|ESPN.com: College Football||[Print without images]|
|Thousands showed up at Toomer's Corner after Auburn won the BCS title.|
“Finebaum, a longtime Alabama sports personality, asked the caller if the trees had died. "They're not dead yet," the caller said, "but they definitely will die." The caller signed off with, "Roll Damn Tide." On Thursday, Finebaum said the caller bragged to one of his producers about poisoning the trees before going on the air. Finebaum wasn't sure if the caller was serious. "When it came in, it was like any other call," Finebaum said. "You take it with a grain of salt." Finebaum said Auburn police contacted him the next day. After soil samples confirmed the trees had indeed been poisoned, police began searching for "Al from Dadeville." Early Thursday morning, Updyke was arrested. "I almost hate to say what I should say -- that perhaps I'm surprised we haven't seen anything worse," Finebaum said. "I think it will get worse. I really do." Former Auburn football coach Pat Dye said he doesn't blame the schools' fierce in-state rivalry for Updyke's boorish act. Dawson said Auburn police believe Updyke acted alone and they aren't actively searching for additional suspects. "Anyone who would do that would poison your children or poison your dog," Dye said. "He needs to pay a price. I believe most of the Alabama people would agree with me. The smart and intelligent Alabama people are embarrassed and ashamed. This isn't a cultural thing; it's an individual act." Finebaum said he fears Auburn fans will retaliate. He said the Toomer's Corner incident will only further fuel what is already an ugly rivalry. Finebaum said the Alabama-Auburn rivalry has intensified since the Tigers defeated Oregon 22-19 in the Jan. 10 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. Heisman Trophy winner Cameron Newton guided the Tigers to a 14-0 record after his father was investigated by the NCAA for allegedly shopping his son to Mississippi State for $180,000. "Most people seemed very celebratory after [Alabama won a BCS title in 2009]," Finebaum said. "It was really a special time to be in the state. This time it's different. Most Alabama fans are angry because they don't believe [Auburn's championship] is legitimate. They don't believe Cam Newton should have been eligible." At a time when Alabama should be celebrating its largest schools winning the last two BCS national championships, a misguided fan has instead fired the first salvo of a potential civil war. "The rivalry has gotten out of hand," Barkley said. "To have two great teams like we do, you should be proud of it. But Auburn people have an inferiority complex, and Alabama people have a superiority complex. It's always been that way." Both schools can only hope their fans behave. On Wednesday night, Tuscaloosa police stood guard over the Paul "Bear" Bryant statue outside Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium. "Bryant is one thing," Finebaum said. "In two months, the Nick Saban statue is going to be unveiled. You don't think Auburn fans are chomping at the bit for that one?"
We're from Alabama -- you can't make this s--- up.” -- Former Auburn basketball star Charles Barkley
Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. He co-authored Bobby Bowden's memoir, "Called To Coach," which was published by Simon & Schuster. The book is available in stores and can be ordered here. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.