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Alabama vs. Tennessee Cigar Tradition

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

Cigars have always been associated with celebrations. When a child is born, the proud father hands out cigars. The most recent wedding I attended was celebrated with Fuente Fuente Opus X cigars. Win a major sports championship, the cigars come out in the locker room. One tradition has elevated cigars to a once-a-year status, every third weekend in October since 1961. That’s when the University of Alabama Crimson Tide plays the University of Tennessee Volunteers in college football. In 2022, the game is on October 15.

The Alabama vs. Tennessee Cigar Tradition

How did the Alabama-Tennessee cigar tradition begin? Turns out it was simple and innocent enough. In 1961, Alabama, then ranked number five in the nation, thumped Tennessee 34 to 3. Alabama athletic trainer, Jim Goostree, decided to pass out cigars to celebrate the victory over the Vols. That’s about it. It really began as an Alabama football cigar tradition, but it’s grown.

Why Do Alabama Fans Smoke Cigars?

Soon after, Alabama fans started buying cigars and celebrating the victories over Tennessee. Not to be outdone, Tennessee fans adopted the tradition and began celebrating their own victories over Alabama with cigars, though it’s still mostly an Alabama thing. Local tobacconists in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Knoxville, Tennessee, report sales go up by 30 to 40 percent the week before the game is played. Unfortunately for Tennessee fans, Alabama has had the upper hand. As of 2021, Alabama leads the series 58-38, with seven ties.

Alabama’s Football Cigar Tradition: It’s a Crime!

Well, okay, not really a crime, but a violation of the NCAA’s ban on tobacco. The NCAA rule says:

The use of tobacco products is prohibited by all game personnel (e.g., coaches, trainers, managers and game officials) in all sports during practice and competition. Uniform penalties (as determined by the applicable rules-making committees and sports committees with rules-making responsibilities) shall be established for such use.

Alabama apparently reports the violation every time. Smoking is also against school policy as the campus is tobacco-free. It seems, however, everyone is happy to look the other way when the Tide beats the Vols. It’s unclear if either university has been punished in any way.

Coach Says What?

Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn’t smoke, and he doesn’t like the tradition, but he’s made peace with it.

“I know it’s something that a lot of people really enjoy,” Saban has said. “It’s not a tradition I started. It’s a tradition that was here that the players have continued. I think it’s something they have fun with. I’m happy that they do. Not really something that I’m interested in.”

To the Winner…

If one adheres to the Alabama versus Tennessee cigar tradition, only the winners and their supporters get to celebrate with a cigar. Of course, a cigar is also a good consolation. So, if it’s the week before October 15, go out and buy a cigar. If you need to pretend you’re a fan of one of the teams, go ahead. One piece of advice, get a cigar you’ll enjoy and smoke it no matter who wins. You’ll be the victor.

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