Auburn fans were the first to ring cowbells at games, so first we rang them at our first game: That’s the ironic bombshell dropped in a thread on The Bunker a TWER reader named Blake Burgess pointed me to.
The evidence? A line from The Weekly Athens Banner’s coverage of the first installment of the Deep South’s oldest rivalry. Auburn-Georgia. Piedmont Part. Atlanta, Ga. 1892.
By three o’clock the grandstand at Piedmont Park contained over three thousand people anxiously awaiting the beginning of the game. The Technological school was out in force wearing the colors of the University and aiding the lung gang by the vigorous use of cow bells.
Only thing is, “Technological school” isn’t a reference to Alabama Polytechnic Institute, it’s a reference to Georgia Tech, which hadn’t yet formed a proper football team, and that as a matter of state pride was pulling hard for Georgia (and wearing their colors) against the boys from Alabama.
“One hundred and fifty students from the technological school are on their way to the grounds on foot. Every one of them wears the crimson and black of Athens,” an Atlanta Journal reporter at the game banged over the wires and back to the paper’s office in what was the 19th century equivalent of live-blogging. “They are carrying cowbells, horns, and lust lungs, and are making the welkin ring.”
Five minutes later: “The ‘Techs’ have arrived with a mighty yell and a chorus of cowbells of rasping-voiced horns. Their yell goes up and shakes the grandstand with its vibrations: ‘Techety tech, who wrecks, who wrecks, boom rah, boom rah, Georgia.'”
So yes, Auburn did play a part of the first football game (at least in the South) to feature fans ringing cowbells… as the target of artificial noise intended to affect the game. The (temporary) University of Georgia fans (who attended Georgia Tech) weren’t celebrating some sort of agricultural tradition symbolized by a cowbell. Just like in 1973 Starkville, the handheld mirror capitol of the world, it was was pure annoyance for annoyance’s sake.
Didn’t matter: Auburn 10 — Athens 0. (Where, O Georgia, is your victory? Where, O Cowbell, is your ring?)
It may have been the first example of a rival school not named Mississippi State ringing cowbells to get in Auburn’s head, but it wasn’t the last. Texas did in 1974. And Bama tried to. (And sure, OK, Auburn may have done it once, too.)
Related: Mississippi State considered handheld mirrors, cow tails as replacement traditions when cowbells were banned in 1975.
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