It was December of 1980 and I had been on the job as sports editor of The Montgomery Advertiser for about six months. Doug Barfield had been forced to resign as Auburn’s head football coach. The search was on for a successor.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
I got word that Auburn representatives had met with Georgia coach Vince Dooley at the Atlanta airport and wrote a story to that effect. Two days later, I talked to Bobby Lowder for the first time.
“You have good sources,” said Lowder, who was the national Alumni Association president and heading the search committee looking for a new coach. He invited to come see him at his office at what was then Exchange National Bank.
I’ve talked to Lowder literally hundreds of times, maybe more, in the last 30-plus years. There was a time when he was willing to do on-the-record interviews, though he hasn’t done that in a long time. I don’t know that anyone outside of a very tight circle really knows Lowder, but I think I have a pretty good understanding of the man.
He is the most devoted Auburn supporter I know, and I don’t just mean financially. He loves the place and all it stands for. He has used his money and influence to upgrade academic facilities more than he has athletic facilities.
It couldn’t have been easy for him to call Gov. Robert Bentley and ask that his name be removed from consideration for another term on the Board of Trustees.
I will leave it others to decide what Lowder’s legacy is on the Board of Trustees, though I will say that he is nothing, absolutely nothing, like the person he is portrayed to be by so many who express their disdain with nothing really to back it up.
The view of many nationally that he is some kind of super fan is so far from the truth it’s laughable.
Before celebrating too much, folks might want to think how much fun they have going to jam-packed Jordan-Hare Stadium. It was Lowder, more than any other single person, who had the vision that Auburn could look the best in the eye.
They might want to think about the new basketball arena, the academic center and numerous other buildings on campus that he either got built with his money or his influence.
Had it not been for Lowder, Pat Dye would never have been Auburn’s head coach. Lowder, through his radio station, bought radio and TV rights for far more than they were worth at the time to make it possible.
Though he didn’t do it alone, Lowder was the driving force behind dragging Alabama kicking and screaming to Jordan-Hare Stadium every other year.
It was Lowder who pushed for enlarging Jordan-Hare Stadium and building luxury suites. It was Lowder who said Auburn’s financial commitment and facilities had to be brought to the level of its competition. Believe me, neither the commitment nor the resources were there in 1980.
Lowder is a tough guy. No question about it. He is a powerful guy, and he is willing to use that power. Has he made some mistakes? No doubt. Has he made enemies? That goes without saying.
But Auburn is better, much better, because of he came along.