who according to his daughter regularly hit up Brooks Brothers in New York City for all manner of houndstooth apparel. He had purchased this particular fedora overseas in 1967. It apparently meant a lot to him.

“We were pleased to hear that Coach Shug Jordan’s now-famous hat has been returned to him, at least temporarily,” The Plainsman wrote in its Dec. 5, 1969 issue. “The Auburn coed who caught the hat when Jordan threw it into the stands after the Tigers’ great victory over Alabama last Saturday requested that he wear it to the Bluebonnet Bowl for good luck.”

“I got the hat two years ago in Ireland and it was pretty well battered up,” Shug told sportswriters after the game. “I guess I’ll never know what happened to my old hat.”

He was still mourning the loss during the next day’s Auburn Football Review—he guessed he’d just have to break in a new one for Auburn’s game against Houston in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl—but he needn’t have. Moates had already contacted the Athletic Department to schedule the hat’s homecoming.

“I called the next day (Sunday),” she says. “I said I wanted to give it back to him to wear to the bowl game.”

Thanks to her dad, longtime Opelika-Auburn News reporter Robert “Scoop” Owsley, a camera was there waiting to snap a shot for the AP wire when she did.

For Auburn fans living in today’s Bama Twins world, the photo that soon appeared in newspapers across the country (“It was as viral as viral could go back in ’69”) of legendary Auburn coach Shug Jordan and an Auburn coed posing beside a grinning stuffed tiger wearing a houndstooth hat is worthy of double takes, triple takes, quadruple takes, takes infinity.  But in 1969, it wasn’t a photo of a houndstooth hat, it was just a photo of a hat, Shug’s hat, and every Christmas card Moates received from an Auburn fan friend that year came with a clipping of it… probably accompanied with a “congrats,” because the caption concluded with “Jordan say she’ll get the hat back after the Houston game.” And she did. War Eagle.

Kathy Moates’ son Patrick modeling The Hat in 2013. He was named after 1969 Iron Bowl star Pat Sullivan.

“It always made me mad, all that (Bama) houndstooth crap,” Moates says.  “Bear’s hat wasn’t famous then. I think Shug wore one first. And I have it.”

Related: More new, old photos of Shug and his houndstooth hat.


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About Jeremy Henderson

Jeremy Henderson is the editor of The War Eagle Reader and co-host of Rich and Jeremy in the Mornings on Wings 94.3 FM in Auburn. Follow him on Twitter: @wareaglereader / @jerthoughts / @RichandJeremy

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