Every conversation James Wood had in his office Monday began the same way. People wanted to talk about Auburn football, specifically about the Tigers getting the Bowl Championship Series No. 1 ranking Sunday.
“Everyone’s telling me how excited they are,” said Wood, the associate director of student financial services at the university. “I’m excited, too.”
The team has never been ranked higher than No. 2 in the 13-year history of the BCS, and Auburn has not been ranked No. 1 in any major poll since 1985.
Wood, an employee at the school for 28 years, said he has received numerous e-mails from people congratulating Auburn on its new status and said because of this team’s “surprising” success he can just feel an energy around campus he hasn’t felt for a while.
“It’s definitely a great time to be an Auburn Tiger.”
Student Anna Jenkins agreed.
“It’s great to be No. 1 because this team deserves it,” said the junior microbiology major. “It does make me nervous because everyone is going to be gunning for us now.”
She likes this team, she said, because the players rush over to the student section before and after a game. “I believe they are sincere about all of us coming together.”
She mentioned coach Gene Chizik playing a part in that, too. “He sends students e-mails and has bought pizza for students arriving early in the stadium.”
Asked about this team, Andrew Wisener, a senior in mechanical engineering, said, “It’s hard to find the words.
“It’s exciting to be ahead of Alabama, last year’s national champion, even if it might be for a short time,” he said. “We’re in first now and that feels good.”
Tiger Rags in Auburn makes a special T-shirt for each home game. After a victory, fans can stop by and buy a shirt celebrating the win. “After we beat LSU Saturday the lines were around the building, maybe 300 people,” manager Jason Harbison said. “It was amazing.”
He said the store hasn’t produced a special shirt celebrating the No. 1 ranking — yet. The hot seller is a blue shirt with “Refuse 2 Lose” on the front.
Of course, it’s not just people in Auburn who are excited. Dennis Calhoun, a 1953 graduate and former cheerleader, is executive vice-president at Columbus Community Bank.
“I hope this No. 1 ranking isn’t the kiss of death,” he said. “Teams have had a hard time holding on that spot this season.”
Calhoun, who said Auburn was 0-10 his first year at the school, said he has been pleasantly surprised by the 8-0 record of this year’s team.
“I don’t think anyone connected with Auburn ever dreamed this would happen. Who thought we’d beat Arkansas, that we’d beat LSU? It’s still a long way to go. Georgia is coming on strong. I say enjoy it while you can.”
Twila Kirkland, an account executive at ClearChannel Broadcasting, is a 1973 Auburn graduate. She said she’s not sure how long Auburn can hold onto the No. 1 ranking, but “it’s nice to be there when you are there.”
She said she is thrilled by the team’s success and is especially impressed with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
“Cam is just phenomenal,” she said. “He’s a great leader.”
As for the season as a whole, she said. “For Auburn, this is a most exciting time.”