How Did the Iron Bowl Get Its Name and Does Alabama or Auburn Have More Wins?

Alabama vs. Auburn is one of the most heated rivalries in college football. The fanbases truly have disdain for the other. In the last 20 years, the contest has been pretty evenly matched, with Auburn leading the series 11-9. Since the rivalry started in 1893, it’s consisted of numerous streaks, with one team dominating the other. What is the all-time record between the teams and how did the Iron Bowl get its name?  

History of Iron Bowl

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The Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers first met in 1893. Before an estimated crowd of 5,000 in Birmingham, Auburn won the game 32-22. The two teams met almost annually until the 1907 season. Due to various issues, the teams stopped meeting after that season and didn’t play again for 40 years.

In 1947, after the Alabama state legislature intervened by passing a resolution encouraging the schools to resume the game, Alabama and Auburn restarted the rivalry with a game at Legion Field in Birmingham. Alabama won 55-0 for the largest victory in series history.

Plenty of Iron Bowl highlights through the years

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In 1964, the Iron Bowl made its national television debut, as Bama quarterback Joe Namath led the Tide to a 21-14 win. A couple of years later, the two teams met for the first-ever night matchup at a rain-soaked Legion Field. Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler ran 47 yards late in the game, and Bama won 7-3.

Almost 25 years later, the highlight for the Auburn Tigers came in 1989, not because of victory on the field, but off of it. That’s when the rivalry game was played at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time. And the cherry on top was Auburn knocked off the No. 2-ranked Tide 30-20. After the game, Auburn coach Pete Dye described the feeling of leading his team out of the locker room onto the field. 

“I’m sure that [the scene] must have resembled what went on the night the wall came down in Berlin. I mean, it was like [Auburn fans] had been freed, and let out of bondage, just having this game at Auburn.”

Alabama shifted from Legion Field in Birmingham to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa for home games starting in 2000. The largest crowd in the history of the rivalry occurred at Bryant-Denny Stadium when 101,821 watched the Tigers defeat the Crimson Tide 28-27.  

How the game got its name and the all-time record

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While Joe Namath led the Tide to victory on the first nationally televised game in 1964, something bigger happened that season. That’s when Auburn coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan was asked how he would deal with the disappointment of not taking his team to a bowl game.

“We’ve got our bowl game,” Jordan told reporters. “We have it every year. It’s the Iron Bowl in Birmingham.” And the name stuck. 

In the 84 years of the two teams meeting annually on Thanksgiving Weekend, the series has been remarkably streaky. The Tide hold the high-water mark with a streak of nine consecutive years (1973-1981). Auburn’s high is six, which occurred from 2002 to 2007. Overall, Alabama holds the series edge at 46-37-1, with the tie occurring in 1907.