An Alabama & Auburn man

One of the interesting things about the confrontational attitude between Alabama and Auburn is how complimentary the schools are to one another. You can see that through the many important people who have matriculated at both schools. When I was searching through my google reader today an Auburn blog had a very nice feature on an Auburn man—Marine Corps Gen. Holland Smith.

Smith received an undergraduate degree from Auburn and a law degree from the University. However, Smith went on to military service after a year of law practice. WarEagleReader provides a generous snippet of General Smith’s biography. (You can read the entire biography online here.)

As a student of history (yes I studied history and political science in college), I shared General Smith’s boyhood passion for reading Napoleon. It was probably this segment of Smith’s biography that captured my attention:

Before I went to Auburn, I had fallen under the magic of Napoleon’s genius and read everything about him I could get my hands on. In Seale, I had to buy books out of my allowance and consequently my reading was limited. Furthermore, my father strongly disapproved of this hero worship and promptly confiscated any book he found dealing with Napoleon. To counteract what I considered an unreasonable prejudice, I took to hiding my books under the house, which stood off the ground.

At Auburn things were different. The college had an excellent library and I read everything it offered on Napoleon, to the detriment of other studies. The Corsican’s character fascinated me, his prowess awed me, and his rapid marches and countermarches across the map of Europe, defeating one adversary after another, implanted in my mind military principles that served me well later, although paradoxically the Auburn military atmosphere nauseated me.

The trait that counted most heavily in may youthful assessment of Napoleon was his offensive spirit.

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The last line was something as a youth that impressed me as well. Napoleon, Frederick the Great and Robert E. Lee were all generals who understood the value of the offensive. In fact, Napoleon in his maxims of war described the offensive thusly:

Maxim IX. The strength of an army, like power in mechanics, is estimated by multiplying the mass by the rapidity; a rapid march augments the morale of an army, and increases its means of victory.

The applicability to management (both of warfare, sports and business) is easily understood. People who think they are moving toward something are more productive than people who think they are sitting around waiting on something to happen. In business you can easily become complacent and defending market share—when an environment becomes stagnant so too do the people.

Even in play calling you can see the advantages to attacking instead of defending. Nick Saban once mentioned a time he made a call to go for a fourth down conversion, it failed, but the players understood the lesson—he had confidence in them. It set the stage for a victory.

Napoloen also said:

An army of rabbits led by a lion is superior to an army of lions led by a rabbit.

This was one of the reasons that I welcomed the appointment of Nick Saban as Alabama’s head football coach. Mike Shula was a rabbit. Nick Saban is a lion.

There is no substitute for leadership—without it an organization withers and dies. Like Forbes Magazine noted, Saban is in command in Tuscaloosa. You can’t doubt it. And that is a very comforting thought.

However, I’ve diverged from my main point: that while Alabama and Auburn fans feud over football, who has the better students, etc. the schools share many of the same students—students who have gone on to do great things—men like General Holland M. Smith.


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  1. 1


    Come on, this is the kind of quote that you KNOW is inflammatory:

    “Smith received an undergraduate degree from Auburn and a law degree from the University.”

    “The University?” Sorry, but no one but a UAT alum refers to it that way. No one outside the state borders would refer to it that way, and half the population of the state of Alabama would not refer to it that way. It’s a silly affectation of speech that is meant to offend.

  2. 3

    I think The Alabama Polytechnic Institute of Opelika is an even bigger word to use. Regardless, UA is THE flagship University of the state, and API is the polytechnic university of the state. Nothing you say or do will change either of those facts. You can rally around being “number 1” in football for the past *six* years, but that doesn’t change the fact that outside of the south the average American knows absolutely nothing about API.

  3. 5
    Bama Fan in NYC

    No… No…

    The University of Alabama is THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA.

    The Alabama PolyTECHnic Institute is A university IN Alabama.

  4. 7
    Bama Fan in NYC

    I think we all know who the better school is. Unless you’re a cowboy or cowgirl, or you care nothing about fun that doesn’t involve mud riding and rodeos, then you choose The Alabama PolyTECHnic Institute.

    I can recall a time when I was in a confrontation with a Barnie, and she claimed The Alabama PolyTECHnic Institute students had better house parties (cheap retaliation to me saying they lack the proper nightlife most colleges have). Of course I was quick to say high schoolers throw awesome house parties as well!

    On gameday, there’s nothing to do in Aubarn. Tailgating is lame. There are no bars near campus to watch the games. There is no quad where entertainment can be found. They don’t provide entertainment the way UA does around The Walk of Champions. There is no strip and their downtown area is lamer than watching golf on a Sunday. All they have is The Tiger Walk and the rolling of Toomer’s Corner afterwards.

    Maybe their gameday staff is to blame, but half the time their fans don’t show up anyway, unless it’s a big game, so why should they care?

  5. 8

    Being concerned about off field “entertainment” may be one reason for being winless against Auburn in Tuscaloosa.

  6. 10

    I don’t think people are grasping the general concept of this blog. It wasn’t a direct shot at Auburn, but naturally most Auburn fans take it that way.

    Just because he referred to UA as The University should mean nothing. If you’re proud of your university, then you should have accepted the fact, long ago, that UA is the state’s flagship institute, therefore when someone refers to UA as The University, it shouldn’t bother you. There’s a huge difference between football and schooling. Both schools are very fine schools, regardless of nightlife and football. There shouldn’t be a confrontation between students regarding schools, but football is more understandable. We should be proud of these kids for having ambition in their lives, instead of impregnating random women and never maintaining a steady job to support them. Both Alabama and Auburn have produced a numerous amount of life changing alumni that both schools should be proud of.

  7. 11

    One other thing that I failed to mention about the biography, there were two other things which struck me.

    1. His father didn’t like the hero worship. I can sort of remember my father being the same way. However, is it just me or is this been lost on society today? Almost everyone has a “hero” they worship—and many of them aren’t positive role models. Is this hero worship healthy?

    2. His parents didn’t allow his appointment to the Naval Academy because it would have been validating Yankee ideals. He said his parents were “unreconstructed” southerners. Wow. How things have changed. In fact, what helped bring about the change? Probably the Spanish-American War helped many, and then World War I. Those events most likely did more than anything else to unify the country post-Civil War.

  8. 12

    Thanks for the shout out. It looks like Howlin’ Mad Smith did most of his best work on the track team at Bama while studying law.

  9. 13

    I’m just glad the guy wised up and got out of law. 😉

    Thanks for posting it. I have to admit, I probably enjoyed reading that more than football stuff.

  10. 14

    “Thanks for posting it. I have to admit, I probably enjoyed reading that more than football stuff.”

    Yeah, especially at this moment in time when everyone doesn’t really have much of a clue what is happening in closed practices (relying only on what coaches want us to hear) and the first game has yet to be played.

  11. 15

    bama in nyc why is the way someone haves fun or partys so important, when i go to games i dont look for a BAR or band. ARE YOU A DRUNK? ohh yea Stabler i forgot comes natural….carry on
    and keep up the ALABAMA POLYTECH stuff if it makes you feel good but like i said i hope you here when NOV 29 comes and I GET TO SAY IT SISSY!!!

    bamma 10
    polytech 24


  12. 16
    J W

    nobody seems to want to get alone’s just a game. people we need to repect each others would be nice.i know im going to catch hell for this comment but so what.its going to be ok people.let the games begin.

  13. 17

    You don’t look for a bar or band BECAUSE YOU CAN’T FIND ONE IN AWBARN! And after the 29th you won’t be able to find your glorious streak anywhere either or any recruits worth mentioning after that!! The aftermath of all your streaks will continue… see aftermath of the streak in the 50’s and 80’s!

  14. 18

    bammerNYC is obviously a case of arrested adolescence. He somehow thinks that those dive bars on the strip in T-town constitute a great “college experience.” I guess if that’s all you know, then it does. The rest of us ride into T-town and say, “what’s that awful smell?” There are a few possibilities: the paper plant, the dive bars/stale vomit, or frequent losing. Probably a combination of all three.

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