By War Eagle Atlanta
It's tough being a fan of the school with the third most popular college vanity tag in the state of Georgia. What makes it even tougher is that my school isn't even located in the state--it's a bit west of the Chattahoochee--in really west Georgia, you might say, aka east Alabama. The loveliest village on the Plains.
But all pleasantries aside, make no mistake about it. The big dog school in the state (pun intended) is feeling a little encroached on, and the hometown refs are throwing out the little yellow hanky. Encroachment: On the visitors. 5 yard penalty. Replay the down and re-register your car.)
As most of the Tiger fans in the great state of Jawja already know, the Atlanta Auburn club was instrumental in pushing through the AU vanity tag in the state over two years ago, the first out-of-state school do be able to do so. Georgia has a variety of special-purpose plates, including many from domestic colleges. But any organization in the state can apply for their own special tag.
All they have to do is get 500 deposits from people willing to pay $25 initially for the manufacture of the plate, $25 extra a year for the renewal, plus the ordinary license plate fees and taxes.
If that organization is a college, then they must get 1000 deposits. Auburn fans came through in a big way and got the 'Auburn Club' (the official name) plate established.
Yes, Tiger fans the state over purchased the tag en masse, especially in the metro Atlanta area, where over 17,500 alumni reside. After only one year after it's issue, the Auburn plate was threatening to overtake Georgia Tech as the second most popular college tag, exceeding over 8000 plates sold by this time last year, compared to Tech's roughly 10,000.
Keep in mind though that the Tech and Georgia plates have been available for years, as opposed to just 27 months for Auburn's.
They had even become a sort of status symbol among us Blue Tigers: Since the plates were issued in ascending numerical order, the lower your plate number, the earlier you had applied to get one.
When you see a fellow Georgia-resident Tiger driving around, you always check their number--to see if they outrank you.
And everybody was fine with it--nary a cross remark from Dawg and Jacket fans. I'd like to think it's because both schools have a healthy respect for Auburn, considering the considerable history between all three schools.
Auburn has played both schools 203 combined games--almost 20% of the football games that we've played EVER! Included in that history was the first football game ever played in the deep south, in Atlanta's Grant Park, and also the oldest rivalry in the deep south--our series with Georgia, which surpassed the other oldest rivalry in the south in 1988--our series with Tech, which ended the continuous games after the 1987 season.
Add to it the fact that virtually every single game in the series with both schools was played on Georgia soil prior to 1960, and you get a solid bond between the schools in the Athens to Atlanta to Auburn triangle.
But nothing good lasts forever. Emboldened by the success of Auburnites to get a tag, soon Clemson and Tennessee followed, getting themselves established in Georgia, too.
Innocuous enough, no heated rivalries with either the Orange Tigers or the Vowels. But then comes the Atlanta Gator club, with their plans to follow suit. Boom! Game over! No way the Dawgs are going to stand for this! Florida is one of their two biggest rivals, and the biggest one in the last 17 seasons.
Naturally, Georgia fans can't prevent Tech fans from having a state of Georgia tag, but by God, they can stop the infiltration of Gators. And since Georgia fans run the state, the power of government is in their hands.
I can't say that I really blame the Dawgs for feeling this way. Just imagine that Tuscaloosa was about 50 miles further west, in Mississippi, and that their alumni in the state of Alabama wanted to get their own tag.
Do you see now? Phrases like "no way in hell" come to mind instantly. Anyway, at first, there were humorous articles from Georgia fans who were legislators. One remarked that Gator plates weren't necessary because cars on blocks didn't require tags.
But abruptly, the jokes stopped, and with the new legislative session came a bill, HB 1165, that was going to end this license plate carpetbagging.
It proposes the discontinuation of these out of state vanity tags unless other states in the region offer reciprocal agreements for alumni and fans of state of Georgia universities. Talk about taking your ball and running home!
Obviously, a lot of fans of many schools are upset. We Auburn folk are the most established and would be affected the most, but we have to understand that although the scorn is directed at the Gators, we're stuck in the cross-fire none the less.
HB 1165 passed in the Georgia house in a landslide. But luckily, it's sitting dead in the senate at present, seemingly bogged down. It may end up dying this session, too.
Popular opposition has been strong, and there's even an online petition where Auburn fans can go and give their input:
Since the language in the bill is ambiguous about what constitutes a reciprocal agreement in bordering states, there is genuine concern about the legalities of it.
Using a narrow interpretation, seemingly only Tennessee currently has a provision for out of state vanity tags similar to Georgia's. There's even been discussion that perhaps a way to avoid most of the fallout while sticking it to the Gators all at the same time might be to implement the law but to grandfather in all existing tags.
While that would save our precious AU plates, I don't feel that would be fair to Florida and other fans wishing to get their own tags.
The Georgia legislature, which meets in Atlanta, the state capital, should realize that the eyes of the south are upon them. The alumni of virtually every major university in the southeast congregate in Atlanta in large numbers, and you better know that they're going to take notice of this petulant behavior.
And you better know that these people vote, too. Do the right thing, state of Georgia--my native state. Just say 'cha-ching' with the extra tax money and let them all have their tags. Be the adult here, set the example. Don't give in to childish whims. And most importantly, War Eagle!