College Sports Fan Burns Down Trees At Auburn University
(CNN) – Two years of rescue efforts could not save them. So, Tuesday, Auburn University is cutting down two iconic trees that a disappointed fan of its intrastate rival poisoned after his team lost a game to Auburn.
The landmark live oaks, used for celebrations by fans, who rolled them with toilet paper after big victories, were more than 130 years old. On Tuesday, they were coming down branch by branch from the campus gathering place, Toomer’s Corner.
Local television news cameras are broadcasting the removal live.
The Iron Bowl is what Alabamans call the rivalry football matchup between the Auburn Tigers and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
In 2010, both were nationally ranked.
On November 26, Auburn, playing at UA in Tuscaloosa, came back from a huge deficit to squeak past the Tide by a point, beating its tough sibling 28-27 on its home field.
Revenge for a loss
Tide fan Harvey Updyke didn’t like losing and did something about it, which he confessed anonymously two months later on a UA sports radio show. He called in as “Al from Dadeville.”
“Let me tell you what I did the weekend after the Iron Bowl. I went to Auburn, Alabama, because I live 30 miles away,” the caller said. “And I poisoned the two Toomer’s trees.”
He ended the call with “Roll Damn Tide,” a battle cry for the University of Alabama.
The herbicide was highly potent, and tests of soil samples confirmed that he had applied a liberal amount. He had doused the soil around the trees.
When news about the poisoning spread on campus, students rallied around the trees and rolled them with toilet paper.
Updyke, who is in his mid-60s, was arrested. He pleaded guilty in March and will serve at least six months of a three-year sentence for criminal damage to an agricultural facility, a felony.
Upon release, he will be under five years of supervised probation, which includes a 7 p.m. curfew, a ban on attending any collegiate event and a ban on stepping onto Auburn University property.
He may be assessed for restitution.
Saturday night, students and fans of the Auburn Tigers gave the two trees that had graced the campus since the 1800s a final rolling, according to the university website.
Next year, two new oaks will be planted in their place.
By Ben Brumfield and Phil Gast
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