On Friday, Auburn’s NCAA Tournament drought will finally end.
Auburn’s First Round matchup against College of Charleston will be a special one, as it will be the first time the Tigers have played an NCAA Tournament game since 2003. The 2002-2003 Auburn squad not only made the tournament for only the third time in 16 years, but they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for only the fourth time in program history.
Auburn ultimately lost its Sweet Sixteen game 79-78 to Syracuse, the eventual national champion.
To commemorate the 15 years that have passed since the Tigers last made it into March Madness, here are 15 facts from March 2003.
- According to a report by CNN, a gallon of gas cost $1.72. The average price today sits at $2.53.
- The top celebrities of 2003 included Jennifer Lopez and then-fiance Ben Affleck, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and husband-wife duo Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.
- The No. 1 movie in America was Bringing Down the House starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah. The comedy had grossed $22,054,934.
- 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” was the No. 1 song on the U.S. charts. The song spent 9 weeks at the top spot.
- The invasion of Iraq began on March 19, 2003. The invasion lasted until May and signaled the beginning of the Iraq War.
- 2002-2003 Auburn was led by head coach Cliff Ellis, then in his ninth season with the Tigers. Ellis, 72, is now in his 11th season as Coastal Carolina head coach.
- Bruce Pearl, 42, was finishing his second season as the head coach at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Panthers went 24-8 and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
- One of Auburn’s go-to players on the tournament team was Marco Killingsworth, who was eventually named the team’s MVP. Killingsworth transferred to Indiana and last played professionally in 2016-2017 with the Maccabi Kiryat Gat in the Israel-Winner League.
- Auburn played its home games in the Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, a 10,500 seat arena on the Auburn campus. The Tigers played at the coliseum until the 2010-2011 season, when they moved to Auburn Arena.
- Mustapha Heron, the Tigers’ leading scorer this season, was 6 years old the last time the Tigers were part of March Madness.
- Along those lines, Heron and his teammates might have been watching “Clifford’s Puppy Days”, “All Grown Up!”, “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy” or “Lilo & Stitch”, cartoons which all debuted in 2003.
- The Auburn football team was entering its fifth spring under head coach Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville coached the Tigers for six more falls, going 55-21 over that span.
- Bob Riley was in his third month as the governor of Alabama. The former member of the U.S. House of Representatives was re-elected in 2006 and served until January 2011.
- Former Auburn baseball player Frank Thomas was entering his 14th season of professional baseball with the Chicago White Sox. He would go on to hit .267 with 42 home runs and 105 RBIs in the 2003 season. Thomas played five more seasons before retiring in 2008.
- Current Auburn athletic director Allen Greene was beginning his first year working in Notre Dame’s athletic development and compliant offices. The former Fighting Irish baseball player stayed at his alma mater until 2009, when he took a position at Ole Miss.