College Football Traditions

Touchdowns and Toilet Paper

Why the long-running… er, -rolling… Auburn University tradition is taking a break again this year

Photo: Aleem Ahmed

Auburn fans swarm Toomer’s Corner after the “Final Roll” of the original oaks on April 20, 2013. The trees were removed three days later.

On fall Saturdays in Auburn, Alabama, tailgaters come prepared: coolers packed to the brim with beer, barbecue spreads to lay across folding tables, orange and blue flags to hang from tents and car tailgates—and rolls of toilet paper to celebrate after the game. Since nearly any living Auburn fan can remember, a Tiger win has meant rolling two Southern live oak trees that flank Toomer’s Corner, where Magnolia and College meet.

It’s a tradition that some date back to the days when news about away-game wins arrived via telegraph, and employees of Toomer’s Drug would throw the machine’s ticker tapes over power lines outside the store. Others point to 1972, when a brash student predicted Auburn would beat the “No. 2” out of their undefeated rivals, the University of Alabama. When the Tigers returned home from beating the Tide, they found the corner covered in two-ply. Since then, after every football win—and big wins for other sports, as well—the two oaks look like snowcapped peaks and the streets the aftermath of a blizzard.

Photo: Courtesy of Auburn University

The aftermath of an Auburn win.

But this year, for the second in a row, officials are asking the Tiger faithful to give the beloved tradition a break. “We’ve asked fans not to roll those specific trees, but we’ll get back to the tradition soon,” says Mike Clardy, assistant vice president of communications.

In 2011, in one of the most infamous call-in radio confessions of all time, a vengeful University of Alabama fan announced that he’d poisoned the oaks on Toomer’s Corner with spike 80DF, an herbicide that blocks photosynthesis. At the end of the 2013 season, Auburn held a bittersweet “last roll” celebration before removing the dying trees and renovating the corner. New, mature oaks were planted in February 2015, but deemed too fragile to roll that season. When rolling resumed in 2016, another tragedy struck: someone lit fire to a strand of toilet paper, setting one of the trees ablaze, severely damaging both. Resilient as ever, the university planted two new trees last February, but they need time to settle in.

Photo: Courtesy of Auburn University

Crowds gather to watch the replacement trees being planted on February 14, 2015.

“The Auburn Oaks are a symbol of strength,” Clardy says. “They’re sentinels on the corner where the university meets the town.” Come fire, flood, or angry fans, he’s sure as long as there are football games there will be trees on Toomer’s Corner—hopefully for Auburn fans, covered in toilet paper.

Read about Southern college football traditions:

>> Georgia’s hedges: How they endure and thrive

>> Florida State’s Sod Cemetery: “A grave responsibility”

>> Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner: Touchdowns, trees, two-ply

>> LSU’s Mike the Tiger: Always on the prowl

>> Tennessee’s Vol Navy: Sailgating on the river