The history behind cigars and the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry

Local News

Alabama fans smoke the traditional cigar after they defeated Tennessee 19-14 in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Christmas Day
December 25 2021 12:00 am

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — If there is one thing Alabama fans are hoping for more than a win over the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday night, it’s the chance to smoke a cigar, a tradition that goes back decades.

“This is the one time a year that somebody will smoke a cigar with a lot of people and this is the weekend that they do it,” R&R Cigars owner Reagan Starner told CBS 42 back in 2015.

The rivalry between Alabama and Tennessee is better known among fans as the “Third Saturday in October” and has been going on since 1901. Currently, Alabama leads the rivalry 57–38–7. However, the tradition of the winning team and its fans smoking cigars has only been going on the last 60 years.

Alabama’s Jarret Johnson (96) celebrates with a victory cigar and fans after their game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 26, 2002 in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 34-14. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

The cigar tradition mostly started with Jim Goostree, a Tennessee alumnus who served as the athletic trainer at Alabama for 27 years. The story goes that leading up the 1961 match, Goostree told players he would dance around naked in the locker room if the Crimson Tide won.

The Tide ended up trampling the Volunteers 34-3. From there, a storied tradition was born.

“Goostree danced while smoking a cigar,” according to a 2017 piece in The Tuscaloosa News. “Players wanted a cigar to celebrate, too.”

Although there is no smoking allowed either in Bryant-Denny Stadium or the locker rooms, that has not stopped both players and fans from lighting up a stogie.

“It’s fun,” former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said about the tradition during the 2019 season. “It’s just hard for me to breathe because it’s not an environment you want anyone in after you win a game.”

Here are a few of the Alabama players who have enjoyed a few cigars after a win over Tennessee over the years:

Even Tennessee fans get to enjoy the tradition, even though the last time the Volunteers beat Alabama was in 2006. In 2019, one Tennessee fan hoped for a win over the Tide so he could light up a Cuban cigar he had gotten during a trip to Mexico back in 1998.

“Right now, I’ll settle for an SEC championship or a division championship,” Chuck Hickey told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I think I’d pull one out for the Alabama game, for sure.”

Although Alabama is favored to win Saturday, the tradition is something both sides have come to appreciate more and more with each generation.

“When we came here it was an educational process of trying to educate our players of what it means, from the date in October to cigars to everything that goes into it, everything that’s been associated with it, and then getting back to making the rivalry relevant again,” former Tennessee had coach Butch Jones told The Tuscaloosa News in 2017. “This rivalry means so many things to so many people.”

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