Statements for Media

Update: 4:25 p.m., 2/18/11

Statement from Auburn Head Coach Gene Chizik to the Auburn Family:

"It's unfortunate that an incident like this has occurred, but it was an isolated act by one individual. I encourage the entire Auburn family to continue to show class and dignity moving forward. While the trees at Toomer's may have been poisoned, the roots and spirit of Auburn will continue to be as strong as they have ever been."

Joint statement from Auburn University Head Football Coach Gene Chizik and University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban:

"This is an isolated incident by one individual that is not representative of what the greatest rivalry in college football is all about. The players and coaches at both schools have a tremendous amount of respect for each other on and off the field, and we encourage our fans to show that same amount of respect now and in the future. We will move beyond this regrettable incident and continue to enjoy this great rivalry."


Update: 10:25 a.m., 2/18/11

Statement from Auburn University Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry:

On Wednesday we learned of a horrendous crime that was committed on our campus. An individual administered a lethal dose of a toxic herbicide to our beloved Toomer's Corner Oak trees. It is too early to know the extent of the damage to the trees in the area. I am sure you are as shocked and saddened as I am about this turn of events. I have worked at several institutions of higher education and none have a tradition as special and sacred as rolling Toomer's Corner. This season my three-year-old daughter and I rolled Toomer's Corner after a few home football victories. She is always amazed at the beauty of this tradition. I assured her that one day she too will roll the corner as an Auburn student. In spite of the recent events, I still believe this to be true.

Throughout the history of Auburn University our students and alumni have faced challenges with class and integrity. What occurred was the act of a single individual. Let us uphold Auburn standards by not taking out our frustration on any individual or institution. Let us be congruent with the words of our beloved Creed -- "I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all" -- and conduct ourselves with class. Remember, this past football season teams and their fans visited Auburn and commented on the first-class hospitality of Auburn fans and students. Stories appeared in newspapers all over the country about how well Auburn fans treated their guests. Auburn parents and alumni expect us to uphold the tradition of excellence they worked so hard to establish. We will not let the actions of an individual change the character of who we are. Any act of retaliation by an Auburn student against an individual or institution would be inconsistent with who we are and tarnish the reputation of the entire Auburn family.

I would like to commend the Auburn Police Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation and state police for their thorough investigation and efforts to apprehend the alleged suspect. We honor their work by trusting the process and not creating additional burdens for law enforcement.

In the coming weeks, Auburn administrators and students will have opportunities to share their thoughts on what we should do next. As we learn more about the condition of Toomer's Corner, our faculty experts and landscaping officials strongly recommend we not roll the trees while we assess their health and treat them. It makes recovery chances even more challenging.

Thank you for continuing to make me proud to be a member of the Auburn family.

Update: 11 a.m., 2/17/11

Arrest made in poisoning of oak trees at Toomer's Corner

Statement from City of Auburn Police Division:

AUBURN On Thursday, Feb. 17, at 1:26 a.m., the Auburn Police Division arrested Harvey A. Updyke Jr., age 62, of Dadeville, Ala., on a warrant charging him with Criminal Mischief 1st Degree. His arrest stems from an investigation involving the application of herbicide to the oak trees located at Toomer's Corner in the downtown area. Updyke was transported to the Lee County Detention Center to await bond.

The Auburn Police Division is receiving assistance in the investigation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, State of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (Pesticide Management Section), Tallapoosa County Sheriff's Office, Dadeville Police Department and Auburn University.

Statement from Auburn University President Jay Gogue:

"This is good news for the campus and community, especially since we delayed announcing the bad news about the trees for a few days to protect the investigation that was in progress," said Gogue. "We're proud of the City of Auburn's police department and hope this arrest brings a sense of resolution to our fans."

Statement from Former Athletics Director, 2011 Lee County Citizen of the Year David Housel

"Auburn is more than an oak tree. Auburn's greatest asset is the Auburn Spirit, and it will never die or be subdued ..."

Yes it is sad, but the tradition will go on, just in another form ... And, in reality, rolling of the trees hasn't been going on that long, just 15-20 years...before that folks threw toilet paper over the utility wires that criss-crossed Toomer's Corner, the drug store side ... Then, the power wires were placed underground. When that happened, Auburn people said, "Oh, no, what will we do?"

So, the rolling celebration morphed, moved across the street to the trees. And the rolling as it is today didn't come about until 1972 when Auburn beat the "No.2" out of Alabama as Terry Henley said...

This is sad, sick and unfortunate, but a rolling of some sort will go on. Auburn will not merely endure. Auburn will prevail ... in some new way, shape or form ... It just may not be "like it used to be," but nothing in life is ... the only thing certain is change.

Instead of getting angry and mad, I quite frankly feel sorry for the heart and soul of a person who would do this. Just think of the hate, spike, envy and jealously he has to live with every day ... picks it up every day he gets out of bed. That's a sad life, and Killing a tree won't solve that.

War Eagle!

War Eagle, Forever!!!

We will not be deterred by the death of a tree ... we shall march on and move on ...

Jay Gogue, President, Auburn University
"We will take every step we can to save the Toomer's Corner Oaks, which have been the home of countless celebrations and a symbol of the Auburn spirit for generations of Auburn students, fans, alumni and the community."

"It is understandable to feel outrage in reaction to a malicious act of vandalism. However, we should live up to the example we set in becoming national champions and the beliefs expressed in our Auburn Creed. Individuals act alone, not on behalf of anyone or any place, and all universities are vulnerable to and condemn such reprehensible acts."

Bobby Poundstone, President, Auburn Alumni Association
"Thousands of Auburn alumni have fond memories of rolling the trees at Toomer's Corner to celebrate sports victories, and the Auburn Alumni Association naturally supports the university in its efforts to safeguard the trees' health. These mighty oaks have been through a lot over the years. We're cheering for them."
"Whatever happens to the trees, our response to the situation as alumni will be a measure of our commitment to the Auburn Creed. As an organization, we will continue to act and react in a manner that befits the integrity of our alma mater, and we trust that all Auburn alumni will do the same. I am confident the Auburn family will rally in response to this senseless act in a positive and meaningful way and, as always, the Auburn spirit will endure."

Bill Ham, Jr., Mayor, City of Auburn
"On behalf of the citizens of Auburn, I am deeply saddened by the news that someone has poisoned the Toomer's Corner Oaks. Over the years, these beautiful old trees have come to represent the Auburn tradition and spirit. While this unfortunate act affects our entire community, I encourage my fellow citizens to move forward in the Auburn spirit.  I have the utmost confidence in our police as they investigate this incident, and in the Auburn University experts fighting to keep these historic oak trees alive.  Let's all wish them the best as they pursue their work."

Last Updated: Apr. 9, 2012

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