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Poisoned trees unite bitter rivals

AUBURN, Ala. — Thousands of fans — both Auburn and Alabama — came to Toomer's Corner on Saturday to mourn the poisoning of oak trees where Auburn fans have long celebrated wins.

They took pictures and left gifts and tributes, including rolls of toilet paper that surrounded the two 130-year-old oaks.

An Alabama fan, Harvey Updyke Jr., has been charged with first-degree criminal mischief for allegedly using a herbicide to poison the oaks after Auburn beat the Tide in football in November. Updyke, 62, was released from jail on bond Friday night. A trial date has not been set.

"In New York, Times Square is considered the crossroads of the world," retired Auburn athletic director David Housel said. "In our world, Toomer's Corner is the crossroads of Auburn."

The poisoning has momentarily united fans of the bitter rivals.

One Alabama group is raising money for replacements. Auburn coach Gene Chizik and Alabama's Nick Saban issued a joint statement calling it "an isolated incident … that is not representative of what the greatest rivalry in college football is all about."

Alabama student Sean Phillips, said Saturday it is "a really sad day for Alabama as a whole."

"The guy that did this was crazy," he said. "There might be animosity between the schools. But there's always that connection because we're all from Alabama."

Baseball: Hudson Randall struck out six over six innings as host Florida beat USF 4-1. The Gators won the first two games of the season-opening series. Tommy Toledo, a graduate of Tampa's Alonso High, pitched 21/3 scoreless innings for the save. … Stephen McGee's two-run double highlighted a five-run fifth as host Florida State (2-0) beat VMI 9-2.

Poisoned trees unite bitter rivals 02/19/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 19, 2011 9:26pm]
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