SEC: Harvey Updyke

Harvey Updyke a dead tree for Halloween

October, 31, 2014
If you're reading this blog, you almost certainly know the name Harvey Updyke. He's the Alabama fan who poisoned the iconic trees in Toomer's Corner at rival Auburn in 2010.

He served 76 days in jail and was ordered by a judge to pay restitution to Auburn University totaling $796,731, of which he's only paid $99 as of mid-September.

[+] EnlargeHarvey Updyke Halloween
Facebook/Harvey Updyke
When Updyke was released from jail in June 2013, his attorney Andrew Stanley said of his client: "He's very sincere. He wants to go back to Louisiana and never wants to be heard from ever again."

Well, that hasn't gone quite as planned. Updyke still pops up in the news every once in a while and is certainly not a shy man on social media, continually trolling Auburn fans and various SEC schools.

On Friday afternoon, he was at it again on Facebook.

Unfortunately there is no photo confirmation of this claim as of the time this article was published. But if he does indeed dress up as a dead tree, you can be sure he's going to post a pic of it.

Because remember kids, he "never wants to be heard from ever again."

SEC morning links

August, 22, 2014
1. You’re up LSU. Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason named Patton Robinette as his starting quarterback on Thursday night, leaving only one starting battle -- LSU’s -- publicly open. Tennessee (Justin Worley), Kentucky (Patrick Towles), Texas A&M (Kenny Hill) and now Vanderbilt have all announced the victors in their quarterback races lately after allowing the races to extend well into preseason camp. At Vandy, Robinette, who came into August as the favorite, won out over LSU transfer Stephen Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary. “We were just looking for the most consistent guy day in and day out. He had very few lows, a lot of highs and really just did a great job of keeping his composure,” Mason said in announcing his decision.

2. You’ve probably seen 100 lame, subjective lists where some bored columnist ranks the best SEC fan bases -- usually in a summertime column when there’s no actual news to cover. Emory University’s sports marketing analytics group tries to gauge fan support in a more scientific fashion (you can read about its methodology here) and it found that six of the top 12 fan bases are in the SEC, led by Nos. 3-6 Georgia, Florida, Auburn and Arkansas. Surely Alabama and LSU fans can find some nits to pick with this study, but take that up with the folks at Emory. As they explained, evaluating the quality of a sports brand is a complicated endeavor.

3. Let’s revise that item from this post yesterday. It turns out that the organizers of a charity fundraiser in Mobile, Alabama, don’t want infamous Crimson Tide fan Harvey Updyke to be associated with the event after all. That’s the smart move. This is an event designed to engender goodwill for a great cause, not give a jerk the dunking or pie in the face that he so richly deserves. Former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s mother, Dee Dee, is involved in the event, which will be held in tribute of a 7-year-old boy who recently passed away after a battle with cancer. Here’s hoping it turns into the successful event it should have been all along before adding Updyke threatened to turn it into a sideshow act.

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Harvey Updyke's trial moved

March, 14, 2013
Harvey Updyke, the Alabama fan charged with poisoning the Toomer's Corner oak trees at Auburn, is getting his wish -- his trial location is moving.

Updyke's lawyers have cited in the past that they felt Updyke wouldn't get a fair trial if it was near Auburn. A circuit judge issued the order on Wednesday to transfer the trial from Opelika to Wetumpka, which is located in Elmore County near Montgomery, after prosecutors dropped their opposition to a request by Updyke's lawyers.

Updyke's trial is now set to begin on April 8, according to the Opelika-Auburn News. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to charges of poisoning the trees during Auburn's 2010 national championship.

Some strange stuff has happened during the bizarre episode that has been the Updyke situation, but with his trial finally approaching, we could finally get some much-needed closure to this whole thing.

Stay tuned ...

Lunchtime links

September, 26, 2012
So "Frankenweenie" looks pretty good, no?
So much for this all being taken care of sooner rather than later.

The bizarre situation surrounding Harvey Updyke, the Alabama fan accused of poisoning Auburn's historic Toomer's Corner oak trees, just won't go away.

On Thursday, Judge Jacob Walker delayed Updyke's trial because of increased media attention stemming from The Auburn Plainsman's report this week that Updyke confessed outside the courtroom to poisoning the trees.

The student paper stood by community editor Andrew Yawn's original report. Investigators questioned Yawn, who was subpoenaed.

Defense attorneys have asked the judge to move the trial to a different location, because they believe the jury pool has now been tainted. Walker said he would schedule a hearing to consider the request, meaning this thing could continue to drag on.

Stay tuned ...

Lunchtime links

June, 21, 2012
The playoffs are coming! The playoffs are coming!
A day after The Auburn Plainsman reported that Harvey Updyke, the Alabama fan accused of poisoning Auburn's historic oak trees at Toomer's Corner, confessed his crime during a break in jury selection Tuesday, his lawyer says there was no confession.

Attorney Everett Wess said before the second day of jury selection started that Updyke denied telling the Plainsman that he committed the crime. According to the student paper, Updyke was approached during a break in jury selection Tuesday outside an elevator by community editor Andrew Yawn, and voluntarily spoke about the charges he is facing.

The Plainsman quoted the 63-year-old Updyke as saying, "Did I do it? Yes."

Now, Updyke's defense is asking that a new jury pool is needed after the newpaper's report, but Judge Jacob Walker continued with jury selection on Wednesday and denied the defense requests.

The newspaper said it stands by the article, and issued this statement from editor Robert Lee:
“We stand behind Andrew Yawn’s reporting on the Updyke confession yesterday afternoon 100 percent. The information gathered was not prompted nor off the record. Andrew is one of The Plainsman's most respected journalists. The information published in the article was an accurate account of what transpired. We are in no way making an assertion of Mr. Updyke's innocence or guilt. We simply reported what Mr. Updyke said to Yawn and we stand behind that. Mr. Updyke is due his day in court, just as every American citizen has the same right. We ask that the public reserve judgement until the judicial process is complete."

District Attorney Robbie Treese said investigators questioned Yawn, who was subpoenaed, and said he had information that hadn't been previously reported, adding, "The defense is claiming it's poisoned the jury pool when they themselves are the source of the poison."

The twists and turns just keep coming. This whole situation was bizarre from the beginning and now that we are getting closer and closer to Updyke's actual trial the strangeness just continues to grow. Regardless, it still seems like this will be coming to a close sooner rather than later.

Lunchtime links

June, 20, 2012
The NBA season is pretty much over, but we still have Euro 2012 and just 70-something days until college football is back!
Harvey Updyke has confessed to poisoning the famed Toomer's Corner trees near Auburn University, according to a report Tuesday.

The Auburn Plainsman reported Updyke admitted his guilt to reporter Andrew Yawn at the Lee County Justice Center in Opelika, Ala., during recess of the jury selection for his upcoming trial.

What most everyone who had heard about this tragic and extremely sad ordeal (for both sides) long suspected was revealed, and it sounds like Updyke, 63, just finally wanted to come clean about the incident that has rocked both the Auburn and Alabama fan bases.

"Did I do it? Yes," Updyke told Yawn on Monday.

Updyke wasn't pressured into fessing up, either. When he could have easily issued a standard "no comment" Updyke simply admitted his guilt when approached by Yawn outside of an elevator on the second floor of the Lee County Justice Center.

The man who denied using the Spike 80DF, a very powerful herbicide, to poison the historic, 131-year-old oaks that stand as sort of an unofficial gateway to Auburn's campus, and pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect on charges that include criminal mischief and desecrating a venerable object, casually confessed before his trial had even started.

“They’re going to find me guilty … it’s a done deal,” Updyke told the Plainsman. “I don’t think I’m going to get a fair trial.”

Maybe, maybe not. Now, Updyke, who is struggling with his health, can at least have a little peace with his audacious actions. It sounds like it won't be much peace, as he told the Plainsman that he has a daughter who now won't talk to him, but confessing to his faults has to bring some sort of relief to him.

While what Updyke did was despicable and beyond reproach, it's clear that he's struggling with his identity. In 2010, he sat down with ESPN colleague Wright Thompson to talk about the Toomer trees incident, but came across as two different people. At times, he was the polite Harvey, who claims he had nothing to do with the poisoning. But at other times, he was Al from Dadeville, who infamously called into "The Paul Finebaum Show" to take credit for poisoning the oaks after Auburn beat Alabama during the Tigers' 2010 national title season.

[+] EnlargeAuburn Oaks
AP Photo/Jay ReevesThe Toomer's Corner oaks are a traditional gathering spot for Auburn fans.
Reading it brings out a few emotions. First, you're sick to your stomach thinking about someone actually going out and committing such a detestable crime, and not really having much remorse about it (Al from Dadeville). Then, you think about Harvey, and how the whole thing is just sad. A man utterly consumed with Alabama football went to the extreme to try to show his Crimson fanhood -- and failed miserably.

How much of a fan was he? Check out this excerpt from Wright's piece:
He convinced his first wife to let him name their first child Bear Bryant Updyke. When it was a girl, they named her Crimson Tyde. Their next child was a boy and, sure enough, his name was Bear. Al's two dogs are named Bama and Nicky. He has 46 Alabama hats. Last year, he found Alabama national championship T-shirts on sale for $3.41. He bought all 18 in stock. When he was 19, he ran onto the field at the Bluebonnet Bowl, carrying a roll of toilet paper and a box of Tide. More recently, he tried to convince his current wife to name a daughter Ally Bama. He begged. Her response was "Are you crazy?" She also refused to promise that she'd honor his request to bury him in crimson. Even before the Toomer's allegations, she thought he took this Alabama thing too far. She told him he better get a tattoo if he wanted to be buried with anything related to a football team.

We'll never fully dive into Updyke's mind and know exactly why he went after those trees. But this is a step toward bringing some sort of closure to Updyke's bizarre situation. His trial will continue -- he has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect on charges that include criminal mischief and desecrating a venerable object. But it seems like, at long last, this case is coming to a close.

It won't help those oaks survive, but it will help drown out Updyke as much as possible. People are optimistic, but we don't know if those trees will make it. But then again, we didn't know if Updyke would come clean so easily, either.

Lunchtime links

June, 19, 2012
Arkansas has the hot hand in college baseball, but why were three SEC teams in the same bracket?

Lunchtime links

March, 15, 2012
Put those brackets down for a second and check out some SEC links.
Should the cherished trees at Toomer's Corner die, Auburn University will be ready.

Auburn president Jay Gogue has accepted a committee's recommendation to move at least one large tree there if the oaks should perish.

[+] EnlargeAuburn Oaks
AP Photo/Jay ReevesThe fate of the poisoned oak trees near Auburn University at Toomer's Corner in Auburn, Ala., remains uncertain.
University spokesman Mike Clardy said the chances of the tree's survival will be made clearer if there is leaf growth this spring, but added that the condition of the trees has continued to deteriorate.

Alabama fan Harvey Updyke allegedly poisoned the trees after Auburn beat Alabama at the end of the 2010 season. He has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of felony criminal mischief and other charges. His trial is scheduled for March.

This week, a source close to Updyke's case told that Updyke turned down a plea offer from prosecutors that would have required him to spend 13 years in prison and never attend an Alabama sporting event for the rest of his life.

It's tremendously sad to see the status of the oaks at Toomer's continue to decline. When I was there last fall, I only got a tiny glimpse of the power the trees hold and the beauty they contain. What I saw was a mere skeleton of tradition that so many Auburn fans hold so dear.

Even though the trees looked frail, fans came by the bunches to take pictures next to the trees. Some just stood and stared with looks of both disbelief and sorrow. The worst part had to be the feeling that no one could do anything about it.

They were as helpless as the trees themselves.

But what I also noticed were bits of toilet paper tangled in branches and leaves. Even with signs that read "PLEASE DO NOT ROLL TREES" attached to the mini barricades surrounding the oaks, there were tiny shreds of evidence of hope -- hope that maybe the trees would survive and that tradition would continue.

Well, that tradition will go on. The next tree(s) that might occupy Toomer's Corner will have a new look and feel. The roots will grow differently, and branches will have dissimilar twists in them. But the mere presence of a healthy tree -- or trees -- looking down on those draped in blue-and-orange will no doubt bring back that warm feeling of what things used to be like.

While it won't bring the original trees back, it will help bring a little closure to what has been an extremely unfortunate situation for the Auburn family.

Policing their own a must for SEC fans

January, 20, 2012
By now, just about everybody has seen or heard about the despicable incident in New Orleans which led to the arrest of Alabama fan Brian Downing.

He’s charged with committing sexual battery against an unconscious LSU fan on Bourbon Street following the Allstate BCS National Championship Game, all of which was caught on video and made the rounds on the internet.

[+] EnlargeStephen Killett and Joey Giovingo
John David Mercer/US PresswireAlabama fan Stephen Killett, left, and LSU fan Joey Giovingo share a light moment before their teams played for the national title in New Orleans.
Downing, who’s from Smiths Station, Ala., turned himself in to New Orleans Police on Thursday night. His bond was set at $10,000.

I’d refrained from weighing in on this latest black eye involving a supposed Alabama fan for a couple of different reasons.

For one, I wanted to see what additional information came out about the situation, and what was fact and what was fiction.

And even more importantly, the less attention given to such garbage, the better off we all are. At least, that’s always been my take.

But, hey, it’s a national story now, and SEC fans (Alabama fans in this particular case) come off looking like the stereotypical uncouth knuckleheads that they are portrayed to be in other parts of the country.

I know better.

For every Brian Downing and every Harvey Updyke, there are scores of fans across the SEC that exude class and would never in their wildest (or drunken) dreams think about doing something like Downing and Updyke are accused of doing.

Again, I know because I’ve met you during my travels the past five seasons while covering college football for

I met many of you in New Orleans -- Alabama and LSU fans -- this month leading up to the big game.

You were passionate, opinionated, emotionally charged and steadfastly loyal to your team.

Most of you were kind, too, and that’s whether we were sitting in the airport, partying in a blues club on Bourbon Street or walking out of the Superdome.

But in no way were you threatening, vulgar, obnoxious or out of control.

Sadly, the latter is the rep attached to SEC fans thanks to the Brian Downings and Harvey Updykes of the world.

It’s not just Alabama, either. Fans in this league are notorious for pointing the finger. Every school has that that small cluster of fans that screws it up for everybody else.

So when those people do something stupid or embarrassing, don’t glorify it. Repudiate it.

Reportedly, Updyke was in New Orleans for the game and posing for pictures with fans on Bourbon Street.

Here’s a thought: If you run into him again, ignore him. Maybe then he’ll go away.

I’m not suggesting that SEC football fans sit around and sing “Kumbaya” and never look to stir it up or get under the skin of their rivals.

They revel in doing so. This is, after all, the SEC, the league that reinvented the phrase, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

But it’s also important to note that the Brian Downings and Harvey Updykes of the world are the exception and not the rule.

They just tend to get a lot more attention than the family with three generations of Alabama graduates that flies in from different parts of the country to be together for the game.

The same goes for the wealthy Alabama donor who owns a successful business and gives his tickets to the game away to a fan who can’t afford them.

And that’s ditto for the guy who played on Bear Bryant’s first team at Alabama and is determined to be there to see his alma mater win another national championship.

SEC fans are unique, no doubt, when it comes to the fervor with which they follow their football teams.

But there’s a marked difference between a school’s true fan base and the lunatic fringe.

The last thing anybody in this league wants is for the margin between those two groups to somehow become blurred, which means the onus is on the fans at each SEC to police their own.

SEC lunch links

May, 26, 2011
Welcome to the Thursday edition of SEC lunch links:

Going inside the mind of Harvey Updyke

May, 23, 2011
PM ET's Wright Thompson sat down recently with accused tree poisoner Harvey Updyke, who's facing four felony charges and two misdemeanors in connection with the poisoning of the Toomer's Corner trees on the Auburn campus.

Thompson found Updyke to be both a 62-year-old remourseful grandfather, proud of his service as a Texas state highway patrolman, and an obsessed Alabama fan -- Al from Dadeville -- all in the same interview.

Here's a link to Thompson's piece, which is a sobering reminder to us all that the word 'fan' is short for fanatic.

And as Updyke says himself in Thompson's piece, there are nuts on both (and all) sides.