An Auburn victory over Alabama on the way to the 2010 national championship led an Alabama fan named Harvey Updyke to poison the famed trees at Toomer's Corner, defiling one of the SEC's great traditions.
Harvey Updyke has since served jail time, been ordered to pay $800,000 in damages to the university and become the symbol of a rivalry gone over-the-top awry.
The trees are now gone, cut away after a celebration by thousands at Auburn's spring game in April, closing one chapter of the saga that began when Updyke, using the handle "Al from Dadeville" called a Birmingham sports talk show to admit he poisoned the majestic oaks.
Despite his efforts, the Auburn spirit that filled the corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue after each Tigers victory has grown stronger than ever. The fourth-ranked Tigers (10-1, 6-1 SEC) can deny No. 1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0) a shot at a third consecutive national title Saturday in a game televised nationally by CBS.
The Iron Bowl has arguably never been bigger than Saturday's showdown. A berth in the SEC Championship Game is just one of the storylines. A third consecutive national championshiphangs in the balance for Alabama, along with a potential Heisman Trophy for starting QB A.J. McCarron. Auburn, meanwhile can spoil all that for the Crimson Tide by capping a remarkable turnaround season after going 3-9 in 2012.
Some in Alabama were comparing the buildup this week to that of 1989, the first time Auburn hosted Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium (the game had been played in Birmingham's Legion Field until then). That year, a No. 2-ranked Alabama team came in and was ambushed by Auburn 30-20, giving the Tigers a share of the SEC title and denying Alabama a shot at the national championship.
Others might compare it to 1972, which is where some Auburn historians believe the tradition of rolling the trees truly took flight. Alabama was undefeated and ranked second in the nation heading into the game in Birmingham. According to Auburn historian David Housel, a player named Terry Henley boasted all week that the 8-1 Tigers would "beat the No. 2 out of Alabama." Lo and behold, the Tigers, who were two-touchdown underdogs, stunned the Crimson Tide 17-16 by blocking two punts for touchdowns in the fourth quarter. "Punt Bama Punt" became a rallying cry and, the legend goes, the toilet paper flew.
Auburn this year brought in wires for fans to roll, and if the Tigers win Saturday, fans will celebrate at Toomer's Corner like never before (you can watch it HERE with a live cam),
Call it Toomer's Revenge.