Did Alabama-Auburn rivalry spell death for Toomer's Corner?

Auburn University confirmed on Wednesday that an herbicide commonly used to kill trees was deliberately applied to the soil around the Toomer's Corner live oaks on campus, and there is little chance to save the trees.

The trees, which are 130 years old, are the traditional gathering place for Tigers fans after major victories, as fans often deck them with toilet paper as a sign of Auburn pride. Most recently, it was the scene of celebration for Auburn's victory over Oregon in the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 10.

The City of Auburn Police Division is investigating the situation.

The university learned that a caller to The Paul Finebaum Show, a nationally syndicated radio show based in Birmingham, on Jan. 27, claimed he had applied the herbicide. Soil samples were taken the next day and sent to the Alabama State Pesticide Residue Laboratory on campus for analysis. However, because of a small fire that occurred in the Alabama lab in December, the tests were sent to the lab at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss., to expedite results.

While it was not confirmed by the Auburn release, the caller to the Finebaum show is believed to be an Alabama fan. For weeks, there was discussion within the state regarding retaliation for Auburn pranks that included placing a Cam Newton jersey on Alabama's on-campus statue of Bear Bryant as well as growing this year's Iron Bowl score in the lawn outside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

In the school release, Auburn president Jay Gogue asks Tiger fans to refrain from any acts of retaliation of their own. Again, however, it has not been confirmed that this was an act by an Alabama fan.

"It is understandable to feel outrage in reaction to a malicious act of vandalism," Gogue said. "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."

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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