UPDATE: Ill-Eagle Procedure vs. Florida in 1976? No way says former War Eagle IV trainer.
[UPDATE] There’s video.
As it was Doug Barfield’s first year as Auburn’s head coach (4-7), this bit of trivia from the 1976 season’s trip to Gainesville could, in retrospect, seem like a high point. In fact, what happened between Florida’s Wes Chandler and War Eagle IV earned our beloved bird the lead off induction into 1990’s The Football Hall of Shame 2 in the “Silliest Performances by Mascots” category. (Got Shame?)
Wes Chandler scored the winning touchdown and got the bird from Auburn—literally!
Seconds after Chandler dashed across the goal line to give the University of Florida a dramatic come-from-behind victory, Auburn’s mascot, the War Eagle, swooped from its perch and attacked the standout wide receiver.
“Nobody from Auburn could stop Chandler,” commented Florida’s sports information director John Humenik. “Even the bird tried and failed.”
Normally, the War Eagle remained placidly on its perch during Auburn games, acting more like a turkey on a Valium diet than a daring bird of prey. But against Florida in Gainesville, the eagle grew increasingly agitated as Chandler tore through the Auburn secondary.
In the second quarter, Chandler teamed up with quarterback Jimmy Fisher on a 44-yard touchdown pass that kept alive the Gator’s hopes of winning their sixth straight of the year.
But with time running out in the fourth quarter, Florida still trailed the Tigers 19-17 when Chandler took an Auburn punt and ran it back for what appeared to be the go-ahead score. But a clip brought the ball back and the Gators started again from their own 20-yard line.
Recalled Chandler, “On the very next play, I caught a slant-in pass over the middle, reversed my field three or four times, and went 80 yards through the entire Auburn secondary for a touchdown. This one counted and we went ahead.”
“The last Auburn defender who had a shot at me dove and missed. When I looked back, he was face down on the ground, pounding his fists on the turf in frustration. Just about that time, I heard a loud squawk and the bird bit me. Scared the hell out of me, because I didn’t know what it was. It started going peck-peck-peck all over me. It probably would have hurt if I didn’t have the pads on. Here were all those Auburn defenders who never touched me and the mascot was their last chance. It was like it was saying, ‘OK. If you guys can’t get him, then I will!’” Chandler said.
The ref threw a flag. We were assessed a 15-yard penalty for “illegal participation by the mascot” on the ensuing kickoff. And sure, we lost the game 24-19. But, frankly, since the first two YouTube search results for “Auburn player” are videos titled “Police Dog bites Auburn player” and “UGA bites at Auburn player,” it’s nice to know that we were at least once on the giving end of a gridiron animal attack.
Our thanks to Lonnie P. Money for the history lesson.
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There is a great picture of the bird attacking Chandler that accompanies the article inside the book. If somebody can scan the pic, that would be great. I’ve misplaced the book over the years and have been looking for that photo ever since.
Biscuit — there’s not a photo of the attack, at least in the copy we have, just a shot of the eagle with it’s wings spread sitting on it’s perch. Was going to include it, but it looks like every other photo of the eagle you’ve seen.
I was actually at that game, covering it for The Plainsman. It was brutal watching Chandler burn our slow secondary. I remember seeing the whole thing, but it was never mentioned with the same frequency as UGA’s attack on the Auburn receiver, so I thought maybe it was not a big deal. But it did happen.
I was there too..Freddie Smith, probably our best defender that year, was the player that was faked out by Chandler and ended up on the ground.
My dad and I both remember going to an away game in starkville in the mid to late 90’s when Aubie got on a John Deere Gator and was doing doughnuts in the endzone before he was kicked out. Anybody else remember that?
I saw Aubie run up the mic man’s stand and leap over the hedge, tackling the Ole Miss Reble in mid air circa 1999-2000. The mascots then got in a fist fight and had to be separated by police. Anybody else see that?
@tptoomers – I heard about that my first year at Auburn in 2003. A girl I talked to who was a senior at the time had told me about it. I would love to find the video of Aubie jumping from that stand onto the Ole Miss Rebel. The story as I heard it was that the police had escorted the Rebel away from our student section several times before Aubie made the dive…
tptoomers, Aubie did run up the mic man stand and dive over the hedge but it was against Vandy in 2000. I was in the first row of the student section above the corner tunnel. Aubie was in front of us behind the endzone when the Vandy mascot came over in front of the main frat sections and started doing the suck it sign to the students, which didn’t make any sense because we were dominating at the time. We pointed it out to Aubie and he flew over the hedge and tackled the vandy mascot. They rolled around a bit and then the Vandy mascot ran off, probably out of shock. Best Aubie moment ever.
I was there and will never forget it. Your timing is impeccable..I had just told my thirteen-year-old son about the time the eagle attacked the Florida player..
yeah, i guess it was the commodore, not the rebel. That was the moment when Aubie ceased being a person in a costume and became a living cartoon character in my mind. Aubie is great. The athletics department does a really good job with him.
Once I was leaving in the middle of class in Haley Center. No one was in the hall but me. As I approached the elevator, I could hear a commotion all the way at the other end of the hall. Then here comes Aubie, sitting in a small trash can, and scooting his way out of one of the rooms and across the hall using his feet. I thought I must have been hallucinating. I swear I saw it.