- Cullman, Alabama

January 9, 2011

TALKIN' TIGERS: Tiger Walks go from Cullman to Sonoran Desert

By Justin Graves
The Cullman Times

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pop quiz. Know where Gene Chizik’s first Tiger Walk as Auburn’s head football coach took place?

Go ahead. Take a guess. Maybe a little blind stab in the dark.

Need a hint? It wasn’t Auburn. It wasn’t before a football game, either.

No dice? Well, try … Cullman.

That’s right. Cullman.

The Cullman Convention Center, to be exact.

Yep. Hard to believe, huh? Well, it happened.

That impromptu Tiger Walk took place on a humid summer night before the Cullman County Auburn Club’s annual banquet in 2009 — just months after Chizik’s controversial hire.

Chizik never imagined his first Tiger Walk as head coach would take place in Cullman. He said as much during his speech at the meeting.

But truth be told, Auburn fans never imagined that Chizik would be their coach before the day he was hired. The masses didn’t even have him on the radar.

Good thing the masses exclude Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs.

When others saw a coach with a dismal record, Jacobs recognized potential.

And now, because of that vision, he has a head coach whose team is playing in one of the hottest tickets in sports history.

Yes. Sports history.

Want to catch Auburn’s BCS National Championship Game with Oregon in Glendale, Ariz.? Better be ready to pony up some serious dough.

Those tickets are in high demand, and the economics of the situation have driven the market value through the roof to epic proportions.

How much? Like two grand for the cheapest available, according to late Saturday afternoon.

And that’s just for one ticket. Buy a few tickets coupled with travel expenses and the ol’ wallet is going to feeling mighty light after the spending is through.

But apparently money is no object to Auburn fans. Fans sporting orange and blue have flocked to the Sonoran Desert in droves, and the atmosphere they’re creating is exactly what you would expect from a fanbase that’s been craving a national title for more than 50 years.

It’s electric.

Even more electric than last year’s BCS national title game.

Sorry Alabama fans. It’s true.

Auburn fans are flooding the high-end shops in Scottsdale, packing out the eateries in metro Phoenix and tailgating like this is the greatest season in program in history — which it is.

But hey, support like that shouldn’t surprise us from the Auburn Family. That bunch rallies behind their football team, even when the knee-jerk reaction tells them otherwise.

Like when Chizik was hired.

Rewind back to that humid summer night in Cullman a little more than two years ago.

Auburn fans didn’t know what to expect from Chizik that night. Actually, no one did. But that didn’t stop the Cullman County Auburn Club from throwing its support behind the Tigers’ new coach.

The same thing happened among Auburn fans statewide.

That, my friends, is loyalty.

And that type of loyalty deserves to be rewarded with the fruits of a fun-filled weekend in the desert.

One that is capped with the greatest moment in program history — a national title.


* Justin Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 257 or by e-mail at