Rival SEC Fans Under the Same Roof
In the South, two seasons follow summer: fall and SEC football. Saturdays filled with tailgating, school colors, and trash-talking other teams are a hallmark for every dedicated SEC fan. While the days grow chillier, the rivalries heat up – sometimes even within single households. Here, we hear from five local families about their love of the game – even when their loved ones are cheering for the other side.
Photography by Lanewood Studio
Michael & Lynda Hood, with daughter Lauren
Rivalry: Alabama vs. Tennessee vs. Georgia
“Our family is truly a ‘house divided,’ but only on SEC game days. My dad grew up a Georgia Bulldog and even raised one. Yep, that’s right – my dad’s puppy was sold to a friend in Columbus, Georgia, before becoming UGA I, ‘Hood’s Ole Dan.’
If you know my mom, you know she loves the Crimson Tide. She doesn’t miss a game, and if you hear someone cheering and yelling ‘get ‘em, get ‘em, get ‘em!’ that would be Lynda cheering for the Tide on a Saturday in the fall. She was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, and grew up cheering for the team – her dad graduated from the University of Alabama and was a die-hard fan of the Tide. I remember growing up on game days, and when Alabama would score a touchdown, the phone would ring and it would be my grandad on the other end playing ‘Yea, Alabama.’
Do you remember the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship? It was Georgia and Alabama playing for the title, and the Hood house was quiet – like the calm before a storm. Georgia was winning for most of the game, then at the end of the fourth quarter, Alabama tied it up. Now the house was really quiet on the Georgia side! During overtime, Dad was quietly watching in one room, and Mom was loudly cheering in another. Minutes later, Alabama beat Georgia for the 2018 national title.
Then there’s me – I grew up loving both Georgia and Alabama. My friends from high school will attest to hearing me yell out ‘Roll Tide’ all too often my senior year, but a change of heart occurred when I went to visit Knoxville for homecoming. The sea of orange singing ‘Rocky Top’ in Neyland Stadium was too much for this Tennessee-raised girl, and the next week I made my decision to attend the University of Tennessee. I spent the next best four years on Rocky Top!
So, from our house to yours – ROLL TIDE, sic ‘em Vols, and go Dawgs!” – Lauren
Will & Audrey Alexander
Rivalry: Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State
“My husband Will and I both have deep-rooted ties to Mississippi. I hail from a diehard Mississippi State family, where my parents met. I don’t remember a time before becoming a Bulldog fan because I always was one. One of the first ‘songs’ I learned was the MSU fight song (which I then taught my younger brothers). I can vividly recall picking out face tattoos at The Lodge in Starkville on football game days and how the Hump would turn dark before basketball games as players’ names were introduced.
Will grew up going to as many Ole Miss football, baseball, and basketball games as possible. His family has had a tent in the Grove for as long as he can remember, so the majority of his Saturdays were spent driving an hour to Oxford to watch Ole Miss play. Some of his favorite memories growing up were watching Eli Manning every Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway, watching basketball in the Tad Pad, and going to baseball games at Swayze Field.
When the time came to apply to schools, there was an obvious choice for me: Mississippi State, and for Will, Ole Miss. Some of our favorite memories from college are tailgating in the Junction and the Grove hours before game time. After two years in Oxford, Will made the decision to transfer to MSU. Although he transferred schools, his loyalties were (and still are) with the Rebels. We met in Starkville shortly after he transferred, and the rest is history.
Every football season, we typically choose at least one game to attend for each team. The weekend of the Egg Bowl is an interesting one in our house. If either of us is going to talk smack, it’s usually me – although I typically have less knowledge to back it up. Will spends plenty of time researching games, the latest recruits, and so on. This year MSU won the College World Series for baseball, so I like to think I have bragging rights for a while. Hail State and Hotty Toddy!” – Audrey
Cole & Brittney Murphy, with son Bo and daughter Reilly Brooks
Rivalry: Alabama vs. Tennessee
The Murphy family is a house truly divided. Cole went to the University of Alabama for his undergraduate degree, and Brittney was raised cheering on the Tennessee Volunteers. Their relationship started in 2006, with a bet over the Tennessee/Alabama game. Cole was 19 and Brittney was 17 years old. Cole was so confident Alabama was going to win that game, he set the stakes high: If Alabama won, he got a kiss — what would have been their first kiss – from Brittney. If Tennessee won, no kiss.
That 2006 game was the last time Tennessee has won against the Crimson Tide up to this point, and Cole cashes in every year on those kisses he missed out on. Until the birth of their first baby in 2018, Cole and Brittney had never missed a Tennessee/Alabama game. Since then, they celebrate that game at home every year with their own tradition of a lot of grilled food and cold drinks. Their oldest son, Bo, does whatever his daddy does, so he says “Roll Tide” anytime something awesome happens in his life. Their daughter, Reilly Brooks, is her momma’s mini-me. She doesn’t know it yet, but she will bleed orange. – Cole and Brittney
Sam & Dannah Burgess, with sons Clark and Copeland
Rivalry: Georgia vs. South Carolina
“We met in the spring about two years after we both graduated from college – Sam from University of Georgia, and me from University of South Carolina – and initially bonded over college sports. It was all fun and games until fall rolled around, football season started, and I had to hear ‘go Dawgs’ every two seconds. Luckily, the Gamecocks got the W that first year and went on a winning streak throughout the following years.
In 2013, we were tailgating in Athens with a huge group of friends and family. Suddenly, some friends started dancing, and then more joined … and it turned into one big flash mob with Sam proposing at the end. It was the most perfect timing! If the Gamecocks were going to lose for the first time since we’d gotten together, at least I got something in return!
Eight years later, our pride for our schools still holds strong. However, Sam has been seen wearing a USC shirt to a bowl game, and I begrudgingly allow the kids to wear UGA gear. And, even when USC ruins UGA’s perfect season (hello, 2019!), I always kindly remind him that ‘next year’s their year!’” – Dannah
Andrew & Alex Dann, with daughter Lucy
Rivalry: Alabama vs. Georgia
“At the time we exchanged our vows back in 2015, neither one of us thought that Alabama/Georgia football would be much of a rivalry going forward … Boy, were we wrong! Even though neither one of us actually attended these universities, our family ties and home roots still hold strong, with occasional bickering between in-laws that’s all in good spirit.
Getting to see the 2018 National Championship game live in-person together, with another meeting in Atlanta for the SEC Championship that same year, definitely tested our marriage with only one of us going home happy … But hey, happy wife, happy life, right? We’re sure there will be more meetings in the future with how the playoffs and recruiting trends have worked out recently, and we have a lot of hope for equally exciting and stress-free Saturdays in the Dann household coming up here soon.
Although our little daughter, Lucy, still has much to learn about these teams, we trust that she’ll one day make the right college decision that’s best for her!
So, for now, Roll Tide and Go Dawgs!” – Andrew