Auburn heads into homecoming less than week after Toomer’s Oak fire

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AUBURN, Ala.- Saturday, Auburn will face Louisiana Monroe for their homecoming game. If Auburn wins, fans will flock to Toomer’s Corner to celebrate, and with that comes the time-honored tradition of rolling the oaks.

The university is urging folks to not roll the oak along Magnolia Avenue as it was damaged by fire early Sunday morning.

Horticulturist Gary Keever said when he went to the corner Sunday, there was still a lot of green in the canopy of the tree. Since then, Keever said most of it has turned brown and almost a third of the leaves in the canopy have fallen. He added that there are possibly 15 to 20 green leaves left in the tree and that the tree’s health has declined significantly.

On Tuesday, Keever and others with the university got to take a closer look at the damage, and they noticed a significant amount of deadwood in the tree, he said that if the amount of deadwood in the tree increases, then there is a good chance that the tree may need to be removed.

“During rolling, fans throw paper up in the tree,” Keever said. “The paper itself doesn’t damage the tree. Invariably, fans breach the fence, they go in there and they pick up rolls of toilet paper, they compact the soil, that’s an additional stress on the tree. They damage the irrigation system in the base of the tree.”

Alumnus, Andy Roe came into town from Chicago with his three kids for the homecoming game. He said one of his greatest Auburn memories was when he went to the first Iron Bowl played in Jordan-Hare, and going to Toomer’s Corner afterward and seeing the mountains of white toilet paper on the trees.

He wanted the same feeling for his kids, but said Saturday will be different with only the one available for rolling.

“When I woke up Sunday morning, and heard what had happened with the fire, which is devastating, it was really confusing for me to figure out why someone would do that, and let alone, how do you explain that to three kids in elementary school?” Roe said.

Roe added that he has tried to put a positive spin on the incident by telling them how the corner is the heart of the city, and no matter what, the city and school will persevere. He added that the incident gave a good chance to teach his kids about responsibility and what one’s actions can do.

Auburn Police say that all gameday weekends, there is adequate security in and around the stadium, downtown and the rest of the city. They say there may be an increased presence of officers and those on patrol in the Toomer’s Corner area due to the high crowds and activity.

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