Most folks don’t typically imagine Auburn vs. Mississippi State as a historic rivalry with drama to spare. But, in its own way, it kind of is. And we’re not just talking Cam-gate, though that definitely got a little nasty. No, Auburn’s beef with the ‘bell clan can technically be traced to the early days of the series.
In 1919, thanks to Mississippi State quarterback’s habit of jumping knee-first onto the heads of prostrated Auburn players, Auburn coach Mike Donahue called the Bulldogs the most unsportsmanlike team he’d ever seen and vowed that Auburn would never play them again as long as he was coach. (They didn’t.)
Speaking of unsportsmanlike, that’s the term Shug Jordan used to decry State’s cherished cowbells, which in his mind had “no place in college football.”
After Auburn’s narrow 1974 win over the Bulldogs in Jackson, Shug insisted—to reporters, and to SEC commissioner Boyd McWhorter—that the noise from the cowbells had twice caused Auburn to jump offside, and once to fumble.
His complaint led the SEC to ban artificial noisemakers in conference stadiums the following year. Forced to consider bizarre alternatives to the bells, State fans were not amused. One once even tried to sue Auburn for not allowing him to bring his clanker into Jordan-Hare. True story.
But the most bizarre battle in this land-grant blood feud was waged 26 years ago, when MSU coach Jackie Sherrill accused Auburn punting legend Terry Daniel of spiking the ball… with helium. Again, true story. There was an inquiry and everything.
“I’m not joking,” a smiling Phil Snow told viewers during a 1993 WSFA sports segment on the SEC’s “secret search” for “funny footballs” at Auburn, “they really did an investigation.”
You can listen to my interview with Daniel about Inflategate here.