Originally published Nov. 11, 2011.
The Wall Street Journal recently named the Auburn-Georgia rivalry the “dirtiest” in college football. But on Saturday, November 15, 1986, it was the cleanest— that was the joke, at least.
“Coach Dye laughed about it, he said they needed a bath anyways,” retired Auburn engineering professor Paul Conner told me two years ago when I interviewed him after the “Wet Virginia” game for a feature on the amazing unsaturability of Pat Dye Field.
Conner is the man who Pat Dye commissioned to redesign the field in the early 80s. He’s also the man who turned the stadium’s new, state of the art water cannons on the Georgia fans who stormed the field after the Bulldogs upset the Tigers in 1986. It was an act that sold a few shirts in Auburn — “We hose the best… and beat the rest”… “Nothing smells worse than a wet Dawg” — but that lives in infamy in Athens to this day.
So what happened?
Conner: Well, we just turned the sprinklers on… and I’m the guy who opened the valve.
TWER: So what was the thought process behind that decision?
Conner: Well, we discussed this at length before the game. We had made up our mind — when I redid the field and got it in good shape, we weren’t going to let the fans on it. They could destroy more grass than the players during the game. We told them (Georgia fans) ‘don’t go on the field, you’re not going to be allowed on the field.’ But they went on there and so we opened it up on them and got them a little wet. Coach Dye laughed about it, he said they needed a bath anyways.
TWER: What exactly were they doing?
Conner: They were grabbing at the turf. They wanted a piece of the grass. Only a few of them got out there, but some of them got real wet in the stands, some who weren’t leaving. They didn’t like that. It took a while to get them out of there. Some of them in the stands shook the rails loose on one end. They (the cannons) turn 360 degrees. You could turn them all the way around, you know. We didn’t have full pressure on them ‘cause there wasn’t enough pressure to run all of them.
TWER: Do you remember any immediate outrage over it?
Conner: Oh, I don’t think there was. I don’t remember anything. It turned into really more of a happening—more of a fun thing, than anything. Georgia couldn’t be too upset — they won the game. And we were really favored to win. I think I remember Coach Dooley saying ‘we’ll probably have some dialogue about this.’ But the funny thing is that in some magazine there was an article about the 25 most memorable things that have happened in the SEC, and Bear Bryant winning 315 games was like, number 24 or something, but us wetting the Georgia Dawgs was number 11. They remembered that more than anything Bear Bryant did.
Tigerette Laura says
I was there that night. Pretty wild!
I live in GA and 25 years later they still fume over that incident. Honestly, I know people that still can’t joke about it. They’re not the forgetting or forgiving type.
Nothing smells worse than a wet dawg…
luke frisbee says
That is pure BS…they turned the water cannons on to keep the AUBURN fans from rioting. The refs “blew” the call that lost us the game… Bo bounced out of the line to run around the end and win the game, but the refs prematurely blew the whistle when bo was in the line. The Auburn fans wanted to eat some refs.
Bo Jackson won the heisman and left in 1985. He did not even play in that game
luke frisbee says
well OK then..I was drunk that night…
..and maybe tonight too
Pell City Tiger says
It wasn’t Bo, it was Brent Fullwood (from my fuzzy recollection).
I was a freshman that season and was at the game. I grew up in Georgia and had several friends from UGA attending the game. Fans had all day to get “liquored up” and the atmosphere was the most intense I had seem up to that point in my career at AU. The student section was particularly packed for the game, but I managed to get a great seat around the 35-yard line.
As I recall, there wasn’t a ton of UGA fans on the field after the game, but the ones who did manage to get on the field were clearly ripping up the turf and were doing damage to the hedges. I remember a female Auburn fan came out of the stands to confront a UGA fan who was on the field mocking Auburn fans. The Dog fan pushed her aside and the bottles began to rain down from the stands. All in all, it wasn’t either school’s proudest moment. It was definitely a wise move to turn on the water to calm down what was an escalating situation.
I am going to put a bow on this and finish by saying this: Georgia fans are the absolute worst. I think this whole “we’re cousins/friends/buddies” angle that fans from both sides have been perpetuating over the years is total BS. UGA fans are poor losers, bad sports and generally have no respect for Auburn as a football team or a school. I urge Auburn fans to watch their back in Athens tomorrow because they have been talking up the “Auburn is dirty” angle all week and I suspect UGA fans will act out like the poor sports they have continually proven themselves to be over the years of this otherwise great rivalry. Probably not a popular opinion to espouse, but I have seen too much absolute garbage behavior from UGA fans to think otherwise.
Michael Val Hietter says
I work with someone who was at that game and stated that the water cannons WERE turned into the crowd in the stands. (I was there as a student but I don’t remember.) The official Auburn side is that turning the water into the stands did NOT happen; this interview seems to say that it DID happen to get the UGA fans out of the stadium. That seems to be the only controversy over this event–I don’t think anyone thinks that we shouldn’t have hosed the UGA folks who stormed the field itself. (Can anyone else shed some light on this point?)
Two positive remembrances of that game and afterwards:
1. My only in-person Iron Bowl was right after the “hose game.” I remember a sign at that game reading “The good we hose; the weak we beat.”
2. After the UGA game, and the hosing, the Auburn entire student body left Jordan-Hare hollering in unison “It’s GREAT–to BE–an AUBURN Tiger” over and over and over and over again, even after defeat–it was the proudest I ever felt as an Auburn fan, even prouder than after last year’s championship.
(who says it is ALWAYS great to be an Auburn Tiger, win. lose, dry, or wet!)
Oscar Whiskey says
Man, if this would have transpired today it would have turned into a wet t-shirt contest. Note to self: turn sprinkler system on at every home game next season…
It definitely did happen.
At that time we had no hedges around the field. The next year we had hedges with thorns, even around the end zones. Nothing you would want to fall or jump into.
I was there also, of course… it was Fullwood who was blown dead by a quick whistle, right as he was churning his legs and breaking free to score a TD…. replay today would have reversed that more than likely…. cost us the SEC championship… (have replayed that play MANY times thinking what if – funny, it never gets reversed when I rewind it!!) UGA fans ran out on the field, trying to tear up the field, and the water was turned on them…. the UGA fans, after a bit, were asked to vacate the stadium several times… they would not, so they then turned to water into the stands on the UGA fans…. still have a semi-shot of that on the VHS tape on which I recorded the game…. also still have the orange t-shirt which states “We hose the best and beat the rest”
The dawgies were certainly fuming about it afterwards. One of the TV sports guys, maybe Chuck Dowdle, was saying folks ought to sue the university and nonsense like that. One things people forget, is that the week before, the dawgies had upset Florida and afterwards they tore the field up. Auburn repeatedly told them not to get out on the field, but being dawgies they didn’t listen, so they got wet. They still b*tch about it, and we still laugh about it.
The reason Georgia fans were so upset was that the hoses were turned on to the crowd in the 40 degree weather. Elderly people were soaked and even knocked down by the force of the water cannons. The band demanded payment from Auburn due to the soaked/ruined uniforms and instruments.
Yeah, it was real funny.
They were sprinklers not water cannons. If anyone was knocked down it wasn’t by the force of the water.
MJ Scott says
I was a freshman and I remember this well. Hoses were turned on the people who had rushed the field, and then were turned on the people climbing down from the stands, in an attempt to keep them off the field. Nobody got knocked down that wasn’t already on the field or trying to get there. Yes, a few lingerers got wet. My heart breaks for them. Poor pups.
haha fuck aurburn
I was there. It was kind of a funny/embarrassing thing to witness as an Auburn fan. I know UGA fans that still won’t let that one go, and they are old enough to know better. Sort of like some LSU fans that are still angry at Auburn over the Tuberville Cigar incident.
Deb the tigerette says
I was there too as a tigerette and walked back out through the player tunnel where about 20 ga fans who made it to the field got shackled and had to wait on their knees on the concrete. I’m sure that was much worse than getting a little damp from the sprinklers. My recruit thought the ga fans were thugs and that we did the right thing to neutralize the situation. Memories!
I was there too, and my memory of the night is a Georgia fan — a girl — giving the hosemaster the finger and yelling, “You won’t hit me!” He calmly turned the hose toward her, and suddenly she wasn’t there anymore!
Luke, you are dirty trashbag liar. I was there in the student section. UG fans ran on the field and to the AU logo and started pulling up huge chunks. Several male AU cheerleaders ran up behind them and turned them over and proceeded to piledrive their fists into the UG fan’s faces. It was beautiful. UG students started pulling up the railing in the north endzone and the cannons were turned on them. Get your stanky UG azz outa here!
Joe Aderholdt says
There wasn’t even one hose involved. Only the irrigation cannons on the perimeter of the field were activated and they were all aimed ON THE FIELD until a drunk UGA fan tried to twist one off and turned it into the Ga. section. Lewis Grizzard talked about the hoses for years and lied every time.
Had some UGA fan mention me on twitter because I tweeted about a UGA fan claiming USCe fans were classless (pot meet kettle kind of thing) and she immediately mentioned the hoses. I linked her to the article so she could educate herself and how it was the UGA fans being classless by destroying the field.
Heres the truth. that week before the game I work for the contractor as a supervisorfor the glass company that was putting in the glass for the sky boxes.we were doing the work during the football season.about 3 days before the game we noticed on each end zone we could see guys working on what we thought were elevated chairs for camera men.there was one in both end zones. they were diagonally from each other.that Friday we found out differently.they mounted water cannons in front of those chairs.they turn them on at least things had so much power they could reach all the way across the field and criss cross each other.. I had the time of been working out in Oklahoma and was on other jobs it wasn’t up on football at the moment one of our guys was an Auburn fan and he said last year Auburn upset Georgia and tore up their field tore up their hedges. He said I bet they’re anticipating Georgia to win.and they’re putting those water cannons up in in case Georgia wins they’re going to want to stop that from happening. Sure after the game that’s exactly what happened.
Here’s the real story. Auburns stadium was being enlarged and glass skyboxes where being put in during the 1986 season. I was a supervisor over the glass installation. Earlier that week we saw on each end zone guys working on what looked like elevated chairs diagonally across from each other in both end zones. We figured they were for camera men to sit in and use.. . Well that Friday we saw them mount these long gun looking things and then they turned them on and they could shoot water across the field in fact both water canons where so strong they could reach and crossed each other. They had that much power. We thought why do they want to spray that much water when they have popup sprinklers. One of our crew was a big Auburn fan and he said I know what it is . Last year Georgia was upset by Auburn and Auburn fans tore up their field and tore up the hedges to take a piece home for keepsake. He then added Auburn probably will get beat and doesn’t want Georgia to fans tear up their field and hedges.. Sure enough Auburn lost and out came the water cannons very hastily I might add. They then turned them on the crowds. It was freezing cold that night and Auburn fans and Georgia fans got hosed in their seats of all things. The water canon cowboys said people threw stuff at them. And why not? The next week the water canons were taken down. They were call water sprinklers in the press but they were for other reasons. War Eagle.
W Smith says
It was a miracle the fans in the stands were not seriously injured. I remember seeing people running on the soaked stands trying to keep from being sprayed.