There is no denying that passion runs deep in Auburn, Alabama. The city revolves, literally and figuratively, around Auburn University. In the Southeastern Conference where It Just Means More, collegiate athletics are serious business. The city of 60,000 residents welcomes roughly 90,000 fans for football gamedays. What makes Auburn so great? Let’s rank the traditions that keep alumni and fans coming back to The Loveliest Village on the Plains.
1. Rolling Toomer’s Corner
Following athletic wins, fans make their way to Toomer’s Corner to roll the oak trees. The tree rolling dates back to 1962 when ticker tape was thrown into the oaks to signal a road victory for the Tigers. No one is really sure how or why the rolling caught on, but it’s quickly become a fan favorite. Following a big football win, the corner resembles a winter snowstorm.
Fun fact: Auburn is the only city in the country with a budget for cleaning up toilet paper!
It’s not all fun and games, though. In 2011, the original Auburn Oaks were poisoned by a fan of *that other school* after Auburn won the Iron Bowl and the National Championship. The trees died and were removed in 2013. Descendent oaks of the original trees were planted in 2014. Security measures, including the addition of fencing and cameras, were added to prevent future vandalism. However, in 2016 a rival fan set one of the trees on fire following an Auburn win.
2. War Eagle flight
The eagle flight might be the most unique tradition in college football. Prior to kickoff, an eagle circles Jordan-Hare Stadium and lands at midfield as fans cheer. Eagles started flying at Auburn home games in 2000. Golden eagle Aurea assumed the title of War Eagle VIII following Nova’s retirement in 2019.
“War Eagle” is Auburn’s battle cry, not to be confused with the tiger mascot. History about the battle cry and eagle flight can be found here.
According to the University, the role of Auburn University’s eagles is to promote wildlife conservation as a part of the education initiatives of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Southeastern Raptor Center. Aurea arrived at The Center after suffering a wing injury near Selma, Alabama. The injury caused increased flight drag, which keeps her from tracking down prey and surviving in the wild.
ESPN, Southern Living, and the Bleacher Report (among others) rank Auburn as one of the top tailgating locations in the country. Tents and RVs line almost every square foot of the campus. Tailgate spots are open to claim starting on Thursday afternoons prior to home football games. Depending on kickoff time, the menu might include mimosas and Chick-fil-a minis or elaborate spreads of barbeque and trimmings. One thing is for sure- you show up to a tailgate well-dressed. Yes, that means sundresses and button-ups. And don’t forget the boots.
4. Tiger Walk
Tiger Walk is one of the most imitated traditions in college sports. On gamedays, the Tigers walk down South Donahue Drive from the athletic complex to the stadium. Fans line the street to cheer on the team as they prepare for the game. Tiger Walk dates back to the 1960s when kids would cheer on the players and get autographs. It is now one of the fans’ most treasured traditions.
The most famous Tiger Walk took place in 1989 when Alabama came to Auburn and played at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time. It’s estimated that more than 20,000 fans lined the street.
5. Marching Band Pregame
The Auburn University Marching Band has 380 members and performs pregame and halftime shows for Auburn football games. Smaller pep bands play at basketball games as well as away football games. The AUMB is the only band in the SEC without a nickname. Former Auburn president, Dr. Harry Philpott, famously said, “Some other institutions need to give descriptive names to their bands in order to praise them. The quality of the music, the precision of its drills, and the fine image that it portrays have made it unnecessary for us to say more than ‘This is the Auburn University Marching Band.’”
The band’s pregame performance might be the best part of the game itself. The band sprints out of the team tunnel and performs the fight song, “War Eagle” as well as “Glory, Glory to ole Auburn” as it forms the interlocking AU logo. Fans then sing along as the band plays the national anthem and “God Bless America.” There’s nothing else quite like it.
The Auburn University Marching Band also performed in three presidential inaugural parades.
The majority of people hear the job
title “basketball manager” and instantly think of a water boy who does laundry
but, it is way more than that. Student basketball managers are the back bone to
any successful program. They are the people who are first in the office and the
last to leave. They are the ones who show up to practice a whole hour before
anyone else. The people who strive to be a student basketball manager want only
one thing… and it is not the glamour but, it is to see the players and the team
“People look at managers and they think of guys getting balls and water. The reality is that the manager is managing the program. They’re putting in as many hours as anyone else, and they’re as valuable as anyone in the program because they’re the liaison between the student-athlete and the staff.” – Travis DeCuire (Montana Head Coach)
The real MVP’s in student managers come at the mid-major level. The level of college basketball where the talent and expectations are the same as those at the high major level. The manager staffs at the mid-major realms are quite a bit smaller because of school size and budget. The normal manager staffs at the high major level have an average of 8-12 managers and travel somewhere from 5-6 managers. Compared to the mid-major level, have staffs from 1-5 managers and travel 0-2 managers.
For most managers they are on complete staffs. Meaning, they have a coaching staff that completes each role. But for Montana the role of Director of Basketball Operations has fallen on a manager over the past 2 seasons.
For myself being a manager at the University of Montana it has been a HUGE advantage to be at the mid-major level in my college career. Over the past 5 years I have been behind the scenes for the Griz and mastering every trait that has come my way. I have been thrown some ridiculous tasks and tremendous responsibilities.
When I first came in to college
basketball, I had to send email after email to the former Director of
Basketball Operations for the Griz until I was given an opportunity to prove my
worth. I had to tryout at that year’s basketball summer camps as a camp coach. This
story has a twist to it that is very common in college athletics, a coaching
change. The summer I was auditioning to become a manager for Montana the entire
staff left for Oregon State and a new staff came in. With the unknown of whether
or not I would still have the same opportunity or not I introduced myself as if
I was going to be a part of the team.
Entering season number one and not knowing what to expect from being a student manager and still not knowing what will be expected of me I took all tasks to the best of my ability. Being under a tremendous Head Manager, Kramer Ungaretti, and learning under him and the new staff that was more technology driven than the last. It led me to wanting to pursue a job in basketball front office. I would spend the next 2 years being a student manger and have the tasks of; assisting in creating graphics for recruits, updating recruiting records, setting up practice, assisting in practice, film setup, managing and clipping film, assisting ordering team meals, sending weekly mailouts, and yes, I also was getting water while wiping up sweat from the floor. These tasks helped me form into taking over the head manager position once Ungaretti graduated.
Year three ended up being the year of the most growth. I stepped into the role of Head Manager and brought on more responsibilities. I moved into my own desk into the coach’s offices, where I shared with an assistant coach. I was in the office, FINALLY! In a way for a young professional to be given their own space in a work place that they have always dreamed of working, gave me a peace of mind. I wanted to prove myself and prove that I can fill the shoes of my predecessor and not let the team feel like they took a step backwards. My advice to current and potential managers is to “strive to be the first one in and the last one out” as this has helped me excel in ranks. My family has taught hard work and they believe you have to start from the ground up to really know the industry. The year of being a head manager I was fortunate enough to be able to travel with the team and see what it takes for a mid-major team to travel on a more minimal budget. Traveling with the team has taken me to some remarkable areas. Areas like Costa Rica, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and across the United States. For this year I was still doing all the same tasks as I was before but was granted more advanced tasks. I was in charge of all meals on the road and assisted the Ops with anything else that was needed for travel. I was also the head of Team Communication, was in constant communication with the entire team on upcoming events, travel, academic meetings and community outreach programs. I continued to develop as a video coordinator and started making my own highlight films for the team.
I also spent hours in assisting the coaching staff with scouts and other projects. One skill that a majority of managers overlook is the use of Photoshop. Photoshop is a skill that can put you over the top as a manager. Having the capability of making graphics and other informative tools will separate you and make you more widely used.
Jumping forward to my last two years of being a student basketball manager, I moved into the role of Director of Operations. Not holding the title as the teams Director of Operations but having the majority of the tasks. As the last two seasons I planned all of the team’s travel. Everything from booking flights, hotels, bus transportation, scheduling of away facilities, head coach recruiting travel and team meals. All while keeping track of the team’s budget. I also keep numerous statistics. I keep track of the teams plus/minus, shot charts, teams passing shot percentage, defense and offense efficiency, hustle chart, and the teams different lineups used in a game with how they performed.
For managers it is a very competitive environment and the managers that do not focus on the glam are those who are in it for a career. Managers take this job seriously. You will not find many individuals sprinting to wipe up sweat on the floor or running to give a head coach a board. You always need to be aware of what is going on as a manager and be on edge during every aspect. It is a thankless job. Managers develop skills in all aspects of the basketball world. They become masters at crafts that have nothing to do with basketball. As an Assistant Coach at Montana, Coach Flores, has said to me, “this job is 80% organization/hard work, 15% completing tasks, and 5% basketball”. Summer camps are the bread and butter for managers. They are typically asked to show off their leadership and at some schools run the entire camp. Being a camp counselor all the way to a camp director has taught me the most. The amount of planning and detail you need for a camp is quite extensive. It is a job that takes multiple people and multiple departments throughout the University to make it successful. Not to mention the leadership it takes to speak in front of hundreds of kids and get all their attention and instruct them to do something can be overwhelming for first timers and will take some time to fully develop. As I have mentioned many tasks above, there are so much more that a manager does to help aid the coaching staff and do not forget they are still full time students.
The 4 C’s of Being a Great College Basketball Manager:
Commitment, Communication, Consistency, Common Sense
* To the JOB
* To your TEAM
* To the SCHEDULE
* With your BOSSES
* With your COACHES
* With your TEAM
* With your fellow MANAGERS
* In your ACTIONS
* In your APPEARANCE
4. COMMON SENSE
* With the KEYS
* With the EQUIPMENT
* When TRAVELING
With being a part of a small staff and having full time responsibilities at such a young age for a program that is on the rise, I have gathered so much information that has set me up for a bright future. With a mid-major staff, the majority of them are guys who are from the DII ranks or high major teams, they offer a verity of connections for you to network with. With the specific staff at the University of Montana and the other coaches that have moved onto other programs their connections and experiences are impressive. There have been peaks and valleys to this whole process and I am eternally grateful for what the University of Montana, the Missoula community, current/past players, coaches, and Coach DeCuire have provided for me.
“It’s not an easy job to be successful with, and that’s why a lot of the better managers move on to high positions. Some of the best coaches were managers, because they realized that X’s and O’s aren’t always the biggest thing when it comes to managing basketball programs.” – Travis DeCuire
So instead of people looking for glamour, schools are looking for students who want to:
• Haul luggage onto buses and hotels in the late hours
• Fill and refill Powerade bottles
• Cut and edit film until
their eyes cross
• Chart hustle plays and
other obscure stats at games
• Work camps in the summer
• Sacrifice weekends and
holiday trips in exchange for practices
• Stand, just so far apart,
ball tucked under one arm, other arm on hip, towel over shoulder.
In other words, individuals who are willing to do just about whatever they are asked to do to make life easier for basketball players their own age. At the end of the road you will not want to replace it for anything else in the world. Best college job.
Quotes of Inspiration
“Don’t let the peaks and valleys get to you. Keep rolling.” – Chad Buchanan (Indiana Pacers GM)
“Rest at the end and not in the middle” – Mr. Fisk (Kobe Bryant’s English teacher)
“Inspire the people next to you, that is how you create greatness” – Kobe Bryant
For most of my life now I have played team sports that have required road trips in some shape or form. Since the start my collegiate career way back in 2010 for TCU’s Lacrosse team I’ve learned that long road trips are inevitable. Over the years as a player and now as a coach for Griz Lacrosse, I thought I would share some tips and tricks on how to make a team road trip easier.
Pack The Night Before
Personally, packing is not the most exciting part of a trip. Coaches demand that we be ready to go at a certain time (usually before the sun comes up). I have found that packing the night before prevents me from forgetting anything in those early morning hours when I am not thinking clearly. In addition, line your bags up at the door so you can have a smooth exit out of your apartment or dorm.
Carry Both Card and Cash
To get to a game you will have to travel though the middle of nowhere. And in the middle of nowhere often times you will find technological conveniences are nonexistent. It is crucial to have cash and not just a card on a road trip in case the store where you are trying to buy snacks is still stuck in the ‘50s. Being hungry on the bus is miserable.
Portable Chargers are Worth Their Weight in Gold
Missoula to Portland on a bus is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours depending on external factors. So even if you charge all your electronics the night before, you will run out of battery life on a haul like that. For $25 to $50 you can get a good quality portable charger that will keep your electronics charged and you blissfully entertained while the hours go by.
Bring Food and Drinks on The Bus
One of the reasons I pack and line up all my stuff the night before is to save time in the morning. With that extra time, I always run and grab food and coffee to bring on the bus. Doing this will save you money over the length of the trip, since prices in food vary from location to location. Additionally, you don’t always know when and where the team will stop for food, having your own will prevent any unforeseen problems.
Bring a Pillow is Key
This one is a little self-explanatory. Not all buses or cars have comfortable seats or headrests. In my case, the Griz Lacrosse team bus has some hard armrests. I always bring a pillow on bus trips. It not only makes the ride more comfortable, but I avoid dealing with hotel pillows that I am not used to.
Out of the five guys listed here, Trae Young and Domantas Sabonis probably have the highest upside, and have a chance to climb these ranks within the next couple years. Brandon Ingram flashes potential at times, but is wildly inconsistent and hasn’t developed as well as expected for year 3. As for Wiggins, and Parker, both are over-paid volume scorers who shoot poorly from deep and consistently play bad defense.
20. Julius Randle (age 24)
19. Myles Turner (age 22)
18. Jaylen Brown (age 22)
17. Lauri Markannen (age 21)
16. Kyle Kuzma (age 23)
Kuzma continues to build upon an impressive rookie season upping his ppg to 19.1 as the second option on the Lakers. Jaylen Brown and Myles Turner both play outstanding defense, but have taken backseat roles on offense within their respective teams. Markannen has been extremely efficient on offense for a Bulls team lacking any scoring while Randle has been a revelation since signing with New Orleans, averaging 20ppg and 9.2rpg for the year.
15. Jamal Murray (age 21)
14. DeAndre Ayton (age 20)
13. D’Angelo Russell (age 22)
12. Clint Capela (age 24)
11. Jayson Tatum (age 20)
Tatum is as smooth of a scorer as there is in the NBA and will continue to rise up this list. There probably isn’t another center better suited for the Houston Rockets than Clint Capela, who excels on the boards and finishing lobs. Russell has only gotten better since leaving the Lakers. Ayton has been a bright spot on an awful Suns squad, showcasing versatility on the offensive end. Murray has played a huge role in the success the Nuggets have been having this year.
10. DeAaron Fox (age 21)
Fox has done the impossible by making the Sacramento Kings playoff contenders for the first time in 12 years. Fox has been shooting 46% from the field and 36.4% from deep while averaging 17.2ppg and 7.1apg. Not only has Fox been extremely efficient, he also leads one of the most fun offenses to watch in the league. The progression of Buddy Hield and Fox as a duo is something to keep your eye on going forward.
9. Donavan Mitchell (age 22)
Mitchell has built on a phenomenal
rookie campaign following some early season struggles. He’s a great two-way
player with a chance to have a HOF career. These first two years are eerily
similar to Dwayne Wade’s early career.
8. Kristaps Porzingis (age 23)
Porzingis (when healthy) is among
the most skilled players in the league. At 7’2 he is extremely long but has
guard-like skills. His ability to shoot from deep makes him nearly impossible
to guard. There still remains a question of durability when it comes to his
7. Devin Booker (age 22)
Devin Booker has developed at a much faster rate than most expected. He’s currently averaging 25ppg and 6.7apg. While his scoring has been great, it hasn’t translated into wins for Phoenix. Expect Booker and Ayton to develop into a great duo within the next couple years.
6. Ben Simmons (age 22)
Ben Simmons recently made his first all star game, and it’s not hard to see why when you look at his averages of 16.7ppg, 8apg, and 9.2rpg. Despite not having a jumpshot, he’s been very effective because he has such a versatile game. I’m not convinced Simmons ever develops a jumpshot and it probably will hinder him in today’s NBA. Regardless, Simmons is a generational talent as a 6’10 point guard with exceptional court vision.
5. Luka Doncic (age 19)
Doncic has been the most impressive
rookie since LeBron James. His step-back 3’s in clutch moments are unreal for a
guy that’s 19. One of the most exciting players in the league already, expect
Doncic to develop into a great.
4. Karl Anthony Towns (age 23)
Karl Anthony Towns puts up
ridiculous stats and is as skilled a post as there is in the league. No one has
ever denied how talented Towns is, but it’s fair to wonder if any other star
has as empty stats as he does. Going forward, Towns will have to prove he can
lead a team to be contenders, otherwise, he’s likely to fall on this list.
3. Nikola Jokic (age 23)
Jokic may end up being the best
passing center of all time as he averages 7.7apg. His game is really
unconventional with a strange looking jumpshot and below average athleticism,
but it sure does work well. Denver currently has the second best record in the
West and Jokic is the biggest reason why.
2. Joel Embiid (age 24)
Embiid doesn’t have any weaknesses in his game. He’s very skilled and physically dominant in the post. Yet, he can also run the floor like a deer. Not to mention, he’s a pretty good defensive center. It’s not hard to envision Embiid having a hall of fame career, with a chance at being one of the great centers to have played.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (age 24)
The Greek Freak is most likely to be the face of the NBA after LeBron’s run is over. He’s electrifying in every sense of the word and continues to get better. The Milwaukee Bucks have become title contenders through the dominance of Giannis and there’s no reason they can’t sustain it for the next 10 years.
Super Bowl 52 MVP. That one sentence speaks volumes for what Nick Foles did for the Eagles just one year ago. Fast forward to 2018 and Foles still helped the team out tremendously over the course of the season. In the first 2 games of the season, Foles started for an injured Wentz and helped the team to a decent start at 1-1 including a Thursday night thriller in week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons. Fast forward to week 15. The Eagles are in rough shape with a ton of injuries and doubts against them. Carson Wentz was again ruled out with a back injury. Who saves the Eagles? Foles. The Eagles played the Los Angeles Rams in L.A. that week and Foles guided this team to a huge road win. The spark began and the Eagles went 3-0 in the last three games, which punched them a ticket to the playoffs including a playoff win against the Chicago Bears.
4. Michael Bennett
Is Michael Bennett wearing pads? Still unsure, but what is certain is that Bennett had a crazy good year in Seattle before joining the Eagle this season. He played lights out recording 9 sacks, 25 solo tackles, and a big voice in the locker room this season. This gave the Eagles a very deep front 7 to deal damage to offensive lines. The Eagles defensive front in 2017 was already one of the best in the league. This past offseason adding Bennett was a huge move and it payed off tremendously. Derek Barnett was a strong force on the Eagles defensive front at the beginning of the season, but because of injury he was sidelined which gave Bennett a huge opportunity which he fully took advantage of.
3. Brandon Brooks
The offensive line for the Birds is one of the most talented lines in the entire NFL. Brandon Brooks is one of the best offensive guards in the league and his performance this season proved that. Brooks started all 16 games this season. Brooks has also only given up 1 sack since 2016. He also held one of the longest game streaks without giving up a sack with 46 games. Brooks was also named to the 2018 Pro Bowl as only 3 Eagles were elected to go this season.
2. Fletcher Cox
Fletcher Cox played in all 16 games this year and was the staple of the Eagles defense. Most teams had to double team him in order to get any positive yards but even then that wouldn’t fully stop this beast. Not only did Cox have a tremendous season, he also opened up a lot of opportunities for everyone on the defense because of how much focus was on him every snap. Cox recorded 10.5 sacks, 33 solo tackles, and had 46 combined tackles. Cox earned a spot on the First Team All Pro list as well as a 2018 ProBowl nomination.
1. Zach Ertz
Zach Ertz was absolutely phenomenal this season. He was Carson Wentz’s go to on what seemed like every play when Wentz started. Ertz recorded 116 catches for 1,163 yards and 8 touchdowns. He broke several records including Jason Witten’s record for most catches for a tight end in a single season. Not only did Ertz break that record, but he also finished with the most receptions on the Eagles and finished 2nd in overall receptions in the entire league including Wide Receivers. Ertz had his best season yet in terms of numbers and finished with a 2018 ProBowl selection.