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A spirit that is not afraid

A look into the rich history of Auburn traditions

Students walking in front of Samford Hall on Wed, Jan. 16, 2019 in Auburn, Ala.
Students walking in front of Samford Hall on Wed, Jan. 16, 2019 in Auburn, Ala.

Note: See appended correction.

Auburn is widely known as The Loveliest Village on The Plains, the school of War Eagle, the home of Aubie the Tiger, Nova and Spirit. According to the Auburn Creed, students believe in Auburn and love it and live their lives by The Creed. Alumni visit for tailgates, and students say hey on Hey Day. 

But when did the traditions actually start, and why has it become a large part of Auburn?

Oliver Goldsmith wrote a poem “The Deserted Village” in May 1770. Not only does Auburn take its nickname from this poem: “Sweet Auburn, Loveliest Village on the Plains,” but also the Tigers: “where crouching tigers await their hapless prey…”

War Eagle is Auburn fans’ slogan for a game as a greeting or a cheer. The infamous words encompass many emotions. There are different legends, however, that describe how War Eagle began. 

According to Auburn’s legends page, the cry emerged in 1892. A Civil War veteran attended an Auburn football game against Georgia.

Haley Roberts, sophomore in pre-med nutrition sciences, enjoys the history and tradition. Roberts said the professor had a pet eagle that he had found while in the war that couldn’t fly, so it sat on his shoulder.

“All of a sudden, like during half time, the eagle actually came up and flew around the stadium, and so they started cheering, ‘War Eagle,’ and they were like, ‘Oh my God, the war eagle,’ and so they thought, the football team thought it was for them, and then they won the game,” Roberts said.

But some accounts have stated more ominous endings, which say that after the success, the eagle crashed and died.

The fight song, ”War Eagle,” according to Auburn’s official account, has been the official fight song since 1955, commissioned by Roy Sewell and written by Robert Allen and Al Stillman.  

Another well-known Auburn tradition is the 75-year-old Auburn Creed.

Desean Tinsley, junior in social work, is a former Camp War Eagle counselor. He said in preparation for the summer with incoming freshman, they use The Creed regularly. 

“We really learn how to apply it to our everyday lives, and it really made me appreciate Auburn more and really feel the Auburn spirit, and it just really gave me much more love and meaning to-for Auburn University,” Tinsley said.

Auburn students can find lines of The Creed around campus and they celebrate this together for one week each year.

“Creed Week is a program created by SGA to highlight the history and spirit of the Auburn Creed,” the Student Government Associations says on its website. “Each day of Creed Week will be dedicated to a set of lines from the Creed and celebrated through events and activities that will encourage the Auburn Family to ‘Live the Creed’. Through an array of partnerships between SGA and other groups across campus, we hope that the program will demonstrate what it truly means to ‘believe in Auburn, and love it.”

The Auburn University Seal has myths and legends of its own. 

“If you step on it, you will not graduate in four years, you won’t find your Auburn true love and your family is cursed with, like, three generations of Alabama fans,” Roberts said.

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In order to break the curse, some rumors state that you must jump in the president’s fountain at midnight on a full moon while others claim that the jumper must be naked. 

Debates on the legend persist, but ultimately, students know not to touch the seal until they graduate. 

The official Auburn University mascot is Aubie the Tiger, though Auburn eagles are flown on gameday. Aubie can be seen parading at campus events, kissing unsuspecting students, interacting with children on game days and more. His look has changed throughout the years, along with his unique costume designs.

“I mean, I think he’s a great crowd motivator and everything,” said Hannah Welch, second-year pre-vet poultry science student. “He gets everybody pumped up, especially the students. Even the fans at home.”

Oct. 3, 1959, was Aubie the Tiger’s first appearance. He was the face of the Auburn vs. Hardin-Simmons football game. 

“A popular character among Auburn fans and one of the most animated mascots in the country, Aubie is the living spirit of Auburn,” the official Auburn website says. “His striking good looks, personal appeal and daring antics combine to make the character fans cannot ignore. It is often said women love him, children adore him, and men want to be him.”

Correction: The original version of this article had a typo in the name of Oliver Goldsmith. We identified him initially as "Olive Goldsmith." That was incorrect. Additionally, the original version of this article said The Creed was 125 years old. That was also incorrect. Auburn recently celebrated the 75-year anniversary of The Creed. We regret the errors.

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