Five years ago, one Alabama fan took the Iron Bowl rivalry with Auburn too far
This Iron Bowl — the annual gridiron battle between Auburn and Alabama — marks the five-year anniversary of when the legendary trees at Toomer’s Corner were poisoned.
Toomer’s Corner is at the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and College Street in Auburn and connects the Alabama city’s downtown to the university campus. It marked a place of celebration; where Tiger fans would engage in the tradition of "rolling Toomer’s Corner" with toilet paper, a celebration that took place after a significant sports victory.
But nearly five years ago, the unthinkable happened. It was discovered the oak trees had become ill — poisoned, in fact. An herbicide used to kill trees was discovered after the Tigers had won the national championship in 2011.
The legion of Auburn fans began to pay tribute to the trees. Orange and blue pompoms were laid at the base of the cordoned-off oaks along with flowers and signs with messages like "Get well soon" and "PLEASE GOD SAVE THESE TREES," it was reported in early 2011.
The unthinkable act turned out to be the work of one Harvey Updyke, an Alabama fan of levels few could comprehend, and who admitted to poisoning the trees after Alabama’s 2010 Iron Bowl loss on Paul Finebaum’s Radio Show:
"The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Ala., because I live 30 miles away, and I poisoned the Toomer’s trees," the caller, who named himself "Al from Dadeville" told Finebaum. "Al" said he used Spike 80DF, also known as tebuthiuron, and the trees "definitely will die." The caller signed off with, "Roll Damn Tide."
Police traced the phone records to Updyke, who was then arrested and charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief.
In 2013, Updyke pleaded guilty to criminal damage of an agricultural facility. His sentence required him to serve at least six months in jail and spend five years on supervised probation for the Class C felony. He’s also banned from entering Auburn University property.
Updyke was also fined $800,000. According to The Auburn Plainsman, he had paid a grand total of $99, in one payment, as of September 2014.
Upon his release in 2013, attorney Andrew Stanley said Updyke had one request: "He wanted a banana and he got a banana," he said. "That’s it."
Bananas. The perfect word to describe the entire sad saga.
And in February Auburn planted two South Carolina-groomed live oaks to replace those that were poisoned.