Harvey Updyke is Freed from Jail, but Toomer's Corner Saga Will Never Really End
The next chapter of the Harvey Updyke saga is now being written.
Updyke, the 64-year-old Alabama fan who served a total of 76 days in jail for poisoning Auburn's iconic Toomer's Corner oaks in December 2010, was released from jail Monday, according to AL.com.
Updyke, who pleaded guilty to unlawful damage of an animal or crop facility in March, will return to Louisiana and serve five years of probation as a result of his plea agreement.
His release turns the page on the saga, but it doesn't close the book.
For Auburn, the story is ongoing.
Tiger fans flooded downtown Auburn following the 2013 A-Day game on April 20 for one last roll of the iconic oaks, which were torn down three days later. In their place, concrete poles and wires will be erected to provide a place for fans to celebrate wins while the soil recovers from the damage done by the heavy dose of Spike 80DF, according to ESPN.com.
The temporary and permanent solutions to replacing the trees are still part of the story. But even when the new oaks are planted and fans flood the corner of College and Magnolia streets like nothing has changed, the Updyke saga will continue to be part of the story.
Adults will remember the times before one crazy fan stepped way over the line and make a concerted effort to instill in their children the same joy and pride those trees gave them.
That's what makes what Updyke did to Toomer's Corner so egregious.
He didn't just poison trees. He robbed families of memories.
Kids don't care who won or lost the game, even if it's the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama. Hanging out with friends and family in the street and throwing toilet paper into the trees may seem silly to some, but that doesn't make it OK to rob families of those memories.
But there could be more tangible parts of the saga still to come.
Paul Finebaum—the radio host who was on the other end of the line when "Al from Dadeville" (Updyke) first made his confession in January 2011—visited with Updyke one day before his release, according to AL.com.
Lee County (Ala.) Sheriff Jay Jones allowed Finebaum to meet with Updyke despite a judge reportedly banning him from talking to the media, according to the Associated Press.
"It was just person to person,” Jones told AL.com. “If he had been (representing a media organization), we would not have allowed him to make contact.”
While technically Finebaum isn't a member of the media at the moment, he will become an employee of ESPN and the SEC Network later this summer. Does that technicality fly?
Considering Finebaum will host a syndicated radio show and make television appearances in his new gig, has been a successful columnist and is writing a book chronicling his radio show, the answer is no.
Updyke is out of jail, the trees have been torn down and the wheels are in motion to replace them. But just because they're gone doesn't mean they should be forgotten.
The Updyke saga is now part of the rivalry. The silver lining is that it should become a cautionary tale about how not to act and serve in that capacity for generations. Rivalries are heated in college football, especially in the SEC. But even if your school throws away a 24-0 lead in the biggest game of the year, it is just a game.
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