For more than 100 years, eagles have been associated with Auburn University's football program. From a static presence on the sidelines to rousing flights over the field, War Eagle has become an Auburn icon. Eagles stir emotions in many people as they have come to symbolize strength, power, and courage as well as other important values such as freedom, American heritage, and the preservation of our environment.
The role of Auburn University's eagles is to promote wildlife conservation as a part of the education initiatives of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the College of Veterinary Medicine's Southeastern Raptor Center. The USF&WS permits the Raptor Center to house eagles and use them on hundreds of educational presentations each year — including Auburn's home football games.
Auburn's most famous eagle was Tiger (War Eagle VI), who was hatched in captivity in 1980 and came to live at Auburn University in 1986. A frequent sideline fixture, she was the first eagle to free fly at the Wyoming game on Aug. 31, 2000. She flew prior to many games as well as at educational programs and the 2002 Winter Olympics. At the Georgia game in November 2006, Tiger made her last stadium flight and retired. A halftime ceremony at that game recognized her contributions to the Auburn community and to the USF&WS conservation mission. Tiger died on June 18, 2014 at age 34, outliving the average lifespan of a golden eagle.
Although not titled War Eagle VII until November 2006, Nova's first pre-game flight was at the Kentucky game in 2004. Nova was hatched in 1999 at the Montgomery Zoo and came to Auburn in 2000. Nova looks similar to Tiger but has a smaller stature because he is a male. Like Tiger, Nova appears in scores of educational programs every year.
Spirit is the only bald eagle that has ever flown in Jordan-Hare Stadium. His first game flight was in 2001. You can recognize Spirit soaring before kickoff because unlike the golden eagles, Spirit has bright white head and tail feathers. In 1995, Spirit was discovered as an injured fledgling in Florida. He came to Auburn in 1998 and joined the educational collection at the Raptor Center. His damaged beak makes him non-releasable. Bald eagles are found throughout Alabama and wild ones can sometimes be seen soaring in Auburn skies.
“War Eagle” is Auburn's battle cry — not a mascot or nickname. “War Eagle” has become a way for the Auburn Family to greet and identify with each other all over the world. Anywhere you're wearing something with an Auburn logo on it, chances are you'll hear a friendly “War Eagle!”
The most popular story about the battle cry dates back to the first time Auburn met Georgia on the football field in 1892 and centers on a spectator who was a veteran of the Civil War. In the stands with him that day was an eagle the old soldier had found on a battlefield during the war. He had kept it as a pet for almost 30 years.
According to witnesses, the eagle suddenly broke free and began majestically circling the playing field. As the eagle soared, Auburn began a steady march toward the Georgia end zone for a thrilling victory. Elated at their team's play and taking the bird's presence as an omen of success, Auburn students and fans began to yell “War Eagle” to spur on their team. At the game's end, the eagle took a sudden dive, crashed into the ground, and died.
But the War Eagle battle cry lived on to become a symbol of the proud Auburn spirit. Whenever Auburn people gather, the battle cry “Warrrrrrr Eagle!” is almost certain to be heard. It has been a part of Auburn's spirit for more than 100 years.
War Eagle Legend 2
The toughest player on the Carlisle Indian team in 1914 was named Bald Eagle. In an effort to tire him out, Auburn began to run play after play straight at him. Without huddling, the quarterback would simply yell out, “Bald Eagle” and the Tigers would attack. Spectators mistook “Bald Eagle” for “War Eagle” and began shouting it every time the Tigers came to the line. When Lucy Hairston scored the game-winning touchdown for Auburn, he supposedly yelled “War Eagle,” and a new Auburn tradition was born.
War Eagle Legend 3
During a Langdon Hall pep rally in the undefeated season of 1913, the head cheerleader said, "If we are going to win this game, we are going to have to go out there and fight, because this means war." At that moment an eagle emblem fell off a student’s military hat. Asked what it was, he reportedly shouted, "It's a War Eagle." The next day it became the favorite student cheer when Auburn beat Georgia, 21-7, to win the SIAA championship.
War Eagle Legend 4
Some say that Auburn fans adopted the "War Eagle" phrase because of its connection with Saxon warriors who used the yell as their battle cry. When buzzards would circle the battlefields, settling among the dead, the Saxons began calling them "War Eagles."
Since the first War Eagle, there have been six other birds throughout Auburn's history that have served as the school's symbol and kept alive the legendary battle cry. War Eagle VII (Nova) currently entertains fans with her customary flight around Jordan-Hare Stadium prior to each home football game.
War Eagle, fly down the field,
Ever to conquer, never to yield.
War Eagle, fearless and true.
Fight on you orange and blue.
Go! Go! Go!
On to vict'ry, strike up the band.
Give 'em hell, give 'em hell,
Stand up and yell, hey!
War Eagle, win for Auburn,
Power of Dixieland!
The Auburn Band had been playing the Auburn Victory March as a fight song for decades. But in 1954, Auburn supporter Roy B. Sewell thought that the old tune was outdated and something new was in order. After several failed attempts from students and fans, Sewell commissioned two New York songwriters, Robert Allen and Al Stillman, to write the words and music for a new fight song.
Thus, War Eagle was born as the new Auburn fight song. Roy Sewell wrote, "Boy, we have a peach of a song," and the new tune was premiered at Auburn’s football season-opener on September 24, 1955.
The Auburn Alma Mater was composed by Bill Wood in 1942, with word revision in 1960:
On the rolling plains of Dixie 'neath the sun-kissed sky,
Proudly stands our Alma Mater, banners high.
To thy name we'll sing the praise, from hearts that love so true,
And pledge to thee our loyalty the ages through.
We hail thee, Auburn, and we vow to work for thy just fame,
And hold in memory as we do now thy cherished name.