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Flashback: Bo-Bonded

Bo Jackson leads a pack of riders, April 25, 2012, through Hulaco, Ala., on a 300-mile bike trek across north Alabama to raise money for storm relief in the state.

Bo Jackson leads a pack of riders, April 25, 2012, through Hulaco, Ala., on a 300-mile bike trek across north Alabama to raise money for storm relief in the state.

AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr.

In the September 1986 issue, the first year of publication, Business Alabama—in a feature on the finances of Auburn and Alabama football—included a piece on the dollar value Auburn University had recently reaped from the celebrity of Bo Jackson, who played for the Tigers from 1982 to 1985.

Jordan-Hare Stadium may not be the house that Bo built, but it may be the one that Bo bonded and expanded, said Oval Jaynes, then associate athletic director at Auburn, in charge of day-to-day finances.

In 1984 Jaynes was in New York knocking on the doors of Wall Street investment banks, looking to float a bond issue for a major stadium expansion.

“We just mentioned Bo Jackson’s name,” said Jaynes. “You better believe that name meant something when it came to borrowing money.”

The Wall Street boys joked that their underwritings were “Bo Bonds.”

Although 1984-85 was a lackluster season for Auburn, they got a bid to the Cotton Bowl—an unlikely nod that sound speculation attributed to Jackson’s celebrity. CBS, the story went, pressured the Cotton Bowl to arrange a Bo Jackson performance in front of their cameras. Texas A&M thumped Auburn 36-16 in the bowl matchup, but Auburn walked away with a $500,000 share of the purse.

During Jackson’s four years at Auburn, the number of scholarship donors who contributed a minimum of $4,000 nearly doubled, from about 270 to nearly 500. Season ticket sales rose over the four years from 20,000 to 61,000. Enrollment in the university even got a seeming Bo boost, from 4,500 in 1983 to 6,200 in 1985.

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