USA Today: 1896 Auburn prank on Georgia Tech second best in college sports history

Wreck Tech parade, 1973. See great photos from the ’72 parade here.

Yesterday, USA Today ranked that thing that happened before the 1896—”yes, 1896″—Auburn-Georgia Tech game as the 2nd best prank in college sports history. They gave it 69 words. Here are 449 more.

So it was Auburn’s first home game against Georgia Tech… their first home game ever, actually, Nov. 7, 1896. The Tigers destroyed the Yellow Jackets in the shadow of Samford Tower to the killer tune of 45-0. However, there is a good chance the game was not decided, at least entirely, by Auburn’s superior grasp of Xs and Os but rather Tech’s curious lack of Zzzs.

The buzz, as it were, was that the coach-less team from Georgia was hitting town by train in the wee, gameday morning hours. And so unknown number of Auburn cadets decided to welcome the team by literally greasing the rails for an Auburn victory, conspiring under an Alabama midnight only two days removed from a new moon to coat more than 400 yards worth of rails on either side of the train station with pig grease and lard and soap. The result: an unstoppable, brake-less slide past Auburn half-way to Loachapoka, nearly five miles. Total Second Best College Sport Prank Ever success. (Did second year Auburn coach John Heisman have anything to do with it? Who can say—but legend has it that he had a pretty good view, sipping lemonade through laughs atop the recently opened Toomer’s Drugs.)

The thing is, the team didn’t really need the insurance. The Tigers’ had rested from their last game for a full month. That was a 46-0 mauling of Mercer, which Tech had beaten just 6-4 in their first game of the season on Halloween, just eight days before offering themselves to Auburn. The Yellow Jackets had once tied Auburn since southern football began, but never beaten them, which would take 10 more years. The two teams last met in Atlanta in 1894: Auburn-96, Georgia Tech-0. It was Auburn’s most decisive win ever, and one of the largest margins of victory in the history of college football (though nowhere near the 220-0 record held by a Heisman-coached Georgia Tech.)

But yeah, Tech lugs their gear back to town keeping close to the tracks, stumbling and tripping on the cross ties, huffing and puffing and cussing. It must’ve been hell. That they played the game at all is kind of amazing. But young programs in those days were pretty desperate for their guarantee of the gate.  Once Georgia Tech found out what happened, they were understandably pissed off, and refused to play Auburn the next year, only agreeing to resume the rivalry after API officials assured them of their efforts to curb such shenanigans with threat of expulsion. And thus began the Wreck Tech Pajama Parade, an annual (but sadly discontinued) commemoration and symbolic reenactment of the hi-jinks featuring a pajama-clad march to the Train Depot for a pep rally that in early years actually spawned activity even more criminal than the potential crashing of a passenger train. But more on that later.

USA Today h/t: @SCS_AuburnFan. Photo: Larry Parker.

Related: John Heisman’s 1899 letter to Auburn students.

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