In 1999, Auburn paid $500,000 to back out of its season opener against No. 1 Florida State.
And a Florida State grad paid $5,000 to call Auburn cowards.
At least that’s how much Auburn grad Ryan Lee, a freshman on the Plainsman’s sports staff at the time, remembers being forked over for the full-page, one-word ad that ran in the Feb. 18, 1999 issue of the Plainsman. Whatever the amount, Lee says it “was fairly above the market rate given how controversial the ad would be.”
And it was controversial. But at first, what with zero context beyond the tiny “Paid Advertisement” in the bottom right corner, no one knew exactly why.
Seeing as how we were only a couple of months removed from the most controversial page of the Plainsman ever, most folks seemed to think it had something to do with—you’ll never guess—Bobby Lowder.
“Last week’s ad printing of only the word COWARDS was a disgrace and outrage to Auburn people everywhere,” read a letter to the editor printed in the following week’s edition. “Are Bobby Lowder’s enemies offering you money and jobs in the future in exchange of you bashing him week after week?”
The following week, Plainsman business manager Robert Edmonds, who was having his Auburn Manhood called into question, felt compelled to set the record straight.
“The ‘Cowards’ ad published in the Fe. 18 issue of The Auburn Plainsman was paid for by a Florida State University alumnus. It was not an editorial, as some have suggested,” Edmonds wrote. “According to the advertiser, it was intended to target those who chose to buy out the FSU contract and no one else. The Auburn Plainsman was selected to deliver the message because of its circulation. It was an unsolicited paid expression concerning a football game cancellation, and that was it.”
According to Edmonds, most of the Plainsman staff didn’t want the ad to run. Lee remembers the decision being entirely Edmonds.
“At that year’s Plainsman banquet, his (Edmond’s) successor presented him with a framed copy of the ‘Cowards’ ad, and there was a laugh about how that would definitely be his legacy,” Lee says.
Related: Florida State fans printed ‘War Damn Chickens’ shirts after Auburn backed out of series in 1999.
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* The Toomer’s Oak offspring that won’t die
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* Florida State fraternity pledges caught attempting unspeakable initiation rite at Auburn dorm
* Auburn restaurant celebrating Iron Bowl with takeout boxes
* Congrats Auburn fans—you survived an earthquake
* ‘One of the smartest f***ing minds in football’
* Auburn fans already applying for Iron Bowl victory vanity license plates
* Hear Rod and Eli back to back
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Keep in mind that, when the game with Florida State was scheduled in the mid 90s, Terry Bowden was the coach at Auburn and his daddy was still the coach at Florida State. It was scheduled specifically so it could be a matchup between father and son.
Well, as it would happen, Terry Bowden was fired halfway through the 1998 season. We finished that year out under Bill Oliver, then Tuberville was hired away from Ole Miss to start the 1999 season.
So, once Tuberville was the coach, this was no longer the “father vs. son” matchup that had been planned. It was just going to be a beating between a team that would go on to win a national title, and one that had just come off a 3-8 season (and would go on to only win 5 games that year, but we did beat LSU and Georgia).
So, in retrospect, it was a business decision by Auburn. It probably was a little bit cowardly to bail out of that game. But Auburn wanted to give a new coach the best chance of success, and there just wasn’t as much of a draw to the game as there would have been a year or so earlier.
RT Atlanta says
“Why did the chicken cross the road?”
Answer: To join the ACC
The Criminoles had their chance with the SEC’s 1992 expansion to regularly play AU and Diddy Bowden wanted none of it, so his team instead joined the ACC.
Scott W says
….and they were Cowards for chickening out of joining the SEC to join the ASissy.