The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

April 21, 2013

Auburn fans roll trees following spring game


Associated Press

— AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn fans said goodbye to the two oak trees at Toomer's Corner with one more toilet paper celebration following the spring game on Saturday.

An A-day-record crowd of 83,401 watched the Orange team defeat the Blue squad 35-14 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Gus Malzahn's first spring game since he was hired to coach the Tigers. Thousands of fans then made their way over to drape toilet paper over the two frail, poison-infested oaks in a tribute that was more celebratory than somber.

"There's more to Auburn than two oak trees, revered and sturdy as they are," retired athletic director David Housel said. "These oak trees are but an outward visible symbol of the Auburn heart. ... This is a day of celebration and remembrance."

The spring game included 164 all-purpose yards and a touchdown by junior college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne, and Jonathan Mincy was ejected for a "targeted hit above the shoulders" on wide receiver Dimitri Reese.

Longtime Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr. pleaded guilty on March 22 to poisoning the Toomer trees after the 2010 Iron Bowl, when Cam Newton led Auburn to the national title — and an Iron Bowl comeback from a 24-0 deficit.

The trees will be cut down Tuesday, and officials unveiled a plan on Saturday to renovate Toomer's Corner that is expected to be completed next year.

"Something doesn't have to be old to be a tradition," said Bill Stone, the president of the Auburn Alumni Association. "We'll be here and we're gonna roll and roll and roll this corner just as we always have and just as we always will."

Toomer's Corner is the bustling connecting point of campus and community, where Toomer's Drugs serves up lemonade and lunch at the old-fashioned counter and the trees serve as a gateway.

The celebratory rollings date back at least 40 years, starting with the now-underground wires that used to criss-cross the corner and switching to the trees some three decades ago, according to Housel.

A system of wires crossing the street will replace the trees as a temporary solution for postgame celebrations in a tribute to the old days.

Harrison Mills, the president of Auburn's student government association, said the Samford Park renovation will improve the openness, accessibility and accommodations for fans.

There were plenty of celebrations at Toomer's Corner when Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Auburn from 2009-11. He came back to the school after Gene Chizik was fired following a 3-9 season.

Malzahn, who received a five-year contract worth $2.3 million annually, said Saturday he and his team are going to give fans a reason to once again shower the corner in toilet paper.

"Here's the plan in the fall: to give the Auburn family numerous opportunities to roll these trees," Malzahn said to a roar of applause.