Thirty-one years ago, the Auburn Tigers stymied a T.W. Alley coached Louisville Football team 16-3. Three decades have come and gone and thankfully the magicians of Chik fil A have cooked up a perfect way for these strangers to become reacquainted. Two programs, one slightly more storied than the other, destined to meet again. Some 12 years ago, an unsettled feud was ignited between the Tigers and Cardinals, September 5th, 2015 should launch Louisville and Auburn into a meaningful and legitimate college football rivalry.
I was a much younger Cardinal in 2003, we all were, and Louisville Fans were just beginning to warm up to our relatively unknown head coach, Bobby Petrino. Maybe it was just me, but 2003 seemed to begin the now commonplace hysteria of flight tracking tail numbers of athletic department airplanes. The details are debated, cloudy, and skewed depending on which side of the fence you listen to, but at some point during the 2003 season Coach Petrino met secretly with Auburn administrators and or boosters in Southern Indiana. The rumors surrounding this rendezvous paint a picture of a coup d'état worthy of the CIA and a third world country. "History" tells us the plan was to fire Tommy Tuberville immediately and quickly replace him with our head Cardinal, Coach Petrino. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that Petrino was Auburn's offensive coordinator a year prior and supposed friend to Coach Tuberville.
The coup was thwarted by General Jurich and Louisville retained Petrino through 2006, while Tuberville survived until 2008. However, the damage was done and a spark was lit between the Plains and the River City. Auburn and Louisville managed to essentially steer clear of each other for a few years while Cardinal Football crashed and burned into irrelevance. Then came Charlie Strong and the resurrection of our once promising program. Auburn and Louisville began crossing paths on the recruiting battlefields, and in 2011 the Tigers came sniffing around Floyd Street yet again.
Clint Hurtt was an all-star and essential hire for Charlie Strong's success. Without the Big Hurtt there is no Teddy Bridgewater. Auburn realized the sleeping giant Strong and Hurtt had awakened in Louisville and attempted to strike at the heart of Coach Strong's momentum. The Tigers attempted to lure Hurtt down south, but Clint bought into Strong's mission and the Cardinals defeated Auburn once more.
2012 brought us yet another showdown. Gene Chizik's championship honeymoon had combusted and his fate had been decided just weeks into the 2012 season. The gossip rags began circulating whispers that Auburn had targeted Charlie Strong as a possible replacement candidate. Tom Jurich was repeatedly asked about teams who may be coming after his head man, and he admitted Arkansas and Tennessee and contacted him regarding Strong. Jurich then notably slighted the Tigers by mentioning other schools and athletic directors who preferred to go behind everyone's back. Anyone listening knew these comments were directed at Auburn. Coach Strong remained in Louisville for one more season and is now adapting to reality in Austin, Texas.
Most recently was the recruiting saga of freshman G.G. Robinson. Robison's father is a Tiger legend, but his son was ignored by Auburn until the midnight hour of the 2015 recruiting season. G.G. was a longtime and consistent Louisville commit, but took late visits to Florida and Auburn. Following these SEC vacations, Robinson showed loyalty by remaining firm with the Cardinals. However, on the last night of permitted contact between schools and recruits, Auburn pulled out every stop to try and land Robinson. Legendary Tiger Head Coach Pat Dye rang the Robinson residence, the Auburn staff attempted to reach G.G. through his father, and the kid endured a sleepless night before inking with Louisville. Sorry Auburn, the Cardinals just have your number.
Saturday finally brings legitimacy to this rivalry 12 years in the making. The gridiron is where everything should be settled and Louisville is poised to make a statement. For a program viewed in such greater light than Louisville, Auburn sure seems to envy and covet the possessions of Louisville Football. Saturday offers the Cardinals a chance to settle some unsettled scores, but September 5th should be just the beginning between these two programs. A new rivalry is born and the sun will rise red Sunday morning in Atlanta.
All Hail UofL !!