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The almost names of Jordan-Hare Stadium

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A 1947 artist’s rendering of a young man and his “Petrie Dish” in Petrie Stadium, which is what The Plainsman really wanted to name Auburn Stadium as a way to honor George Petrie. The father of Auburn football passed away in September 1947.

It’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. It could have been Something Else Stadium.

There’s kind of this idea, when you read Auburn history stuff, that an on-campus stadium at Auburn was basically the sole vision of Coach Jack “Green Jersey” Meagher. And Lord knows he was a champion of the idea, and a driving force for it once things really got going; in early 1934, his first year on the job, the WPA kinda sorta broke ground for “a concrete stadium to put Auburn on the map,” as records from the Physical Plant put it, on the site Jordan-Hare now occupies. Then they just stopped. For some reason. Oh well. When work “resumed” in 1938, the ground pretty much had to be broken again. The whole place was just bushes and weeds.

But with all due respect to Meagher—and again, as we’d probably only be celebrating Jordan-Hare’s 73 or 74th anniversary this year (if that) without him, there’s a ton of respect due—there was stadium talk in Auburn five years before he got here. And not just “wouldn’t it be nice” columns in the paper. We’re talking a green light from the Board of Trustees. As early as 1930, Auburn people wanted to put the pedal to the metal.

Because across the state, dang if Bama hadn’t just dedicated a stadium that their president was talking about eventually holding 66,000 people or something. That was in the fall of 1929.

The following spring, Bradford Knapp, Auburn’s then president, took a break from a Board of Trustees meeting to walk over to Langdon Hall and address a meeting of some Auburn alumni on how Auburn needed a stadium of its own. Amen, everyone said, Great Depression be damned. A doctor from Birmingham, Victor. H. Hanson, immediately pledged $10,000, which in 1930 was like a billion dollars. Tom Bragg, Auburn booster extraordinaire, saw Hanson’s pledge and raised him an actual check for the same amount, right then and there. Well all right, then. Knapp walked back to the trustees and told them the news.  Yes. A stadium. Let’s do it. They then asked Knapp to leave the room and unanimously decided on a name.

And man, the headlines would have been fun.

“Tigers fall asleep in Knapp.” “Snooze fest at Knapp.” “Auburn puts Tide to sleep in Knapp.” “Tigers wake up after Knapp nightmare.” “Afternoon Knapp game set for Saturday.”

Knapp Stadium. It could have been Knapp Stadium. Jordan-Knapp Stadium. Jordan-Hare-Knapp Stadium.

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It also could have been Petrie Stadium. If the stadium had been ready for the expansion in the fall of 1947, it probably would have been. George Petrie, the grand old man of Auburn, had passed away in September. What better way to pay tribute to the father of Auburn football than to rename Auburn Stadium (which everyone thought had kind of a boring name anyway) in his honor? The Plainsman was pushing for it . They were pushing hard.

“It is my contention, as it is with many others, that Auburn’s Stadium should be named the ‘Petrie Stadium,'” wrote associate Plainsman editor Ralph Jennings. “As far as I’m concerned, you can start calling it that today.”

And they did. There are Plainsman stories with lines like “meet for the pep rally in Petrie Stadium.” There’s a comic of some people making out… in Petrie Stadium.

A year later, with the possibility of renaming the stadium still in the air, there was another Plainsman editorial. Staff writer Spud Wright thought if it was going to happen, if we were going to honor an Auburn legend, well, there might even be someone more deserving than Petrie.

“Since this would be such an important decision,” wrote ol’ Spud, “I believe that there should be more than one name considered for the stadium and I think that the ones in authority should give serious consideration to naming in ‘Donahue Stadium’ in honor of former Coach Mike Donahue.'”

(Amen to that, Spud.)

In the end—Nov. 5, 1949 to be exact—Cliff Hare got the nod. And deservedly so, just like Shug. You may not know that much about him, but Cliff Hare was awesome. He played on Auburn’s first team, he was the former head of the old Southern Conference, he was the god of Auburn chemistry, and he pretty much devoted his life to athletics at Auburn. Dude was straight up beloved, on the Plains and across the south. But you kind of get the feeling that had he hung on a little bit longer—he died in 1948, a year after Petrie—the Plainsman would have gotten its wish.

(Oh man!—Knapp-Hare Stadium. What a waste…)

Related: VIDEO: Shug’s speech at the dedication of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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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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