Oct 15, 1994; Gainesville, FL, USA; FILE PHOTO; Auburn Tigers head coach Terry Bowden prior to taking the field against the Florida Gators at Florida Field. Auburn defeated Florida 36-33. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

College football’s 1993 campaign ushered in long-lasting changes both in how the sport is presented on TV, and how it’s not presented on TV. The 30th anniversary of the season’s Iron Bowl explains the latter.

Louisiana-Monroe head football coach Terry Bowden recalls one of the nicknames given his undefeated Auburn Tigers: “The greatest team on radio.”

The late longtime Auburn play-by-play broadcaster Jim Fyffe opens the call for the landmark season’s Iron Bowl matchup with archrival Alabama brilliantly:

“At a remote outpost in frozen South Korea, an Army sergeant tunes his radio to the Armed Forces Network to listen as he pulls guard duty along the DMZ. A Selma native living in Fairbanks, Alaska, is hosting a listening party today with his friends, who’ll hear the game via telephone, all decked out in orange-and-blue.”

The moniker “greatest team on radio” sounds like it describes a program of an especially long-ago era; an era when TVs were luxury appliances and could only display in black-and-white.

Fyffe’s reference to troops in Korea likewise invokes a sense that the game broadcast could be interrupted at any moment for a message from Pres. Truman regarding the conflict there.

But, no. It was Nov. 20, 1993, the 100-year anniversary of the first-ever meeting between Auburn and Alabama.

A century’s worth of history — albeit with a four-decade hiatus — helped mold the Iron Bowl into college football’s most rancorous rivalry.

Heck, the hiatus probably helped fuel hostilities between Alabama and Auburn. The two sides didn’t play from 1908 through 1947, the byproduct of a squabble that began over $34 as this 2010 Press-Register article details.

Bowden, in his first season as Auburn head coach, came in not knowing just how venomous the rivalry was.

“It seems like another life,” Bowden said. “It’s a 36-year-old, it’s your first year coaching at Auburn, naive to just how big that game really is in that state.”

“It’s almost like that’s the best way to be,” he added. “You don’t know how important that game is 365 days of the year. I’ve often said people don’t name the year [when referring to Iron Bowls]: They name ‘Punt Bama Punt,’ ‘Bo Over The Top,’ ‘The Kick.’”

The 2023 season offers just such a reminder that mentioning just a single play from the Iron Bowl can welcome instant recall, this being the 10-year anniversary of The Kick Six.


A TV audience of more than 13 million — most of any regular-season game that fall — tuned in and heard Verne Lundquist’s call for CBS. The longtime national voice for SEC football detailed as Chris Davis ran back the missed Alabama field-goal attempt for a touchdown that helped lift Auburn to the BCS Championship Game.

Kick Six added another memorable chapter to the illustrious history of the Iron Bowl, and television’s role in expanding it. It was almost a half-century prior to the Kick Six that the game first aired on national TV, appearing on NBC.


Coincidentally, that same year of 1964 is when then-Auburn coach “Shug” Jordan gave birth to the Iron Bowl name.

Fast forward 29 years to 1993.

The rivalry’s been well-established with its title of Iron Bowl and it’s become a game of national intrigue often pitting top-flight teams head-to-head with premier talent like Bo Jackson on the field.

The Iron Bowl has also became a fixture of Thanksgiving weekend TV with a national broadcast each season since 1981, per the Montgomery Advertiser.

The ‘93 edition is no exception as far as matching up some of the country’s best teams: Alabama came into the season as reigning national champion, the Crimson Tide’s 34-13 Sugar Bowl blowout of Miami signaling the unofficial end of the Hurricanes’ decade-long dynasty.

Alabama came into the 1993 Iron Bowl – just the second played outside of Birmingham since 1904 – effectively out of the hunt to repeat as national champions. A tie on The Third Saturday in October vs. Tennessee and a 17-13 loss at home to LSU left the Tide out of the top 10 with little-to-no hope of catching Nebraska, Notre Dame or Florida State.

Still, Alabama was ranked No. 11 and on its way to the second-ever SEC Championship to represent the West. The division was already decided by virtue of Auburn, ranked sixth in the nation and undefeated, serving an NCAA-mandated postseason ban.

Auburn’s NCAA sanctions for “improper benefits and lack of institutional control” also included a season-long ban of the Tigers from appearing on TV.

Imagining a similar punishment in the present-day seems unfathomable, given the influence TV networks have on college football.

“Nowadays, you couldn’t do it because it cost the SEC and all the other teams money,” Bowden said. “We divide the pot [among conference members].”

Auburn’s TV ban wasn’t the last in college football: That distinction belonged to Ole Miss in 1995. A 2012 Birmingham News report says the university estimated it lost out on $1.9 million in revenue as a result of the ban, a downright quaint figure contrasted against the $3 billion deal the SEC signed with ESPN set to begin next year.

The SEC’s massive TV contract explains why the ban isn’t used today, but the writing was on the wall prior to Ole Miss’ 1995 season.

In 1994, the Washington Huskies faced a ban for payments made to quarterback Billy Joe Hobert. The school successfully whittled the ban down to games against four opponents: San Jose State; an Arizona State team that finished 3-8; the Pac-10’s then-perennial cellar dweller, Oregon State; and a 4-7 Cal bunch.

A season-opening slate that pit the nationally ranked Huskies against #17 USC, #18 Ohio State and at No. 5 Miami — a game of historical significance, with Washington snapping the Hurricanes’ 58-game winning streak at the Orange Bowl — featured UW on ABC telecasts.

There are obvious inferences to make about Washington’s heavyweight early-season schedule appearing on prime broadcast spots, but the TV ban was already on its last legs by this point.

Jon Solomon’s above-mentioned Birmingham News piece details that 57 programs received TV bans before 1987. Nine total received such a punishment after 1987.

Of note is that just three years prior to that cutoff date, when SMU received the most severe sanctions ever levied, was the landmark Supreme Court case National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma.

The 1984 ruling paved the way for college sports, football in particular, to become a made-for-TV product. That the TV ban had become so rarely used by 1993 is part of why Auburn’s imposed blackout is so memorable.

Another reason is that the Tigers were really damn good.

Bowden was in his first season at Auburn, following a true program legend in Pat Dye. Bowden had a track record for overseeing programs through challenge transitions, having taken Samford from Div. III to national title-contention in Div. I-AA in just three years.

Bowden describes his focus in 1993 as “oh my gosh, how can I win just one more than [the previous year, when Auburn went 5-5-1].”

But after a start to the season that included a 34-10 rout at LSU, a 31-17 defeat of Mississippi State lifted the Tigers to that six-win mark Bowden said he was aiming for, with a matchup against national title hopeful and No. 4-ranked Florida looming.

The TV ban, by this point, almost drove more attention in a weird way.

“It became something everybody was aware of ’cause you could never see them play,” Bowden said. And we kept winning and kept winning and kept winning. We beat Florida…they were close to top three or four when we beat them, and I think people really started paying attention at that point.”

A personal aside: As a child first getting into college football at the time and living outside of the SEC footprint, SportsCenter began to carve out time to talk about the Tigers. The inability to actually see them as they kept winning gave them an almost mythical aura, comparable to the following year when a quarterback from Alcorn State named Steve McNair was mounting his Heisman case.

Seeing footage of the 38-35 win over Florida on YouTube in present day without audio from broadcasters is surreal — and, in a way, feels somewhat like being there.


In a season of mythic portions, it’s only fitting Auburn’s undefeated and unseen campaign ended with a dramatic Iron Bowl win for the ages. Though, to deem it “unseen” is a bit of a misnomer.

Jordan Hare Stadium was sold out for the second Iron Bowl ever played at Auburn — one of the many invaluable contributions Bowden said Dye made for AU — while a closed-circuit broadcast drew almost 50,000 to Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama built a 14-5 lead by halftime, before Auburn starting quarterback Stan White sustained an injury in the third quarter that proved pivotal to the ‘93 Iron Bowl’s legend.

Patrick Nix came on in White’s place and threw a touchdown pass to Frank Sanders on Nix’s first pass attempt.

“When Pat went in, he didn’t have a real strong arm, and I was going to [call] a deep ball because it was fourth-and-10. I was going to throw one to the end zone,” Bowden said. “So I took Frank, and I called a different formation where he was on the boundary at the short side. And he went all the way across the field to the other side.”

Shifting Sanders was intended to draw Alabama’s All-American defensive back off of Sanders. It worked.

“We threw it into the boundary into a little — into a corner that wasn’t [where] Antonio Langham [was],” Bowden said.

If Nix’s son Bo were to make a similar throw for an Oregon Ducks team in pursuit of a national championship in 2023, Patrick — or anyone else back in Alabama — could see it unfold. But Nix’s throw and Sanders’ catch were only seen live by those at either Jordan Hare or Bryant-Denny Stadiums that day.

Same for James Bostic’s 70-yard, comeback-completing touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

And adding to the mystique of that day, Bowden and the Tigers celebrated with Pat Dye on the field postgame.

“At the end of the game, I made sure he came out to the middle of the field and we held his hand up in recognition that this was his team of athletes, too,” Bowden said.

It was a decision Bowden credited to growing up the son of a coach. Coincidentally, had Associated Press voters felt so inclined, Bowden’s Auburn could well have shared the 1993 national championship with the coach’s dad, Bobby, when he won his first at Florida State.

About Kyle Kensing

Kyle Kensing is a sports journalist in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @KyleKensing and subscribe to his newsletter The Press Break at https://pressbreak.substack.com.