A University of Alabama fan stands accused of poisoning -- yes, poisoning -- 130-year-old trees at Toomer's Corner, a famous intersection where the Auburn University campus meets the town.
A man was arrested in connection with the stunt, which first came to the public's attention after someone called into a sports radio show and claimed that he had poisoned the trees because of a long-standing Auburn-Alabama grudge. Soon after, officials confirmed that the trees had been poisoned with an herbicide called Spike 80DF, or tebuthiuron .
Perhaps afraid of an escalating prank war, Auburn's president asked students not to retaliate.
This is perhaps the most recent incident in the century-long tradition of the college rivalry prank. Usually, the stunts are harmless, but occasionally they stray into such destructive territory.
Here are five other pranks related to long-standing collegiate rivalries.
1. The Rutgers-Princeton Cannon War
In 1875, Rutgers students created national headlines and tense negotiations when they stole a cannon used in the Revolutionary War from the campus of Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey). It took months for the two universities' presidents to come to terms, but the cannon -- which had long been claimed by both colleges' towns -- was eventually returned.
2. College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene University
The rivalry between these schools dates back a century. Things came to an unpleasant head in 2007, when NNU students put soap in a fountain on the Idaho campus. Sounds pretty mundane, right? Except when the NNU crew tried to flee, their car hit a 21-year-old security guard/student, according to local news station KBOI.
The two LA-based schools have a long-standing grudge that's usually playful, if perhaps destructive, in nature -- defacing a statue, stealing a bell back and forth, once even a backfired attempt to dump manure from a helicopter. But things went too far in December, when two were stabbed in a brawl between rivals just before a USC-UCLA football game. "People from USC and UCLA were fighting against each other," one witness said.
In this case, Auburn was on the offending side. In 1896, Auburn students actually greased the railroad tracks into town so that the train carrying Georgia Tech's football team and fans was unable to stop for 10 miles. The team and fans had to walk back into town, and the players were apparently so drained that they were creamed, 45-0.
5. Intra-Harvard Publications
In 1954, two Harvard student publications, the Lampoon and the Crimson, were engaged in a prank war that could have had international consequences. Staff members of the Crimson stole an ibis statue that belonged to the Lampoon, then told a Soviet ambassador that it was a gift of friendship from the Lampoon.
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