Phil Neel, Aubie Creator, Passes Away at Age 84
July 25, 2012
Phil Neel, the man who created Aubie, passed away on Wednesday. He was 84.
Aubie's existence began as a cartoon character that first appeared on the Auburn vs. Hardin-Simmons football program cover on October 3, 1959. Neel, a Birmingham Post-Herald artist, created the cartoon Tiger, who continued to adorn Auburn program covers for 18 years.
"Phil Neel was a great Auburn man who gave us a wonderful gift when he created Aubie more than 50 years ago," said Jay Jacobs, Auburn Athletics Director. "Thanks to Phil's creative genius, Aubie became the most recognizable and beloved mascot in college sports. In addition to giving us Aubie, Phil's many drawings that graced the cover of Auburn football game programs and that were on the front of football tickets down through the years have become cherished collectors' items. While everyone who knew and loved Phil will miss him, his spirit and his love of Auburn will forever live on through Aubie the Tiger as well as his many drawings.
"Even though we all love and appreciate Aubie, Phil was most proud of his sons, Mike and Rick, who both played football at Auburn, each of them winning the prestigious Cliff Hare Award. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Auburn Family are with the Neel family during this difficult time."
Aubie's look changed through the years. In 1962, he began to stand upright and the next year, 1963, wore clothes for the first time, a blue tie and straw hat. Aubie's appearances on game programs proved to be somewhat of a good luck charm for Coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan's teams. The Tigers were victorious in the first nine games he graced the cover and in his first 6 years, Auburn posted a 23-2-1 home record.
Auburn's home record during the 18 years Aubie served as Cover Tiger was 63-16-2. Aubie's last appearance on the game program cover was October 23, 1976, when Auburn downed Florida State, 31-19, but Aubie returned to Auburn's cover against Alabama on Dec. 2, 1989, to welcome the Crimson Tide on their first trip to Auburn.
Aubie last graced Auburn's cover against Alabama on Nov. 30, 1991, as he bid farewell to Legion Field in Auburn's last designated home game in Birmingham.
In 1979, Aubie came to life at the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament in Birmingham when Auburn upset Vanderbilt, 59-53.
"Phil Neel was an Auburn man, a great Auburn man and the truest and finest sense of the word," said David Housel, Auburn Athletics Director Emeritus. "Phil was proof that you didn't have to go to Auburn to be an outstanding Auburn man. He will probably always best be known for his creation of Aubie, first on the football program covers back in the 1950s.
"He will be remembered for the creation of Aubie, but his contributions to Auburn were even greater than that. He sent his children to Auburn. Children are the best thing you ever have, the most important thing to you, and he sent his children to Auburn. Two of them, Mike and Rick, were on the football team. Mike was the captain of The Amazins in 1972. Phil Neel will always be remembered as a great Auburn man and rightly so, he is proof that you don't have to go to Auburn to have an Auburn attitude and Auburn values. As important as Aubie is, sending his children to Auburn is an even greater compliment to Auburn and his belief in Auburn."
Neel's funeral service will be held at 11 am on Friday at the Deerfoot Baptist Church in Trussville, Ala. Visitation is from 10 to 11 a.m. Neel, a resident of Pinson, was a member of the church since 1981.
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