Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Traveling to Away Games in the Early Decades of Alabama Football

A trio of couples head to the Alabama game in 1898.
Today one of the hallmarks of die-hard Alabama football fandom is traveling to away games in the comfort of a luxury mobile home. In fact, the ease of finding a ride to the game is underscored by the headache of traffic around the stadium on gameday. It wasn't always like this.

In the earliest days of Alabama football, travel to out-of-town games was far more difficult. Most often the team played with little to no supporters in the stands. Occasionally, for high marquee games in the region, trains would be scheduled at special rates to ferry fans to and from the contests.

Still, paying the fare could be tough for cash strapped college students. In 1914 UA student George Waring Huston mentioned in a letter to his parents that 50 of his classmates had left the night before walking the 60 miles to Birmingham for the game against Sewanee the next day.

The growing popularity (and affordability) of the motor car as a personal mode of transportation revolutionized the gameday experience by making more distant contests available to the ardent fan. With it was born that staple of the collegiate experience, the impromptu road trip.

But it would take the introduction of the interstate highway and, later, the advent of affordable air travel, to make attending away games a regular occurrence for the Crimson Tide fanbase.

Alabama fans and their jitney bus that conveyed them to the
1907 game against Auburn at Lakeview Park in Birmingham.
A rakish group of UA students pose in their rambler in 1912.
Alabama's Million Dollar Band prepares to embark to Florida
where the Crimson Tide faced the Gators in 1925.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Father of Auburn Football Backs the Tide

In December of 1934 the fortunes of Alabama's premier college football teams could not have been farther apart. The Alabama Crimson Tide had rolled to an undefeated season and were preparing to head to California and take on Stanford in the Rose Bowl . Across the state the Auburn Tigers had limped to a 2-8 record under first year coach Jack Meagher.

The founder of Auburn football, Dr. George Petrie, was interviewed at an Atlanta conference about his thoughts on the two teams and was sanguine about the state of affairs at the two programs. Although retired from athletics, the 68-year-old Petrie continued to teach history and remained dean of Auburn's graduate school.

"Alabama has the best football team in the country, except Minnesota. Auburn's one consolation this year is they didn't have to play Alabama."

Alabama went on to beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl, 29-13, and claimed the national championship. Minnesota, who were also undefeated, did not play in a bowl game and also claimed the title.

Despite the conciliatory tone, Petrie remained adamantly opposed to a renewal of the rivalry that had been curtailed in 1907 following a bitter accusations between the two teams. The two schools, he insisted, were against it.

"The state legislature can't make us play as has been suggested. For that matter we couldn't make the boys play if they didn't want to."

In 1947 the Alabama legislature did decreed the rivalry resume -- and then backed it up by threatening to pull funding to the schools. After a four-decade hiatus, Alabama and Auburn met again on the gridiron the following year.