In 1996, the 15th-ranked Auburn team hosted No. 21 LSU, but the game is not what is remembered over 20 years later. The SEC showdown at Jordan-Hare Stadium is remembered as the night “The Barn” burned.
The Auburn Sports Arena was opened in 1946 and was home to the Auburn Tigers’ basketball team until 1968 when Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum was opened. The old Auburn sports arena, nicknamed “The Barn,” was still used for the women’s gymnastics teams until it went up in flames.
The Barn Fire
Although it was scheduled to be demolished, The Barn’s date of execution was moved up to September 21, 1996 due to a likely tailgating mishap.
So instead of being remembered for the 19-15 win by LSU in a matchup of ranked SEC rivals, it is remembered as “The Barn Fire Game” because of the giant smoke cloud rising over the side of the stadium and thousands of fans watching as they feared the stadium was burning.
The Auburn Fire Department kept the fire from spreading to Jordan-Hare Stadium, but it took the whole night of fighting the fire before it was finally put out. The building was a total loss with barely anything left standing by the time it was finally out, according to AL.com.
The fire was so intense, the connection to fire hydrants was using so much water, it pulled the water from other buildings including Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The cause of the fire was likely a grill being too close to the building and underneath an overhang with an ember jumping and sparking the inferno.
The use of this site is now a parking deck.
The 1996 Auburn-LSU Game
Although the game took a back seat to the fire, it was still important. The Gerry DiNardo-led LSU team entered the game as the underdog to Terry Bowden’s Auburn team, but thanks to four turnovers and some other mistakes for the home team, they were able to pull off the upset.
Dameyune Craig entered the game as the starting quarterback, but was injured and didn’t play in the fourth quarter, which proved to be huge. Jon Cooley took his place and threw two interceptions. The first came with just over seven minutes left in the game when Raion Hill returned an interception for a touchdown to give LSU a 17-9 lead.
Auburn got back into the game though when LSU turned the ball over two minutes after their pick-six. Rusty Williams capitalized by scoring a seven-yard touchdown.
But Cooley threw his second interception of the game on the two-point conversion, which Hill once again taking to the end zone to score two more points.
Auburn had to go for two due to a missed extra point earlier in the game and also had missed three field goals.
LSU went on to lose just two games during the 1996 season, once to Florida and the other to Alabama. Auburn finished the season 8-4 with losses to LSU, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
This post was originally published on June 12, 2019.