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The Evolution of the Iron Bowl

Alabama-Auburn rivalry has evolved since final Iron Bowl at 'Football Capital of the South'

Alabama-Auburn is one of the biggest rivalries not just in the SEC but throughout all of college football.

The 83rd edition of the Iron Bowl is slated Saturday from Tuscaloosa between the undefeated, defending national champion Crimson Tide (11-0) and the visiting Tigers (7-4).

Alabama leads the all-time series 45-36-1.

The rivalry, which dates all the way back to 1893, is named after Birmingham’s historical significance in the steel industry.

The annual contest was held at Legion Field from 1948-1988 and then in alternating seasons through 1998 before being moved to the campuses of both teams.

The current locations of the yearly Thanksgiving weekend game doesn’t lend to the name anymore though.

“There is no more Iron Bowl,” Former Auburn AD David Housel said to AL.com. “They don’t make iron in Lee County, and they don’t make iron in Tuscaloosa County. It is now the Auburn-Alabama game when it’s played here and the Alabama-Auburn game when it’s played there.”

However that doesn’t mean the memories will ever fade away at the monumental stadium. Alabama took 32 of the 47 meetings at Legion Field, which was intended to serve as a neutral site but was hardly so.

“Legion Field, neutral site? Never. Never,” Housel said to AL.com. “You got Coach Bryant’s statue out there, and rightly so; I think Coach Bryant’s statue ought to be there. I think that’s a good thing. But Auburn playing Alabama at Legion Field, it was about as neutral as the beaches of Normandy were June 6, 1944.”

Even though the Tigers were often on the losing end, Housel still holds a soft spot for the 91-year-old building.

“Strangely enough, in some ways, yeah. I miss Legion Field,” Housel said to AL.com. “I miss the appearance of being half and half, though it was never half and half…. There’s a lot of history at Legion Field. Many of the biggest and best days of my youth, and worst days of my youth, were spent at Legion Field. It was indeed the Football Capital of the South. If you grow up in that environment, you miss it. I miss Coach Jordan, I miss Coach Bryant. I miss that atmosphere. I don’t miss not winning.”

Flash forward two decades later and the rivalry is as big as it’s ever been in terms of national appeal and in-state luster in the social media era.

Auburn took last season’s meeting 26-14 to snap a three game-losing streak to Alabama.

Moving the Iron Bowl permanently to the college campuses added a new dimension to a classic clash.

“This represents a significant event in Alabama football history,” Bockrath said at the time according to AL.com. “… Birmingham’s a great place to play, but you can only get that type environment on campus. I thought it was important to get those games and those teams in that type environment.”

Alabama and Auburn consistently send players in droves to the NFL. The next chapter of this storied series is waiting to be written. The real fun is finding out the next hero that will emerge.