From hijinks to real pain

Published: February 18 2011 | 12:45 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 11:45 am in
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The morning of Iowa's game against Illinois in 2005, you could kind of make out something written on the south end of the field.

Does that say what I think it says? Yep, it does.

The Kinnick grounds crew did everything it could do, but you could read "Iowa sucks" on the turf, the real turf that had just been laid that week.

During a re-sodding, a ton of people had access in and out of Kinnick. The vandals sprayed a systemic herbicide on the turf on Thursday with the idea that it would show up Saturday. It did, for the most part, but it really showed up during the next week.

Thankfully, Iowa didn't have a home game. The next time Iowa played at Kinnick, the words were covered with two swatches of new turf. Didn't match, but it also didn't say "Iowa sucks."

Illinois fans? Iowa State? Wisconsin? It remains a cold case.

College football fun with herbicides got a bit uglier this week.

The man allegedly responsible for poisoning the live oaks at Toomer's Corner where Auburn fans have long celebrated big wins was arrested and charged Thursday.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr., 62, of Dadeville, Ala., was arrested at the police station at 1:26 a.m. Thursday and was charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief.

Updyke, a former Texas state trooper, is charged with intentionally poisoning the 130-year-old oak trees at Toomer's Corner, which for generations have been rolled with toilet paper by Auburn fans after sports victories.

The herbicide 80DF was used. Auburn police began investigating whether the trees were poisoned shortly after a man claiming to be "Al from Dadeville" phoned Finebaum's radio show on Jan. 27 to brag about dumping Spike 80DF, also known as tebuthiuron, on the trees.

Read more on this in ESPN.com Mark Schlabach's excellent piece.

Former Auburn coach Pat Dye had a sane take. He didn't condemn Alabama fans and instead called it an "individual act" by an unbalanced man, who happened to name his daughter "Crimson" and son "Bear."

On Wednesday night, Tuscaloosa police stood guard over the Paul "Bear" Bryant statue outside Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Auburn fans are in real pain here. They feel as though they've lost something. And it's not like the Toomer's Corner oaks are a statue that can be recast. They will just be gone as in forever. Find someplace else to gather together, feel joy and spirit and throw toilet paper.

There are no parallels to be drawn from "Iowa sucks" to the death of 130-year-old oaks that will likely fall under a chainsaw if efforts to save them fail.

One is cosmetic, and the other is a criminal act that could see a 10-year prison sentence.

I also don't believe there are parallels to be drawn from the rivalries, Alabama-Auburn and Iowa-Iowa State.

I know everyone takes the Iowa State-Iowa seriously. I get the e-mails.

But I've never felt churning hatred that would drive anyone to a major act of vandalism. I don't think you have it in you, and for that, I thank the heavens.

I don't think any of you would call a sports radio station and brag about taking a chainsaw to the heads of the Nile Kinnick or Jack Trice statues that stand outside of the respective stadiums.

You might try to shout down "In Heaven there is no Beer." You might have a snarky remark or two about the cannon at Trice. You will wear "Bleep The Other Guy's School" T-shirts. You might get a little owly with each other on the trudge back to the car.

But I don't think you'd ever do anything to seriously harm each other or the rival school.

Please, don't prove me wrong.

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