Published September 29, 2019
Carson Caulfield / Sports Writer
Four hours west of Tuscaloosa resides a 70-year old man. To the typical resident of southern Louisiana, he comes across as a neighbor; a southern gentleman rocking blue jeans, a green striped flannel, a curved-bill hat and a grey handlebar mustache. You might not even recognize his name at first call, but you will recognize the fact that he is the man who poisoned the oaks on Toomer’s Corner.
Almost immediately after Harvey Updyke broke the news through a call-in to the Paul Finebaum show in 2010, Updyke began to move around the country, briefly living with his son in Temple, Texas, and even with a friend in Colorado.
He finally settled down in the town of Hammond, Louisiana, a quiet town 30 minutes east of Baton Rouge. He moved there with his wife, who also comes from a nearby town in Southern Louisiana.
In 2013, Updyke was arrested for the poisoning of Toomer’s Oaks, and was released from custody six months later. His time in the Lee County Jail, which is appropriately located just outside of Auburn, was not a smooth six months. He claims to have lost roughly 80 pounds due to continuous abuse from prison inmates and staff.
Updyke even claims to have had his food spit on by prison workers on multiple occasions.
“Basically, I ate nothing but bread and water for a long time,” Updyke said. “And then they got to know me, and they said ‘Hell, he’s a pretty good old boy.”
Updyke also claimed to have been violently jumped several times by enraged inmates who were Auburn fans.
“I was in the waiting room at the prison’s doctor’s office when two Auburn guys said, ‘You know, people got married under those trees. They meant a lot to us.’ And I said, ‘Well, sorry!’ Then they jumped on me and beat me pretty good.”
Possibly the most painful element of his punishment was the ban placed on him by the NCAA for his actions on Toomer’s Corner. Updyke was strictly banned from attending any NCAA event for five years. The ex-convict had to watch his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide at home on television.
The ban was lifted in 2017 after five long years, and since then, Updyke has been able to see his Crimson Tide play every so often when they come to Baton Rouge.
“This summer I went to see Alabama play LSU in softball” Updyke said. “In the second game of the series, I stood up because my foot was hurting, and that lead to the crowd giving me a standing ovation.”
Though his heart may lie in Tuscaloosa, Updyke rarely returns to the state of Alabama. He claims that on his rare returns, he is treated with both admiration and hatred. He is still routinely recognized walking around town, in restaurants and Wal-Marts, both in Louisiana and Alabama.
Today, Updyke lives his life not as a convicted felon, but as a seemingly typical grandfather. He remains close to his third child, Megan, who lives near Hammond as well, along with her four children. Updyke’s first two children, Ally Bama and Bear Bryant Updyke, live in Texas with their children as well.
So what does the next chapter look like for Updyke?
Even though it has been eight years since his infamous incident, he has yet to permanently settle down. He has moved back and forth between Texas and Louisiana several times and currently lives alone in an apartment in Hammond. He may soon be moving once again after falling in love once again, this time with a rescue Australian Shepherd named Coco.
His landlord supposedly has a policy against animals, which has led Updyke to look for a new home in Baton Rouge that will allow both him and Coco to live in peace. Wherever he calls home in the coming years, Updyke will continue to live for two things: his grandchildren and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
As for Updyke’s prediction on coach Nick Saban and Alabama’s season, he has high hopes.
“I don’t think Alabama will lose a game until they play for the National Championship,” Updyke said. “I think it’s going to be Alabama and Clemson again.”