The Iron Bowl is an American college football rivalry game played annually by the football teams of the two largest public universities in the U.S. state of Alabama, the Auburn University Tigers and University of Alabama Crimson Tide, both charter members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The series is considered one of the most important football rivalries in the annals of American sports.
As the rivalry was played in Birmingham, Alabama for many years at Legion Field, the name of the Iron Bowl comes from Birmingham’s historic role in the steel industry. Alabama leads the series 45–35–1. The game is traditionally played on Thanksgiving weekend. In 1993, both schools agreed to move the game up to the week before Thanksgiving to give themselves a bye for a potential SEC Championship Game berth. In 2007 the conference voted to disallow any team from having a bye before the league championship game, returning the game to its traditional Thanksgiving weekend spot.
For much of the 20th century, the game was played every year in Birmingham at Legion Field, with Alabama winning 34 games and Auburn 19. Four games were played in Montgomery, Alabama, with each team winning two.Since 2000, the games have been played at Jordan–Hare Stadium in Auburn every odd-numbered year and at Bryant–Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa every even-numbered year. Auburn has an 8–5 record in games played at Jordan–Hare Stadium and a 7–4 record in games played in Tuscaloosa, with 5 of those wins coming at Bryant-Denny.
The rivalry has long been one of the most heated collegiate rivalries in the country. For many years, the two schools were the only Alabama colleges in what is now Division I FBS. It is all the more heated because the two schools have been among the nation’s elite teams for most of the last 60 years. Together, they account for 33 SEC titles, 25 by Alabama and eight by Auburn. Both are among the winningest programs in college football history; Alabama is seventh while Auburn is 16th. The two schools have been fixtures on national television for the better part of the last four decades, and the season-ending clash has been nationally televised for all but one year since the late 1970s, the lone exception being 1993, when Auburn was barred from live TV due to NCAA sanctions.
Between them, one of the two teams played in the final five BCS National Championship Games, with Alabama winning in 2009, 2011, and 2012 and Auburn winning in 2010 but losing in 2013. Alabama has also made the four-team field of the successor to the BCS, the College Football Playoff, in each of its first three editions, losing in a semifinal in 2014, winning the title game in 2015, and losing the title game in 2016.