Auburn’s 49-26 victory over Alabama in the 1969 Iron Bowl—the first Auburn win in five years—was the worst defeat, point-wise, in Bear Bryant’s career. At the time, the celebratory tone from Auburn fans rang out with a “Punt, Bama, Punt” level intensity, just three years before Bama punted, the jubilation charged from the opposite end.
1972 was a come-from-behind upset by the narrowest margin possible, in the most implausible scenario imaginable. 1969 was a foot-on-the-throat, song-worthy blow out capped by a 100-yard whim of a fake punt by Auburn’s Connie Frederick, who was apparently so drunk with joy, his game plan inhibitions so totally shot, he decided — after backing up and looking to make sure he’s actually on the goal line so he can tell himself that he ran the full 100 yards — “nah, I’m not going to punt, no one’s rushing me, I’ll just run for a touchdown.”
Gary Sanders, Auburn’s play-by-play man, laughed and wondered if Auburn will go for two. Bama fans started toward the exits. Auburn fan’s started for the field.
Nineteen-year old Bill Wingo ran to the 37 yard line and knelt down. As if in prayer.
There were still 42 seconds left in the game.
Here’s how Sanders described the scene.
“There are fans all over the field. One man is kneeling down at about the 37… the officials are finally coming up to this guy and saying, ‘hey, how about getting out of here and letting us finish the final 42 seconds of this game. This fella is beside himself. He’s now going to go to the sideline and he’s in the middle of all the football players hugging everybody now.”
“Well, I was just so excited,” laughs Wingo, now 60 years old and living and working in Indianapolis. “It was just such a moment, that fake punt.”
“It was the first time I ever saw Auburn beat Alabama in person, so to say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. Bama used to annihilate us and everyone bowed down to Bear Bryant. I thought it was time someone bowed down to Coach Jordan.”
That’s what Wingo says he was doing—literally bowing to Shug. Almost in the middle of the field. With 42 seconds left. And nobody seemed to mind.
“After that I got up and went on the sideline with the Auburn players and couple of police officers were just laughing at me, they were saying ‘War Eagle.'”
He didn’t know he’d made the radio broadcast until 2005 when, in town for a football game, he caught a clip of an Auburn highlight CD while shopping in J&M Bookstore. When he ran into Sanders on a business trip in 1980 they only talked about “Punt, Bama, Punt.”
He also made Auburn’s yearbook. A photo of his public display of affection was snapped by a photographer and featured in the 1970 Glomerata. He only found about that months later. He wasn’t an Auburn student. In 1969, Wingo was enrolled at Marion Institute.
Where did he graduate?
“The University of Alabama,” he says. “But I always cheered for Auburn while I was there.”
Just never with the uninhibited ecstasy—”I might have had a few drinks in me”—of November 29, 1969.
“I’ll use a quote from Updyke,” Wingo says. “I guess I was too full of Auburn that day.”
Originally published Nov. 24, 2011.
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