As most of Auburn’s campus lay asleep, a few brave students braced the cold morning weather Friday morning and started setting up their new home. This new development of student housing is called Bruceland.
Russell Clark, sophomore in exercise science, and his pal Jackson Marsh, junior in biosystems engineering, were the first members of this new community. They were the first to assemble outside of Auburn Arena at about six in the morning. Class was secondary on Friday.
“It was cold as hell,” Clark said. “But we had to be first. We have been chilling ever since.”
No. 2 Auburn basketball does not have a game on Friday though. Auburn plays the following Saturday at noon. The Tigers host the No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats, in what might be the biggest game in Auburn Arena’s history.
Clark and Marsh don’t care that they were going to be waiting upwards of 30 hours in the cold to watch the game. They would have waited longer.
“It was really cool to be the first ones out here,” Marsh said. “Some guys from the school knocked on our tent at like seven this morning and took pictures of us. They called us crazy. But this whole thing is kind of crazy.”
The sentiment shared by the two friends is shared all throughout Auburn basketball’s new town. Well over 60 tents have been set up around the green spaces in front of the Arena and all throughout the winding paths of the Village.
“Walmart must be loving this,” Clark said.
And Walmart likely is loving it. One student collected almost $2,000 from the new population of Bruceland and is going to make a run for supplies. Plenty of students have portable heaters and water, but the two buddies only have some whiskey shooters.
“That is all you need to keep warm right?” Marsh said.
There are literally hundreds of students populating the outside of the Village Chick-fil-A. And that number is only growing. Plenty of students have started taking matters into their own hands to stay busy.
Someone set up cornhole; another student set up his speaker and was playing country music; a few kids set up a beer-pong table. But maybe the best setup of all is Ashley Fountain's.
Fountain, her little sister and her “freshman friends,” as Fountain calls them, knew they had a problem. They knew laying or sitting on the concrete or on the grass was going to be miserable. So they did the only reasonable thing to solve this problem: They bought a couch.
The “Jungle Couch” is now a monument to Bruceland, the city’s first official dedication to one of Auburn basketball’s finest moments.
Fountain and her group purchased the brown reclining couch from a thrift store about an hour before they arrived at Bruceland, around 2 p.m.
They split the price six ways.
“It was 25 bucks a person," Fountain said. "What a steal. And now we are kind of famous."
The group hauled the couch in two separate pieces, set it up and plan on sitting on it for as long as they can. This leads to the question: What happens when they go into the game?
“Well, we hope it stays here so we can grab it on our way out,” Fountain said. “We might just leave it, kind of as a tribute, you know? Maybe the school will let it stay.”
All around the couch, students floated around, bracing themselves against the 37-degree weather. The temperature is only going to fall, though, expected to drop below freezing about midnight — roughly a dozen hours until game time.
One student decided he might use the weather to his financial gain and bought out a local store of hand warmers and was selling them by the Team Shop. His buddies around him were brewing coffee and drinking Natural Light. It could have been 100 degrees outside. They would not have minded.
Friday night, students can get into Auburn Arena, but not for basketball. Auburn gymnastics has a meet at seven, and they may see one huge crowd.
“Going to be honest, I don’t know a thing about gymnastics,” Clark said. “But it is warm inside, and they have food. Better than freezing out here.”
Whether you call it Pearlville, Bruceland, Bruce Vegas or any other name, it is a monument to the man who built Auburn basketball to the second-best team in the land. It is a testament to the players that believed in Auburn and have come and gone to grow the program.
This shanty town of green and blue tents is for Charles Barkley, Samir Doughty and Sharife Cooper and any other player in between.
The night is just now setting on Auburn’s new town. It is only going to get colder. But the students will be there. They all believe in Auburn, and they love it. The Jungle will be crazy on Saturday.