One of the most famous traditions in college sports is rolling 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.
Toomer’s Corner History
At the intersection of College Street and Magnolia Avenue in downtown Auburn, right along the Auburn University campus, 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 its iconic 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.
At the time, Toomer’s Pharmacy was the only place in the city of Auburn 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 road college football games, particularly after victories over rivals such as LSU, Alabama and Georgia.
Since then, ticker tape was used less and rolls of toilet paper became the new medium as the signal of a big win for Auburn. With the power lines now under ground, the trees are Auburn fans’ main target when they famously toss toilet paper.
Over the last decade, though, the famous oak trees have become a target of opposing fans after taking a loss by their teams 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. His call was tracked and the man in question was discovered to be Harvey Updyke, an Alabama Crimson Tide fan who was angered after the Tigers beat the Tide in the 2010 Iron Bowl. He died at 71 in July 2020.
Alabama Fan Poisons Toomer’s Oaks
Unfortunately, that was not the last time the trees would be damaged.
After the trees were replaced in February 2015, they had to be given time to adjust to their new environment. However, opposing fans seemed less inclined to let nature restore itself.
In 2016, when the new trees could again be rolled, a 29-year-old man later identified by al.com as Jochen Wiest lit one of the strands of toilet paper, causing one of the trees to burn. The trees were 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 to roll 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 many more times in the future. The 2019 NCAA Tournament just showed how important being at Toomer’s Corner is to Auburn fans, no matter what the outcome is.
This article was originally published May 29, 2019 but has been updated.