One of the most famous traditions in college sports revolves around Toomer’s Corner. For those who don’t know, this tradition was born at Auburn University and involves the school’s famous Southern live oak trees.
How does a tradition of hanging toilet paper from a couple of trees get its start, though? And over time, why would anyone want to destroy those landmarks?
Toomer’s Corner at Auburn University
At the intersection of College Street and Magnolia Avenue in downtown Auburn sits Toomer’s Drugs. The store was founded in 1896 by Sheldon Toomer, a former state Senator and a tailback for the first Auburn football team. He received a $500 loan to start the business, and although the famous pharmacy has been sold a number of times in the last century, it always kept the Toomer name.
Plus, it’s because of the drug store that the Auburn tradition of rolling Toomer’s Corner and its trees began in the 1960s.
Because Toomer’s Pharmacy was the only place with a telegraph machine, employees would signal if the Tigers football team had won an away game by taking the ticker tape and throwing it over the power lines. In 1962, fans began rolling the power lines and the oak trees across from them after wins.
Since then, ticker tape was used less and rolls of toilet paper began being used as the signal of a big win for Auburn. With the power lines now under ground, the trees are the main target of Auburn fans famously tossing toilet paper.
Over the last decade, though, the famous oak trees have become a target of opposing fans after taking a loss by their team way too seriously.
In 2010, the Auburn oak trees were poisoned using a herbicide used to stop photosynthesis. The man who committed the crime called into The Paul Finebaum Show two months later to brag about his heinous act, but his call was tracked and was found to be Harvey Updyke, an Alabama Crimson Tide fan who was angered after the Tigers beat the Tide in the 2010 Iron Bowl.
Alabama Fan Poisons Toomer’s Oaks
But unfortunately, that was not the last time the trees would be damaged. After the trees were eventually replaced with new, living oaks in February 2015, they had to be given time to adjust to their new environment. But it wasn’t long before another attack on Toomer’s Corner.
In 2016, when the new trees could again be rolled, someone lit one of the strands of toilet paper, causing one of the trees to burn and leading to the trees being replaced again since they weren’t able to be saved.
The Failed Rolling of 2019
During college basketball’s NCAA Tournament in 2019, head coach Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers were playing the Virginia Cavaliers in the Final Four. With 17 seconds left in the game, Anfernee McLemore made two shots from the free-throw line to put the Tigers up by four points. Thinking the game was over, students rushed Toomer’s Corner to start the celebration.
But Virginia’s Kyle Guy scored six points in the last nine seconds to give the Cavaliers the lead and send them to the National Championship, a game they eventually won over the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Toomer’s Corner has been rushed numerous times in the past, and it’s sure to be rushed dozens of times in the future. The 2019 NCAA Tournament just showed how important being at Toomer’s Corner is to the Auburn fans, no matter what the outcome is.
This article was originally published May 29, 2019.