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Updkye Apologizes On Finebaum Show… To Alabama

Alleged tree-poisoner and alleged assault victim Harvey Updyke made an appearance on the Paul Finebaum radio show yesterday afternoon.  With his attorney in the studio with the host, Updyke phoned in and answered questions about his initial call to Finebaum, his alleged involvement in the poisoning of Auburn’s oaks at Toomer’s Corner, and the attack he alleges befell him on Wednesday.

On the show, Updyke admitted to being “Al from Dadeville,” the caller who in February announced on Finebaum’s show that he had poisoned the trees at Toomer’s Corner.  Updyke — and his attorney tried to make sure of this by interrupting his client — never admitted to actually poisoning the trees.

Apparently we’re to believe that he just happened to call in with knowledge of the exact poison that was actually used… before anyone knew the trees had even been poisoned.  Uh, yeah.

For the guts of the story, turn here to Evan Woodberry’s report for al.com.  In it you’ll find that while Updyke apologized to the University of Alabama for causing the school troubles with his phone call he did not get around to apologizing to Auburn. 

To Auburn: “If I was in Auburn’s place, I would be upset, too.”

To Alabama: “I have hurt the University of Alabama and that’s the last thing I want to do.  I am an Alabama fan.  I’m not apologizing for that… I apologize for what I’ve done to the university.

He even ended his interview with a “Roll Damn Tide.” 

You can find a partial transcript here at Finebaum.com.


One last point — during the interview Updyke said that he has lived in Texas for most of his adult life but that there’s nothing in that state — Texas versus Texas A&M, for example — that comes close to the Iron Bowl rivalry in terms of heated passions.  “There’s nothing like this in Texas,” he said.

Indeed, there’s nothing like this anywhere else in college sports. 

The Iron Bowl rivalry — thanks to a number of fringe element fans — has become a punchline in American sports.  It’s a shame that normal, well-adjusted AU and UA fans are given a bad name by tree-poisoners, conspiracy theorists, finger-pointers, and angry, ranting callers to Finebaum’s nationally-syndicated radio show.  But it’s happened.  It continues to happen everyday.

When it comes to many fans across the country, the face of the Iron Bowl rivalry is now Harvey Updyke.

Just think about that.

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A Few Ugly, Angry Fans Are Ruining The SEC

The majority of SEC fans root for their school passionately.  The majority of SEC fans don’t call in to talk shows or visit messageboards.  The majority of SEC fans enjoy passing down the thrill of a fall Saturday to their sons and daughters.

But a few SEC fans are complete asses. 

And those asses are making the SEC a pretty miserable league to cover these days. 

A rich conference blessed with great coaches and terrific on-field success should be cause for great joy.  But for the very vocal minority, anger, hate and ugliness are the product, not joy and happiness.

Think about some of the loose cannon nut jobs we’ve encountered in recent months:


* Some Arkansas fans used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to Houston Nutt’s cell phone records.  Those records were then released to try and show that the coach had been carrying on an affair.  In other words, because Nutt wasn’t winning enough, a few Arkansas-backers decided to try and ruin the lives of a number people.  That’s evil.

* Some Tennessee fans made death threats to the family of Lane Kiffin after he announced that he was heading to Southern Cal.  His wife had to call police to her house when fans with flashlights were seen outside the family home.  Then, a full year later, a Knoxville-area firearms store had set aside a day for fans to come and shoot Kiffin bobblehead dolls (before sane people backed them down).  That’s sick.

* A deranged Alabama fan — who had named his children Crimson Tyde and Bear — allegedly planned and executed an attack on Auburn’s 130-year-old Toomer’s Corner oak trees.  This act was intended to take a place of joy away from thousands of Auburn fans.  That’s hateful.


We could go on.  Hell, we could mention the LSU fan who blew away two Alabama fans in 2008 following a taunting episode over a Tide-Tigers football game.

Instead, we’ll just point out that an Auburn or Alabama story can’t go up on this site without enraged fans of both sides throwing barbs at one another and this site.  It seems every story we write regarding Auburn’s ongoing NCAA issues is met by Bama fans claiming we’re taking up for AU… and Auburn fans claiming that we’re out to get their school.

Could one story do both?  Nope.  Which only proves that bias is usually found between the ears of the reader, not the writer.

The growing ugliness among some fans is ramped up by the current 24-hour media world in which we live.  Talk radio and the internet afford nutjob fans complete anonymity, which means the rhetoric in the SEC is hotter now than ever before.

Making matters worse, some in the media have learned that ratings and pageviews can be boosted by making outlandish claims and stirring the proverbial pot.  Some of the more unscrupulous folks in my profession have no problem playing Jerry Springer in all of this.  Apparently bundles of cash in your mattress make sleeping quite easy.

Finally, there’s no reason to dial things down in our day and age.

Fifty years ago, fans would go to a game, see their team lose and become angry.  The next day they would read their morning paper and fume.  On Monday they might go to the local barbershop and complain to their friends.  But by Tuesday, most folks were back in “real life” mode.

Today, fans upset over a game never ever have to let it go.  They post photos and videos on websites.  They call into dozens of talk radio shows from sunup to sundown.  They rant on messageboards and sling insults in comment boxes. 

Anger doesn’t subside as it did in 1961.  Instead, it just grows as the days and weeks pass.  That’s how you get to a point where some SEC fans decide it’s a good idea to try to ruin a coach’s family life, to make death threats, to commit acts of great vandalism.

It’s not good, folks.  Yet many just laugh it off saying, “Aw, fans have always hated each other.”  They’re underestimating the perfect storm the SEC is now facing.

Fans are uglier and angrier towards one another than ever before.  The means of communication now available allow the ugliest minority of fans to spew so much venom that venom actually becomes the norm.  

What’s accepted in music, television, film and pop culture today would not have been accepted 20 years ago.  The further the boundaries are pushed, the more we’re desensitized.

The same goes for hate talk (and now acts) in the sports world.

There are literally some fans out there who would rather tear down and destroy another program than watch their own favorite program succeed.  To be honest, it’s hard to understand how some people can become so twisted, but it’s happening.  Every day it happens a little bit more.  And at some point, the SEC could be left as a probation-riddled hull of its current self, undone by a few overzealous, half-baked fans who’ve chosen to spend all of their time digging for and dishing dirt on their favorite school’s rivals.

It’s time for the normal fans to take the world of SEC sports back.  It’s time to let the screamers and the ranters out there know that their anger is misplaced and childish.  It’s time to show a little more sportsmanship when some other team rolls into your town.

After all, do SEC fans watch sports because they want to be happy?  Or because they want to feel angry?

The majority would say, “to be happy.”  But the minority is growing louder by the hour.

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Toomer’s Oaks Are More Than Just Trees

This week, I was hoping we’d all be able to move past the story of Auburn’s poisoned oak trees.  But as my inbox proved yesterday, we sadly are not.  So let me quickly step you through the Toomer’s Corner story from MrSEC.com’s point of view:


1.  The story breaks that someone has poisoned the historic trees on Auburn’s campus.  Most of the emails we receive in response say that this is a disgusting act and the idiot(s) who did it should do time.

2.  When Harvey Updyke is arrested a day later, 90% of the emailers want the book thrown at him, but about 10% of the folks contacting us start to say, “They’re just trees.”

3.  Over the weekend, the emails we receive begin to bubble over with sarcasm — “Boo-hoo over the Barners’ (expletive) trees” read one — and some even started to take us to task for “playing up” a “BS” story.


Here’s the thing: The Toomer’s Corner trees weren’t just trees.  Let me explain what I mean by that.

I have a nice, gold ring.  I don’t wear any other jewelry, but that one ring is on my hand every day.  The 1925 coin set into the ring was a gift from my great-great-grandfather to my grandfather.  My grandmother took that coin, had it set into a ring, and gave that ring to my grandfather as a gift.  When my grandfather passed away nearly 25 years ago, the ring went to my father, the oldest son in the family.  My father is a minister and didn’t feel that it was appropriate to stand in the pulpit wearing a bright gold ring.  So he passed the ring along to me.  And I’ve worn it for 20 years.

Now if someone stole that ring, a person could easily tell me, “Hey, it’s just a ring.”  No doubt I could find another 1925 coin, go to a jeweler, and have them make a duplicate ring.

Only I couldn’t. 

My ring has special meaning to me.  It’s the coin my great-great-grandfather held.  It’s the ring my grandfather wore.  Just a ring?  Not if you’re blessed to have any sentimentality at all.

The 130-year-old oaks at Toomer’s Corner should be thought of in the same way as my ring.  In the same way as your family heirlooms or keepsakes.  Students at Auburn have walked under those trees in parts of three different centuries.  Grandfathers let their sons roll those trees with toilet paper after Auburn victories.  Sons let their sons do the same.  Those trees have provided a place of shared joys and memories.

You might scoff at the “murder” of Auburn’s trees, but that only reveals that something is missing from your make-up.  Someone who loves his own traditions yet holds no respect for the traditions (or politics or religion) of others, exhibits a weakness of character.

So to the many SEC fans who’ve written us to say that Auburn’s trees are “just trees,” why don’t you let someone come after your school’s sacred landmark and then share your feelings on vandalism.  Let’s say someone knocked over the Denny Chimes on Alabama’s quad.  I’ll bet no Tide fans would say, “Aw, it’s just a bunch of bricks.”

And to the few of you out there who’ve pointed out that Auburn’s trees were expected to die in the next 20-30 years anyway… so are you.  No, maybe not in 20-30 years, but we each die a little bit every day.  You’re dying as you read this.  That doesn’t mean someone would be doing you a favor by putting a pillow over your face to speed up the process.  To say the trees were dying anyway is an awfully childish defense of the indefensible.

Clearly, the further we get from the initial shock of Updyke’s insane, ugly act, the more it seems some rival SEC fans are going to lash back against those who are upset for Auburn.  Newsflash: The people upset by the destruction of a tradition don’t have a problem.  It’s the people who can’t grasp the meaning of someone else’s tradition who have a problem. 

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SEC Headlines – 2/12/11 Part One

1.  “Al from Dadeville” said he attacked Toomer’s Corner because Auburn fans had rolled those trees when Bear Bryant died (nearly 30 years ago).  You’d think there’d be some evidence of something like that having happened.

2.  Anthony Grant’s success isn’t making life any easier for Arkansas’ John Pelphrey.

3.  Yesterday’s 68-61 home loss to Florida was LSU’s 10th defeat in a row.

4.  At least the Tigers put up a fight in the second half.

5.  If Ole Miss had any shot at an NCAA at-large bid — and we don’t think they did — then that shot truly disappeared with a loss to Mississippi State on Saturday.

6.  The Bulldogs are now in sole possession of second place in the SEC West.

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Bama Fans Raising Money For Auburn Oaks; Saban Speaks Up

According to The Tuscaloosa News, a group of Alabama alumni and students have started an initiative to raise money to help replace the oaks at Toomer’s Corner.

As of 1:45pm ET today, the push had brought in more than $3,000.

Nick Saban has also stepped up to talk about the poisoning of the trees.

“The great rivalries and traditions are what make college football special and we respect the traditions of every team we play, especially the schools in our conference and in our state,” Saban said.  “It is important to be positive in support of your own program and there is absolutely no benefit to negative behavior toward any other institution.”

“We are truly saddened by this destructive behavior from an individual who certainly does not represent our institution, our program, or our fans in any way.  It is important that we continue to respect one another in the spirit of good sportsmanship for many years to come.”

Good for Saban and good for those Alabama supporters who are working hard to make Harvey Updyke look like the lone nut that he — apparently — is.

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The Nutbags Strike Back: Updyke’s Family Gets Death Threats

Shock of shocks, the quacky act of Harvey Updyke — “Al from Dadeville” on “The Paul Finebaum Show” — has flushed out a few more crazies.  The family of the man who poisoned Auburn’s oak trees now claims to be receiving death threats from Tiger fans.  And I don’t doubt it for a second.

“We have children and grandchildren getting death threats from Auburn fans,” a man claiming to be Updyke’s son told The Mobile Press-Register.  “We’re having to pull teenagers, 13- and 14-year-old kids, out of school because people are threatening them.”

Who didn’t see this coming?  In fact, we said yesterday morning that this type of nonsense — from the other side of the rivalry — was to be expected.  Heck, everyone knew this was coming.

Finebaum told ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach that he expects the UA-AU rivalry to become even more heated following Updyke’s attack on Toomer’s Corner.  “I almost hate to say what I should say — that perhaps I’m surprised we haven’t seen anything worse.  I think it will get worse.  I really do.”

Hey, nutjobs, here’s how you lose sympathy in a situation like this: You make death threats against innocent people.  Those oak trees were a symbol of Auburn University and AU fans have every right to be sad, mad and disgusted.  But they were trees.  Threatening to kill people is not a proportional response.  The best response, of course, would be to do nothing except buck up, move forward and show clowns like Updyke that they can’t get under your skin.

As for Updyke, he has a daughter named Crimson and a son named Bear.  His son — not sure if it was “Bear” or not –  said that his father has a pacemaker and suffers from kidney failure, high blood pressure and diabetes, and is on 21 different medications.  He also said his 62-year-old father is being treated like “a rapist or a murderer… he hasn’t been convicted yet.”

He hasn’t been convicted, but he did call a nationally syndicated radio show to say that he killed the trees.  And that he didn’t care if the act was illegal.  Good look to his court-appointed attorney beating that one.

In addition, WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama reports that Updyke has been arrested twice before — in 1996 (criminal mischief) and in 2004 (theft).


UPDATEKevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News writes that “clean, old fashioned hate in this state has started to give way to a more dangerous level of contempt.”  The writer concludes: “Sadly, those trees may be beyond saving.  Let’s hope the rivalry itself isn’t too far gone.”

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SEC Schools Should Offer Replacement Trees To Auburn

We at MrSEC.com believe Mike Slive should be busy this afternoon.  He should be on the phone with 11 presidents from the SEC’s 12 member institutions.  His league has taken a prolonged, embarrassing beating in the national press in recent weeks — Cam Newton, Bruce Pearl, now an Alabama fan vandalizing Auburn’s 130-year-old oak trees — and the commissioner finally has a chance to show the country that his conference can pull together.

In the process, he might even be able to cool down some of the animosity that is reaching dangerous levels in his always passionate conference.

Slive and the university presidents at Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt should make a combined, public offer to assist Auburn in saving/replacing the oak tree tradition at Toomer’s Corner.

With poison likely to remain in the ground for several years, it’s questionable as to whether or not grown trees can be transplanted or small, younger trees can be planted at the site.  But if there is a possibility of replacing those trees, the league’s schools should make a symbolic gesture by offering to provide the replacement trees.  Eleven oaks from across the Southeast.  One from each league school.  Spread across the Auburn campus or gathered in the Toomer’s Corner area.

Such a gesture would send a strong message that while SEC fans might bicker with one another, the schools very much stand together when faced with adversity.

Just imagine the ESPN coverage the league would receive at the dedication ceremony alone.  Bonus — we’re talking about positive PR for a change.

Now obviously there is no fitting replacement for the Toomer’s Corner/oak tree tradition.  If those sacred oaks die, it will take years for a new tradition to truly gain a foothold.  But if Auburn attempts to move forward with a new, replacement tradition, then schools of the SEC should offer to aid Auburn in the venture.

That would show America that the Southeastern Conference does not have a wild, wild west “anything goes” mentality.  And for those fringe fans who do prefer to hate another school rather than love their own, such a gesture would show them that they are very much in the minority.

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More Bad News For Auburn’s Oak Trees

Auburn professor Stephen Enloe became choked up during today’s press conference to discuss the poisoning of Toomer’s Corner’s famous oak trees. 

Asked if the trees would survive, Enloe said, “It’s an emotional question.  I always want to hold out hope.  But based on the technical experts I consulted around the country, the concentration of Spike basically found in the soil would suggest there is a very low probability.”

Spike is the herbicide used — allegedly — by Harvey “Al from Dadeville” Updyke to attack the trees.

In addition, The Birmingham News reports that AU has no plan yet to replace the trees at Toomer’s Corner.  The poison used will likely remain in the soil for three to five years and obviously that could impact Auburn’s options.

Some AU officials are also concerned that the poison will impact other trees and shrubs in the area, not just the oaks. 

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SI’s Staples: “Toomer’s Corner Poisoning Should Enrage All College Football Fans”

Kudos to Andy Staples of SI.com.  The site’s college football specialist does the best job yet of explaining just what Harvey Almorn Updyke took from college football fans when he poisoned the 130-year-old oaks at Toomer’s Corner on the Auburn campus.


“By killing the trees, he stole all the memories that would have been made under their branches.  Though the exact date isn’t know, the tradition of rolling Toomer’s Corner after a big Auburn win dates back to either 1962 or 1963.  For almost 50 years, Auburn students have run, toilet paper in hand, to commemorate what they probably will later consider some of the greatest times in their lives.  A student who rolled Toomer’s in the 1960s might have sent a child to Auburn in the 1980s.  That child may have sent a child of his own to Auburn a few years ago.  For three generations, rolling Toomer’s meant something in a state where college football victories mean everything.

The next generation won’t have that connection to the past.  Even if the school brought in new trees, it wouldn’t be the same.  A tradition, like an oak, has to grow from the earth.  It needs years to take root.”


You can read all of Staples’ piece by clicking here.  And you should.  (There’s even a link to a 1964 Sports Illustrated story about Toomer’s Corner.)

As for Updyke, Staples is right on that front, too.  “Only someone with a dark, dark heart would throw poison on something that has brought so much joy to so many.”

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SEC Headlines – 2/17/11 Part Two

1.  The attack on Toomer’s Corner couldn’t inspire Auburn’s basketball team which was blasted 90-59 at Ole Miss last night.

2.  Former Auburn defensive line coach Tracy Rocker didn’t know the Tennessee Titans were watching him.

3.  Gene Chizik is now in search of a new assistant.

4.  Anthony Grant says Alabama’s rematch with LSU tonight won’t be as easy as the Tide’s 70-46 win last month.

5.  The University of Alabama has added no extra security to landmarks on the Tuscaloosa campus following the attack on Auburn’s famous oak trees.

6.  Arkansas recorded a much-needed easy win against Florida A&M last night…

7.  The Hogs’ stretch run is set as they battle for a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament.

8.  Some Razorback players say John Pelphrey has cranked up his energy a little bit more in recent weeks.

9.  LSU’s Matt Derenbecker says “the goal is to ruin someone else’s season.”  The Tigers host Bama tonight.

10.  LSU needs to “rebound better and not turn the ball over” to snap an eight-game losing streak.

11.  Mississippi’s 31-point win over Auburn was a “feel-good game” for the Rebels.

12.  Terrance Henry and Reggie Buckner came up big down low.

13.  This writer says he was wrong to suggest Renardo Sidney takes himself out of games whenever he likes… but he still thinks Sidney has avoided accountability for much of his life.

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