A History of Aubie and the Story of Barry Mask
“It is often said women love him, children adore him, and men want to be him.”
From performing title-worthy skits to making appearances on the field at Jordan-Hare, there’s no doubt that Aubie the Tiger is one of Auburn University’s most beloved traditions. As such, it’s only fair that we give him the recognition he deserves. I interviewed Barry Mask, the first Aubie, and he gave us a glimpse into the history of the beloved mascot and how he came to be.
Did you know Aubie was a cartoon before becoming Auburn’s official mascot? His existence began in 1959 when the late artist Phil Neel’s artwork of the tiger appeared on the cover of the Auburn vs. Hardin-Simmons football game. Eighteen years later, in the spring of 1979, Mask competed against 32 other candidates to be the first Aubie. His name was soon announced at callouts in front of Toomer’s Corner, and he immediately began preparations for Aubie’s official debut.
Aubie’s First Time at Jordan-Hare
His plan for the debut was to hide Aubie in a box — one that he had personally decorated. It was waiting for him on the sidelines along with his friend Joey and a bucket of ice water. After the players finished warm-ups and with Mask already on the verge of a heatstroke, the cheerleaders hit their cue to move the box (with Mask inside) to midfield.
That’s when announcer Carl Stephens introduced Aubie as Auburn’s newest tradition, while Mask sprang from the box and dizzily performed a routine with the band. With internal temperature’s reaching 114 degrees, Aubie’s first live appearance was almost his last.
“How hot is it in there?” students often ask after seeing Aubie perform in the sweltering heat. But Mask knows all to well. The only thing on his mind on Sept. 5, 1979, an hour before the 1 p.m. kickoff against Kansas State, was nailing the big debut.
Aubie’s Year of Firsts
Mask says that Aubie’s creation was an experiment, and its success led him to a year of firsts. Back then, there was no budget for props, traveling or costumes, until the Auburn Alumni Association (where Mask had previously worked) took Aubie in.
Trey Johnston at J&M Bookstore and Ron Anders from Anders Bookstore were generous, often supplying Mask with props and costumes. Mask stressed how hectic the schedule was that year. Aubie performed at many basketball games, football games, and other campus events. He even spent part of the year practicing the 100-yard dash, which would later save him from Georgia Tech “RATs,” who had placed a bounty out on his tail.
Gracing the cover of every Sunday edition of Alabama and West Georgia newspapers, Aubie and his zany antics became increasingly popular.
Standing tall today as the first inductee to the Mascot Hall of Fame and winner of nine National Championship titles, Aubie is a tradition that fans have enjoyed and loved for decades. Mask, still heavily involved with Auburn University and his fraternity Phi Kappa Tau, says that when he sees Aubie today he “still gets a chuckle and [is] proud to see the traditions have carried on.”
To the late Phil Neel, thank you for the illustration that brought such a wonderful tradition to the Auburn family. To Barry Mask, thank you for instilling in Aubie the values of a true Auburn Tiger.
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Cat S.