Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em: Inside Bama’s Timeless Tradition
Arguably the most famous tradition in the SEC, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tennessee Volunteers have been smoking cigars for victories against each other since the 1960s.
Originally, the tradition started after Alabama athletic trainer Jim Goosetree handed out cigars after a 1961 victory over the Vols. ‘Bama took down UT 34-3 that day and broke a six-year streak without a win over the team up north.
What many Alabama fans may not know is that the tradition of players smoking cigars in the locker room after a victory is actually both an NCAA violation and a University of Alabama violation. Because of this, Alabama and Tennessee players kept the victory cigars secret for most of the rivalry.
In 2005, the Crimson Tide, after winning their second game in 11 years, reinstated the tradition as a self-reported NCAA violation. Since Nick Saban was hired as the head coach of Alabama in 2007, he has made it very clear that he “doesn’t smoke,” but he was adamant that he wouldn’t stop his players from participating in the tradition. Luckily for the Crimson Tide, the team is 13-0 against UT since Saban was hired.
Overall, since ‘Bama and the Vols began their rivalry in 1901, Alabama leads the series 56 wins to 38 with seven ties.
Not only does the Crimson Tide take part in the tradition after a win over "Rocky Top," but as the game time slowly creeps down to zero, it is commonplace to see clouds of smoke pop up throughout the stadium, especially in the student section.
As previously stated, tobacco use on UA’s campus is illegal, but that doesn’t stop the student body from lighting up.
Reagan Starner, the co-owner of R&R Cigars, knows all about “Tennessee Hate Week."
“We all knew about the tradition. We didn’t know how big it was, but we knew about it,” Starner explained.
“We didn’t understand how impactful it would be in our business when we opened up.”
Looking around the “Cigar Mansion,” it is clear that Starner and his staff are big sports fans, from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers banner in a sitting room to the countless mounted TVs playing ESPN.
In his nine years in the Druid City, Starner has come to love the tradition of the victory stogie.
“I think it is great," Starner said. "I can’t think of any one of them that is better than this tradition for this game.”
In addition to his fandom of the sport, R&R Cigars experience a significant spike in business when the “Third Saturday in October” rolls around each year.
“It’s always been very good for our business,” Starner said. “The away games not as much, but the home games are crazy… We definitely see a bump in sales.”
Along with their wide variety of cigars available for purchase, R&R Cigars is offering a special batch of cigars exclusively made for the Alabama-Tennessee game.
On Fridays and Saturdays, the Cigar Mansion has a special on the “golden hammer.” For $25, customers can get bottomless “golden hammers.”
As for the 103rd meeting of the “Third Saturday in October,” kickoff will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game will be televised on CBS, and fans can also listen to the broadcast, along with the pregame festivities right here on TIDE 100.9.