BY AARON BRENNER | email@example.com
AUBURN, Ala. – Yeah, this would be the biggest crowd ever gathered for one of Cameron Artis-Payne’s football games.
“By about 60, 70 thousand,” Artis-Payne, a junior college transfer running back. “Somewhere around there.”
Artis-Payne was a show-stopper (164 total yards, TD), but the main event was bigger than one guy. Between saying hello to Gus Malzahn and goodbye to Toomer’s Oaks, a record-shattering 83,401 fans insisted on passing through the gates at Jordan-Hare Stadium (capacity: 87,451), eclipsing the 2010 mark by more than 20,000 people.
“First of all, I just wanted to say I really appreciate the fans,” said Malzahn, in his first words at a postgame podium as Auburn’s head coach. “It was kind of overwhelming, 83,000 plus for A-Day. Hats off to our fans. I know that meant unbelievable amounts to our players and coaches, and that’s really what stood out to me.”
Word in the press box was concessions had a shortage of hamburgers, hot dogs and popcorn – they weren’t even open on the upper levels, which weren’t supposed to be open until officials changed their mind late Saturday morning.
The university couldn’t have envisioned nearly selling out a spring scrimmage. Not in their wildest dreams.
“Auburn fans are the best in the nation,” said Scott Carr, senior associate athletic director for external affairs, as the clock wound down Saturday. “It’s just wonderful to see them come out today and support this football team and coach Malzahn and what we have going on.”
A gentle breeze filled the air with a slight chill, without a cloud in the sky. In other words, an ignorant passerby would easily have mistaken the day for an SEC showdown in November based on the buzz of this spring game day unlike any other.
“It probably is about as perfect as you could imagine,” Carr said. “It was almost hard to manage the crowds – we had lines at the ticket booths and the gates coming in, but it’s great to see the support.”
The usual contingency plan on A-Day is to open the east upper deck, facing the sun. But when stadium officials saw the lines burgeon close to the 1 p.m. CT start time, the decision was made to open all decks for the first time in A-Day history, as well as eschew the $5 admission fee after the scrimmage began while security continued to check bags.
“Really, we weren’t thinking 83,000,” Carr said. “We knew we had a great chance to break the record, but 83,000 is just incredible. It’s really phenomenal.”
WHAT THEY SAID about Auburn’s record-setting A-Day attendance:
QB Kiehl Frazier: “We didn’t expect that many people to be out there. Especially after the season we had last year. For them to show that much support, it was amazing.”
RB Tre Mason: “We have the best fans in America and we love them. 83,000 – that’s unreal.”
DE Dee Ford: ““Yeah, I looked up and was like, ‘man.’ I felt like this was a fall game. You can’t ask for greater fans.”
DE Nosa Eguae: “It was awesome. The Auburn Family is just resilient, and what we stand for is so much bigger than just football. When there’s 84,000 strong for a spring game, it definitely makes you want to come out and put on your best performance.”