It’s the 30th anniversary of the ’89 game, so you’re going to see a lot about the First Time Ever, about Dye the Liberator, and everything. And, yeah.
But you probably won’t hear much about the wacky way Dye wanted to go about righting the rivalry when he first got here.
Turns out that back in 1981, minus any movement on bringing Bama to Auburn, Dye’s initial idea wasn’t for Auburn to establish its own home-field advantage in the Iron Bowl—it was to neutralize the Tide’s.
By playing more games in Birmingham.
“Essentially, Dye wants to ‘take the home-field advantage’ away from Alabama at Legion Field,” Anniston Star sports editor Wayne Hester reported that first February. “In order to do that, Dye feels, Auburn will have to play more regular-season games in the arena on Birmingham’s westside.
“Although it might not be ‘the Auburn way,’ Dye isn’t afraid to say how he feels.”
One of the reasons playing Birmingham was no longer ‘the Auburn way’ was because, save for the Iron Bowl, Auburn’s drawing power in the Magic City had dwindled in the ’70s. After opening the 1974 season against Louisville in front of just 25,000 fans, university officials took the hint.
Besides the Iron Bowl, Auburn played just two more “home” games at Legion Field, both against Tennessee (1976 and 1978), both in front of around 50,000.
Would trading Jordan-Hare for Legion Field work in the ’80s?
“If we’re winning, you’re dang right we can draw in Birmingham,” Dye said. “There are just as many Auburn alumni as there are Alabama alumni, and I would certainly think Auburn’s are just as loyal as Alabama’s. The difference is Alabama has the non-alumni and Auburn doesn’t. The reason for that is because Alabama has been winning an awfully long time.”
Acid Reign says
…..Respectfully, Pat Dye did not have all the information on that strategy. Auburn was never going to have an equal advantage at Legion Field. The stadium was built at least in part by the sale of Stadium Certificates. Wealthy folks, mostly Alabama grads bought those things, and the stadium went up. A certificate guaranteed the holder the right to purchase a ticket to any event at Legion Field, ahead of any other buyers.
…..As many as 30000 of those things were sold, and they could be transferred down via wills. It is estimated that 26 percent of all sideline seats in Legion Field (between the goal lines on each side) are available to stadium certificate holders.
…..Even Alabama power brokers eventually saw the wisdom in pulling out of Legion Field. The facilities were crumbling, the neighborhood was dangerous, and there was never adequate parking. Ironically, thanks to atrophy in that neighborhood, parking is more available now than ever before.