Rent a Home for a UGA Football Game!

July 23, 2014

"All Indicators Pointing Upward" (Unless Under Richt)

For whatever reason, forecasting statistics which
accurately measure most of today's college football
teams, and UGA squads under old coaching regimes,
have had little relevance during the Richt era.  
Like many college football enthusiasts, I've delved into my copy of Phil Steele's College Football Preview since its release about a month ago.  And, recently reading Georgia's section, the next-to-last sentence in "Phil's Forecast," just before Steele claims the Bulldogs are a "legitimate contender in the SEC East," caught my attention: "[The Bulldogs] are a +3.0 on the Stock Market, were -7 in TO's (turnovers) and had -4 net upsets LY (last year) all indicators pointing upward."

By the way, Steele certainly has Georgia pointing upward compared to a year ago, picking the Bulldogs to win the SEC East and finish ranked 7th in the nation, while declaring they are his No. 1 "Surprise Team" of all those belonging to the power conferences.  However, I'm hoping Steele based these favorable prognostications on much more than his statistical indicators.  As I've shown before, and then again, there are certain stats which evidently do a fine job of gauging the success of seemingly every other college football team except, for whatever reason, Georgia.  But, let's see how the three new "indicators" have done.       

Stock Market: Perhaps the best way to explain Steele's Stock Market Indicator is if a team had an over- or underachieving season in year 3, it should have similar success in year 4 as it did in year 1 and 2.  For Georgia, it won 10 games in 2011, 12 in 2012, and then a disappointing 8 a year ago.  For year 4, if the win total of year 3 is subtracted from the average of year 1 and 2, a +3.0 indicator is calculated for the Bulldogs, a "Bull Market" team entering 2014.  On the contrary, Auburn, which won 8, 3, and 12 games respectively the last three years, is a "Bear Market" team in 2014 with an indicator of -6.5 ((8+3)/2-12), or the lowest/worst in all of FBS football.

According to Steele, of all teams since 1990 entering a season with a +1.5 Stock Market Indicator or higher, 65 percent wound up with a better record, or the exact same mark at worst, than they had the season before (+3.0 indicator or higher is 74% better/same record).  As for Georgia, I went all the way back to the beginning of the Vince Dooley era, and found 14 of the 50 teams entering the 1964 through 2013 seasons with a +1.5 indicator or higher.  Similarly to college football on the whole since 1990, 9 of those 14 Georgia teams, or 64 percent, finished with a better/same record as the year before.  Notably, of the 9 of 14 teams winding up with a better/same record, the Dooley-Goff-Donnan era was a stellar 8 of 11, Richt just 1 of 3.

Turnovers: According to Steele, another indication of a team improving is if it had a significantly low turnover margin, like Georgia's -7 in 2013, the season before.  From 1964 to 2013, 10 Bulldog teams entered their season having a TO margin of -2 or worse the year before, and just four improved their record; however, all four were during the Dooley-Goff-Donnan era (4 of 7), while Richt is 0 of 3 under the same circumstances.

Net Upsets: The final indicator is the number of net upsets, or the number of wins by a team as an underdog minus its number of losses as a favorite.  As mentioned, Georgia had a minus-4 in net upsets in 2013.  The Bulldogs didn't win any games as an underdog last season, but lost four games as a favorite; therefore, according to Steele, Georgia should seemingly rebound in 2014.  For what it's worth, 2013 was the third season in the Bulldogs' last seven the team was minus-2 or worse in net upsets, which immediately followed a remarkable 11-year run (1997-2007) of not having a single minus-2 or worse campaign.  Entering the 50 seasons, 15 Georgia teams were minus-2 or worse in net upsets the season before and 11, or 73 percent, wound up having a better/same record (Dooley-Goff-Donnan 10 of 13, Richt 1 of 2).

It's been 23 years since UGA entered a season
with at least a +2.0 Stock Market, and had at least
a -2 TO margin and was -2 in net upsets the season 
before. And, in 1991, behind the running of Garrison
Hearst, and coaching of Ray Goff, the  "pointing
upward" Dogs improved +4.5 games from '90.   
In summary, a high Stock Market Indicator entering a season, and lowly turnover margin and net upsets the previous year are all indeed indicators of pointing upward for the vast majority of college football programs, including Georgia'sthat is, prior to the mid-2000s.  If all three indicators above are combined, the Bulldogs wound up with a better/same record in 22 of 31 instances (71%) during the Dooley-Goff-Donnan era, but just 2 of 8 (25%) under Coach Richt.

Simply based on past victory totals, turnover margins, and net upsets, Georgia isn't necessarily pointing downward in 2014 and heading for a worse record than a year ago.  Personally, I think the Bulldogs are at least two wins better this upcoming season.  I also think very highly of the hard-working Phil Steele, and his forecasting statistics.  There's good reason why he has been the most accurate prognosticator in the sport for years.

But, when it comes to those forecasting statistics, they may accurately measure the fates of most college football teams, and for roughly 40 years, such stats were a legitimate gauge for the Bulldogs, as well.  However, during the Coach Richt era, for whatever reason, they've proven to curiously be  just a bunch of meaningless numbers.

July 21, 2014

The Classic (but "Modern") City

For those interested, I recently heard from the publisher of my latest book--Images of Modern America: ATHENS (image of back and front covers)--and it'll be released September 8th and retail for $22.95. From now until the release date, you can pre-order the book for just $20 including shipping and handling from my online bookstore. Starting September 8th, it'll be available for $22.95 PLUS shipping and handling.

To pre-order, click "Pre-Order Now," where you'll be taken directly to my online bookstore. Upon receiving your order, I'll verify your mailing address with you, and then promptly send you the book when it is available to me. By the way, while at my online bookstore, please feel free to browse around and order any of my six books on UGA football, as well... ; )

Speaking of the Bulldogs, there's a whole chapter dedicated to UGA athletics because as we're all aware, a book on "modern" Athens isn't complete without the Bulldogs. On the whole, Images of Modern America: ATHENS is a pictorial history of the Classic City from 1960 to the present, containing more than 160 brilliant hi-def images, more than 80 percent of which are in full color.

The photo-heavy book, which wound up being one of my most favorite book projects I've worked on, confirmed to me (among other things) that what was once a sleepy, small college town has become truly “the Classic City” in every sense of the name, and I think most readers will find Images of Modern America: ATHENS a true testimony to this.

July 17, 2014

Dawgs Do Bark at SEC Media Days

At SEC Media Days 25 years ago, Bill
Goldberg wanted to scare people.
Every summer, it seems one of the most prominent topics of discussion surrounding SEC Media Days is who said whatwhat were the best quotes, the worst, the most memorable, etc., and who made them.  And not surprisingly, such discussion seems to often involve Steve Spurrier.  About a week ago, there was even an article posted regarding the "Best quotes from past SEC Media Days," four of which remarks were made by Spurrier. 
Curiously, of all the "best" quotes according to the article, not a single one was made by a Georgia coach or player.  However, the Bulldogs have actually been well represented in the past at being vocal, if you will, when the conference's media and teams meet annually during the summer. 
Here's a listing of Georgia's more notable quotes from SEC Media Days in the last 25 years, whether a memorable remark, or one not so much.  Regardless, Spurrier can eat his heart out.    
1989- BILL GOLDBERG: Team representative Goldberg, an outspoken senior defensive tackle, was asked by head coach Ray Goff and SID Claude Felton not to say "too much" during his interview in Birmingham, especially considering the Bulldogs returned just four starters from a defensive unit the season before which ranked 7th (out of 10) in the SEC in total defense and dead last in pass defense.  In response, Goldberg was nothing but tight lipped.
"Our defense is going to be awesome.  We're going to be great...I want to scare people with our defense."
Awesome, great, or scary wouldn't eventually be used to describe Georgia's defense, but perhaps slightly improved as the Bulldogs ranked 6th in total defense and 8th in pass defense for the 1989 season.
1990- RAY GOFF: Considering Georgia had completed 50.4 percent of its passes for 9 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 1989, the Bulldogs' head coach was asked about his passing game.
"We felt like we were able to throw the ball better last year (1989) than in quite some time."
Considering Georgia had completed 55.9 percent of its passes for 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 1988, "quite some time" was more like no time at all.
1994- RAY GOFF: After a 5-6 season in 1993, Goff was asked if he felt any pressure about keeping his job.  Georgia's head coach not only guaranteed he'd be back for the media day event the following year, but was willing to take any bets from media members doubting his job security. 
Goff added that he had "...every intention of being back and would be glad to take bets on it with anybody who wanted to make a bet.  I wasn't trying to be cocky or anything; I was just stating what I felt."

Despite a 6-4-1 campaign, Goff would indeed be back for the 1995 season; however, he wasn't offering any bets during the preseason Media Days, and would be fired following a 6-6 mark that year.
1997- JIM DONNAN: After three of Georgia's top high school prospectsCosey Coleman, Deon Grant, and Jamal Lewissigned with Tennessee, Donnan was asked if keeping in-state talent was hampered because of the impending threat of NCAA sanctions.
"The sanctions hurt us, but so did Rodney Garner (Tennessee's then-chief recruiter). Whatever they're paying him, they need to pay him more."
Less than a year later, Georgia would be the one paying Garner, who was lured away from Tennessee to become the Bulldogs' defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.  His stay in Athens would last 15 seasons through 2012. 

2000- QUINCY CARTER: The junior quarterback, who was the conference's "most overrated player" according to a poll conducted by the Montgomery Advertiser during SEC Media Days, was asked during the week about the possibility of finally defeating both Tennessee and Florida in the upcoming season.

"We can't come in and say we're going to beat Tennessee and Florida.  We can say we're going to work hard.  We've got to relax."
By the end of the season, Carter couldn't say he ever beat Florida, while really showing no signs of working hard all year, but there was plenty of "relaxing" as evident by his five-interception performance at South Carolina.
2002- MARK RICHT: During the week, the Bulldogs' head coach was asked about a proposed rule by the NCAA which would allow all players a fifth year of eligibility.

"If they did play five years I don't know what you'd call them. You got freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors.  What's next, senior citizens?"
Against the Gators in 2011, Ben
Jones finally got that feeling in
2008- MARK RICHT: While commenting about allowing his players to run onto the field in celebration following Georgia's initial touchdown against Florida the year before, Richt also mentioned how he verbally went after a sideline official in a later game.
"After a while the [official] came over to me and said, 'I thought you were a class act,' and I said, 'I AM a class act."
2011- MARK RICHT: The Bulldogs' head coach was asked about then-first-year Florida head coach Will Muschamp, and his ties to Georgia.
"He's going to tell everybody he's Florida through and through and all that, but I'm sure there's some red and black in his veins."
2011- BEN JONES: Georgia's standout senior center was asked about the Gators' recent dominance in the Georgia-Florida rivalry.
"I haven't beat them since I've been here, so that's very frustrating.  After you win a rivalry game, it's the best feeling. You have the relief. You want to have that feeling."
It's a relief Jones and his teammates would finally feel that season in Jacksonville, and a feeling which has eluded the Gators when facing the Bulldogs ever since.

July 16, 2014


I want to welcome this blog's newest advertiser: Bulldogs Curious!
Bulldogs Curious is marketplace for all UGA fans from all over to buy and sell products safely from one another.  As we all know, the Bulldog Nation is a passionate fan base, and Bulldogs Curious is a dedicated marketplace built around this passion, the Georgia Bulldogs.
I opened an account, and placed my books on the safe site; however, Bulldogs Curious still needs more of a "Georgia Bulldog variety."  So, if there is something Bulldog related you want to sell, or buy, visit Bulldogs Curious!    

July 11, 2014

A "Dog" of a Discovery

For the last nearly 50 years, or beginning with the release of Dr. John Stegeman's The Ghosts of Herty Field, the bulldog has thought to have first become associated with the University of Georgia in 1901.  According to the book first published in 1966, the Atlanta Constitution reported that prior to the 1901 Georgia-Auburn football game, "When the Georgia rooters arrived in Atlanta, nearly every one of them had a badge saying 'Eat 'em Georgia' and a picture of a bulldog tearing a piece of cloth."

The 1901 Georgia-Auburn game is perhaps the biggest moral victoryif there's such a thingin UGA football history.  A physically-dominant Auburn squad hadn't lost to Georgia in three straight meetings, outscoring the Red and Black 62-17 in the trio of games, and entered the 1901 contest having just defeated LSU and Alabama consecutively by a 45-0 score.  Georgia, on the other hand, had won just one of its last 11 games dating back to the previous season.  You could guess which side was considered the overwhelming underdog in front of 6,000 spectators at Atlanta's Brisbine Park.  However, the game somehow ended in a 0-0 tiea draw regarded as a Georgia win by the Red and Black followers.  The "victory" induced what was once believed to be the first celebratory ringing of the Chapel bell.  And, according to Stegeman, the same game is associated with "...the first mention of the animal that would later become such a well-known symbol of Georgia tenacity."

Over the last half century, while UGA's bulldog has become such a well-known symbol, the belief the animal was initially connected to the University in 1901 has become widespread.  The notion is all over the internet, printed in several UGA football books, including one or two by yours truly, and currently published at my UGA Nickname & Mascot History page.  Come to find out, however, in order to be totally accurate, I apparently have some editing and updating to do at my website.

I recently came in contact with Auburn graduate Maury Ingram of Atlanta.  Despite his allegiance to the Tigers, I know Maury to be a really good guy, for one, and to also own probably the largest collection of vintage college football pinbacks of anyone.  He even has a Georgia Bulldog pinback (image) which appears rather similar to the one described from 1901.  However, this bulldog pinback is actually from before 1901.  Notably, according to the manufacturer's stamp on the back, the "badge" dates from 1898 to 1900.

Maury also shared a poem with me from Auburn's yearbook, the Glomerata, written in the 1899 edition regarding the 1898 Georgia-Auburn gameAt the Goal.  You can see the portion of the poem yourself.  Apparently, Georgia had a "bull-dog" team for their meeting on November 24, 1898, and although the dogs would "eat 'em up," Auburn won the game.

There you have it.  Georgia fans wore bulldog badges as early as 1898, 1899, or 1900, and Georgia had a "bull-dog" team and were "dogs" in 1898.  Moreover, whether via bulldog badges or a bulldog team, the University of Georgia football program was first associated with a bulldog prior to 1901, and we can thank an Auburn manof all peoplefor the new discovery.

For what it's worth, Maury's wife is a UGA woman.

Upon being informed the details of the discovery, I admittedly started digging to see if I could find something even before 1898, or at least prior to 1901findings of a bulldog being associated with UGA athletics, but rightfully discovered by a UGA man. 

I succeeded in doing sokind of.

A few days prior to the 1899 Georgia-Auburn football game, I found there were UGA enthusiasts in Atlanta wearing "great badges" and big ones at thatas wide as half a foot!  These badges were just like the others: a bulldog pictured and "Eat 'Em Up" printed on them.  However, these UGA bulldog badges also had the name "Moore" on them.  Now, who exactly was "Moore"?  Surely, some UGA football player being supported with a bulldog badge for the Auburn game that Saturday? 


Get this: Moore was representing the University of Georgia in an oratorical contest (which I had to look up for its meaning) against three other contestants: a Bolding of Mercer, Woodward of Emory, and McClesky of Dahlonega.  But, alas, Moore didn't quite "eat 'em up" as he unfortunately finished in fourth, or last place.

My guess is most Georgia fans would prefer the original belief of 1901, when our great University was first associated with a bulldog upon an epic upset over rival Auburn.  Whether just before a football loss to Auburn in 1898, or especially just before a public-speaking loss to three opponents in 1899, "Georgia" and "Bulldogs" becoming linked prior to such setbacks just doesn't seem appropriate.  For the sake of historical accuracy, I'll eventually update my nickname-mascot page.  However, for a number of "Georgia rooters," I would expect their view to remain the same as the accepted but flawed idea which survived the last half century.

July 4, 2014

A Bulldog Connection In Need of Recognition

Frank Sinkwich listed in the Superbombers
vs. Marines program of October 14, 1945
what few regard as a memorable date during
a historical phase of UGA football.
Happy Fourth of July! 
On this day of celebrating our great country's independence, I thought it would be appropriate to post something regarding a "patriotic" aspect of our great UGA football program, which unfortunately often gets ignored, although it should be a rather significant part of Bulldogs history. 

Likely the most noteworthy association or connection concerning such aspect has hardly been mentioned before in Georgia football loreonly a mere mention in a simple, photo-heavy book from nearly a decade ago, at least from what I could find.  Not even the autobiography of one of the two Bulldogs involved refers to the historical connection.  According to the autobiography's coauthor, it simply just wasn't mentioned by the UGA football legend during their hours and hours of interviews.

The particular phase of UGA football I'm speaking of is from the late summer of 1943 when 25 Georgia players, five assistant coaches, and one trainer had been assigned to the U.S. Armed Forces to serve our country during World War II.  Not all of them would return home alive.  The UGA football "connections" I speak of his how a number of these Bulldogs would ironically cross paths again on the gridiron, or connect for the first time, by way of the military bases they were stationed.   
During World War II, the U.S. military and colleges joined forces, fielding top-level football teams consisting of active duty military personnel, which played against college, professional, and/or other military squads.  Many former Georgia players and coaches, some of which would return to the University following WWII, were members of service teams for the 1943, 1944, and/or the 1945 season.  Still, and as indicated, this chapter of UGA football is essentially neglected, including by the Georgia football program itself which seemingly has no idea the extent of its player/coach participation in military games, and has not even shown any interest in this aspect of our football history.  However, there is at least one "Bulldog" who has a tremendous interest in this chapter of UGA football.

My friend George Suddath is a native of Athens and a UGA graduate.  His father, "Epp", moved to the Classic City in 1932 to open the downtown Varsity.  George began selling programs at Sanford Stadium in 1957 and has been a collector of UGA memorabilia ever since, including, and get this, owning around 900 programs of the roughly 1,200 football games the Bulldogs have played in their history.  Among the many, many UGA programs, tickets, books, guidesyou name ithe also owns nearly 50 programs of WWII service games which Georgia players participated in.  But, it's George's wealth of knowledge on the subject which might be the most impressive.

As I blogged about in one of my very first posts, while Georgia's football program became depleted upon the U.S. military and college teams joining forces, other college teams flourished.  The V-12 officer training programs of WWII allowed schools hosting the programs, like Notre Dame, Michigan, Purdue, Duke, and Georgia Tech, to collect players from other schools, essentially creating pooled all-star teams.  For example, players from Georgia's 1942 national championship team, Jack Bush and Garland "Bulldog" Williams, were whisked away from Athens and reunited in Durham, NC, at Duke University, where they played together for the 8-1 and 7th-ranked Blue Devils of 1943.

One of my favorite accounts of the reuniting of Bulldogs via the military was when Georgia's Leo Costa (1940-1942), the school's first great placekicker, led Jackson (MS) Air Force Base as its head coach to a 10-0 victory over Ole Miss in Oxford.  The Rebels, on the other hand, were head coached by the reputable Harry MehreGeorgia's head man from 1928 through 1937.  Also from 1944, there's the story of short-lived-Bulldog George Young, who I regard as one of Georgia's all-time transfersYoung was a standout on the Bulldogs' freshman team of 1942, who never played on the UGA varsity, but would eventually be a member of the Cleveland Browns for eight seasons.  He played for the renowned Great Lakes NTS squad of '44, whose victories included wins over Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and a 12-10 decision over the Third Air Force Gremlins, led by a former teammate of Young'sthe acclaimed Charley Trippi.

Even though the war in Europe ended in May 1945, and against Japan in August 1945, many Bulldogs played on service teams for the 1945 season, or at least part of it, as was the case for arguably the greatest Bulldog football player of all time.

After one varsity season at Georgia, the legendary Trippi starred for the Gremlins in 1943 and 1944.  After facing only the Miami Naval Training Center squad and the Personnel Distribution Command team to begin the 1945 season, Trippi was released by the U.S. War Department in mid-October by request of Georgia Senator Richard B. Russell on a "surplus and hardship" basis.  Bulldogs everywhere rejoiced that Trippi would be returning to play in Athenseverywhere, that is, except likely in Tampa, where the Gremlins were stationed and coached by Bulldog-immortal Vernon "Catfish" Smith (1929-1931).  Notably, that same season, the 75th Infantry Division team consisted of assistant coach Gene Ellenson, who had started for the Bulldogs in 1942 at a tackle position opposite of the aforementioned "Bulldog" Williams, and head coach Forrest "Spec" Towns, whose name probably rings a bell since UGA's track and field facility is named in his honor.  But, it gets better...

Going back to the mysterious, but  likely most noteworthy association or connection concerning Bulldogs and military football, one of the UGA legends I'm referring to is Heisman-winner Frank Sinkwich, who entered into the Marine Corps soon after receiving his coveted trophy and Georgia won the Rose Bowl.  After getting a medical discharge, "Fireball Frankie" began his NFL career by earning first-team All-NFL with the Detroit Lions in 1943, and was then named MVP of the entire league in 1944.  Returning to war, Sinkwich served with the Army Air Corps, playing football for the Second Air Force Superbombers in 1945.  It was that year on October 14th, or ironically the day after Trippi was discharged by the U.S. War Department, that 25-year-old Sinkwicha former Bulldogand a 23-year-old "Bulldog to be" more than 20 years later would remarkably cross paths in Colorado Springs when the Superbombers hosted the El Toro Marines of California.

Featuring end Lafayette King, a little-used freshman on Georgia's varsity in 1942, but one who caught two touchdown passes for the Bulldogs that season totaling more than 100 yards, the Marines were routing the Superbombers during the third quarter when Sinkwich was badly hurt, tearing cartilage in his knee.  And, our mystery "Bulldog to be" was there to witness the unfortunate injury, broadcasting the great Sinkwich getting carried off hurt during what is believed to be the first-ever radio broadcast for the future Bulldog.

Sinkwich missed the remainder of the 1945 season, and although he would return to the NFL, he played in just 15 combined games with New York and Baltimore before retiring after the 1947 season.  Sinkwich would later indicate that the knee injury he suffered in Colorado Springs in 1945one requiring two operationswas undoubtedly the reason for his short-lived professional football career.

The Bulldog legend connected, so to speak, with Sinkwich and with serving our military was able to find work, as you can see in the image.  Although Second Air Force football consisting of college standouts ended with the 1945 season, the young broadcaster was hired to call the Sun Bowl in El Paso, broadcasting for the Associated Broadcasting System (ABS) on January 1, 1946.  The ABS Network and its 23 affiliates would fold less than four months later, but as we're all aware, the eventual-Bulldog dignitary was certainly able to continue his broadcasting career.

On a historical date in UGA football history during what should be a memorable phase of the program, and not one overlooked by the program itself, the career of a legendary Bulldog in Frank Sinkwich unfortunately essentially ended, while the career of a legendary Bulldog-to-be, Larry Munson, was just beginning.

June 24, 2014

All Joking Aside, Georgia-Clemson is Just 67 Days Away...

Only 67 days until Georgia tangles with
Clemson...  In '67, it was Lawrence racing
past the Tigers with this tumbling, tie-
breaking and game-winning touchdown.
I grew up in a time when there was no Georgia football opponent perhaps more despised by the Bulldog Nation than Clemson.  And, such hate likely spawned a number of memorable jokes I can still recall 30 years later about "Auburn with a lake," as the late, great Lewis Grizzard labeled our loathed foe 75 miles to the northeast.
Admittedly, the jokes resulted because maybe we had a case of sour grapes in 1977 after the Tigers beat the Bulldogs in Athens for the first time in 63 years, or beginning with Georgia's loss in Death Valley in 1981the only regular-season defeat suffered by the Bulldogs over the course of four entire years.  Whatever the reason for the taunting and whenever it began, "Clemmons College" simply seemed quite inferior to the reputable University of Georgia, at least it did to me at the time.
Perhaps I was young or ignorantprobably both.  However, in my defense, when a child hears that someone, namely Grizzard, witnessing protesting farmers stage a tractorcade at a state Capitol, hadn't seen that many tractors since the last time Clemson played in Athens, or Craig Hertwig in 1982 declare, "Clemson ain’t nothing but an imitation. ... I even hear they’re going to put up imitation grass in the stadium up there so the homecoming queen won’t graze on it," the belief that Clemson is all-around inadequate, although apparently suggested in jest, can be fixed in the mind of the young perceiver.
Since then, there have obviously been even more Clemson jokes, like Grizzard's tale of the foolish former Tiger football player-turned-pessimistic-paratrooper, but I've grown wiser as I've gotten older.  From what I understand, Clemson is actually a rather reputable university; plus, I recognize that the three people I personally know that graduated from the school are all smarter than me.  Any thoughts of Clemson having inferior academic standards disappeared a long time ago, or had they?
I was on Clemson's campus not too long ago, interviewing a school historian for a magazine article I was writing.  We soon got on the subject of the Bulldogs-Tigers football rivalry.  I brought up the fact that it hadn't really been much of a rivalry until the late 1970s (I swear, I was just making conversation.).  He promptly countered with a story from amidst all those Clemson setbacks to the Dogs.  He laughed as he spoke of the 1967 meeting in Death Valley, and the winning touchdown scored by a South Carolina native that couldn't get into Clemson because of his entrance exams, so he went to UGA, at least that's what Sports Illustrated said.  
The historian must have seen the disbelief on my face that a Bulldog couldn't actually academically qualify at "Clempson." 
"You never heard that story?" he asked me.  "I thought you're supposed to know your Georgia football.  You should go look the article up."  So, I did.
Writer Joe Jares of Sports Illustrated was indeed on hand for the '67 game.  He reported the important stuff: the favored Bulldogs led 17-3, but the Tigers stormed back to tie it.  A few minutes into the final quarter, Kent Lawrence, who ironically hailed from nearby Central, SC, tallied the game-winning touchdown from 14 yards out.  The "local-boy-makes-good" Lawrence, according to Sports Illustrated, sailed into the end zone literally upside down for the score.
However, buried in the article is the remark that "some folks in Pickens County say Kent sprinted down to Georgia because his college entrance-exam figures were not up to ACC standards," and mentions the widely-publicized nickname Clemson head coach Frank Howard had at the time for the SEC because of the conference's supposedly lower standards: the "Knucklehead League."
Well, as they say, I guess you do learn something new everyday.  I would have never guessed that Clemson, of all schools, could make up for its much inferior football program of the time by hanging its hat on lofty academic standards.  So, how did the apparent then-Harvard of the South become the butt of jokes just 10 to 15 years later?
For what it's worth, the Bulldog who wasn't up to ACC standards, he wound up doing just fine.  Lawrence would eventually serve as chief of the Clarke County Police Department and later a prosecutor.  He recently retired from his post as Clarke County State Court Chief Judge  after more than a quarter-century of serving on the bench. 

As far as the originator of the term the "Knucklehead League," Howard would retire from coaching just a couple years following the '67 game as one of the most legendary college coaches in southern football history.  The late tobacco-chewing, quick-witted coach is still considered one of the most entertaining and unique figures in the history of the sport (and maybe one day I'll have enough courage to post the story his son told me involving Howard, an opposing coach, General Douglas MacArthur, and a glass or urine).  However, and with all due respect to the revered Howard, he somewhat exhibited what can be common of some intellectuals: although he could dish out the joking, perhaps he couldn't take it all too well.

You see, within days of the '67 Georgia-Clemson contest, Howard and his southern drawl was quoted, sort of, from the head coach's broadcast of "The Frank Howard Show"  by a writer from The Athens Daily News.

"I'll jest tell you, Verner (Verner Tate, the TV station's sports director), that there Georgie team is as gud as any you kin find anywhar. ... And they got these heah big ole' tackles, one by the name of Stan-fill and anuddin' by the name of Chandler.  You ain't goin find none better'n them two...," was just a small sampling of the writer's entertaining portrayal of Howard.  However, the Clemson coach was not amused.

Howard soon threatened to turn the matter over to his attorney for possible legal action against the newspaper.  On the other hand, the writernone other than Lewis Grizzardmeant no disrespect and was only "attempting to depict [Howard's] colorful image," while demonstrating that finding humor in Clemson, its players, coaches, and fans, occurred long before the jokes about "Auburn with a lake" became routine.

June 20, 2014

Although Unofficial, A Distinguished Father-Son Duo

After more than 70 years, pictured Vason 
McWhorter's lettering in 1930 should be
rewriting the UGA record books. 
Several years ago, UGA released a seemingly "official" listing of father and son groups to have played football for the Bulldogs.  Based on the list, I posted at my "UGA Football" page on Father's Day information on Georgia's original father-son pair, which actually happened to be a Bulldog family trio: grandfather Morton Hodgson (lettered in 1906), son Hutch (1933), and grandson Pat (1963-65).
As I indicated then, Morton first became affiliated with UGA as a child as the baseball team's mascot.  He was a four-sport star for the Red and Black, including in football in 1906 and 1908 (although he lettered in just the former season).  According to UGA, it was against Auburn in 1906the initial season forward passing was allowedthat Hodgson recorded the program's first interception.
Morton's son, Hutch, was also a standout swimmer for Georgia.  Grandson, Pat, led the SEC in receiving in 1963 as a sophomore, and is best known for his role in the famous flea-flicker touchdown which defeated Alabama in 1965.
Within a day or two of my Father's Day Facebook post, I carefully looked at UGA's fathers-sons listing, and was soon taken aback.  Nowhere listed was the father-sons trio I blogged about several months ago; missing were the Kimseysthe father-son pair which includes UGA football's oldest living letterman; and where were Nate and Tony Taylor, who both ended their Bulldog careers amongst the school's top-20 tacklers of all time?

As I've said before, it takes a special individual to strap on the red helmet, don the silver britches, and represent one of the greatest traditions in college footballa dream that so many of us have had, but so few have actually fulfilled.  And, not every one of those special individuals earn a letter, and for a father and son to both letter as Bulldog football players is obviously rather noteworthy; therefore, to leave a pair off the list is, in my opinion, unacceptable.
I spent part of this past week researching and creating the unofficial "Bulldog Fathers and Sons" listing arranged below.  The 32 groups, which only include lettering football players, are divided into four family alignments and listed in order according to when the group became a father-son pair.  If you notice any error or omission, please comment or email me at 
Joe Tereshinski, Sr. (1942, 1945-46)Joe Tereshinski, Jr. (1974-76) and Wally Tereshinski (1976-77)Joe Tereshinski, III (2004-06) 
Morton Hodgson (1906)Hutch Hodgson (1933)Pat Hodgson (1963-65)
Forrest "Spec" Towns (1936-37)Bobby Towns (1957-59)Kirby Towns (2000, 2002-03)
John McKnight (1933-35)David McKnight (1966, 1968-69) and Larry McKnight (1970-71)
Vason McWhorter, Jr. (1903)Vason McWhorter, III (1930-32)
Ivy "Chick" Shiver, Jr. (1926-27)Ivy "Chick" Shiver, III (1949-50)
James Harper (1919-20)Jimmy Harper (1952-55)
Don Leebern, Sr. (1936)Don Leebern, Jr. (1957-59)
Tommy Paris, Sr. (1929)Tommy Paris, Jr. (1958-60)
Oliver Hunnicutt (1937-39)Pat Hunnicutt (1962-64)
Porter Payne (1946-49)Billy Payne (1966-68)
Jim Cavan (1936-37)Mike Cavan (1968-70)
Tom Nash, Sr. (1925-27)Tom Nash, Jr. (1969-71)
Cliff Kimsey (1939-41)Bucky Kimsey (1969)
Bob Poss (1942)Bobby Poss, Jr. (1969-71)
Floyd Reid (1945-49)Andy Reid (1973-75)
Richard Raber (1949-51)Mike Raber (1975-76)
Billy Henderson (1946-49)Johnny Henderson (1976-77)
Knox Culpepper (1954-56)W. Knox Culpepper (1981-84)
Langdale Williams (1959-61)Todd Williams (1982-84, '86)
Marion Campbell (1949-51)Scott Campbell (1983)
Tommy Lewis (1957-59)Tommy Lewis (1983)
Leroy Dukes (1962-64)David Dukes (1984-87)
Glenn Creech (1964-65)Glenn Creech (1986)
John Kasay, Sr. (1965-66)John Kasay, Jr. (1987-90)
Ray Rissmiller (1962-64)Scott Rissmiller (1990-92)
Steve Greer (1967-69)Michael Greer (1997-99)
Curtis McGill (1967-69)Curt McGill (2000-01)
Willie McClendon (1976-78)Bryan McClendon (2002-05)
Nate Taylor (1979-82)Tony Taylor (2002-03, 2005-06)
Kevin Butler (1981-84)Drew Butler (2009-11)
Mitch Frix (1981-82)Ty Frix (2009-12)
After compiling the list, I noticed another important omission besides the aforementioned: Morton and Hutch Hodgson were not the original Bulldog father-son pair as indicated by UGA football recordsrather, a couple of Vason McWhorters should actually hold the distinction. 

There are seven McWhortersall relatedwho have lettered at Georgia, including most notably the legendary Bob McWhorter and most recently Mac McWhorter, a standout lineman for the Bulldogs in the early '70s and a recent retiree after a 40-year football coaching career.  However, of all the McWhorters to have played for the Bulldogs, there is just one father-son pair: Vason, Jr., who started games at center and right halfback for Georgia in 1903, and Vason, III, who was a standout center in the early '30s and captain of the Bulldogs' 1932 team.  Son Vason's lettering in 1930 came two years prior to Hutch Hodgson's, resulting in him and his father being the initial Bulldog father-son pair originating in 1903, rather than Morton and Hutch Hodgson in 1906.

As a side note, there must have been something in the water when UGA football records were being kept back in 1906.  Besides Hodgson's "official" father-son origination, there's the omitted victory over Dahlonega that season that should be an official victory.  Plus, as far as Morton Hodgson's interception against Auburn in 1906, which is regarded as the program's first pass interception...

Hodgson's feat has been mentioned in the annals of UGA football history, including by yours truly (after seeing it published multiple times).  However, I decided to take a careful look at his apparent achievement after inspecting the Bulldog fathers and sons.  I was taken aback for a second time.  You see, according to detailed accounts from the 1906 Georgia-Auburn game from three different newspapers, no interception by any player ever resulted in the contest.  Therefore, and with all due respect to the acclaimed Morton Hodgson, his official defensive accomplishment, like his father-son origination, should likely be more so an "unofficial" one.

June 17, 2014

When Dawgs Need a House to Stay at...

Just returning from a family vacation, it's been a while since I last posted, but let me remind you guys of my "UGA Football" Facebook page.  There, I try to post something somewhat informative at least four or five times a week.  Notably, its "LIKE" total has gone from 200-something less than two months ago to recently reaching the 1,500 LIKE mark.  Thanks for everyone's interest.
While on vacation, this blog began a partnership with a new advertiser, Athens Football Rentals (right).  Please visit their site to behold the solution to what many of us have encountered: wanting to attend a Bulldogs game in Athens but had no doghouse to stay at.  They have great rates for quality rentals within walking distance of Sanford Stadium.  Booking has already begun for the Clemson game.  Also, checkout their partner site, University Football Rentals, for when the Dawgs play on the road.
For when the Dawgs play at home, don't get left at your home simply because you have no place to stay in Athens, or worse--left to sleep in a cramp car with four other guys, like yours truly following the '98 Tennessee game.  But, that story is perhaps worthy of another post for another time...

June 7, 2014

This Program Needs Another “Hit Man”

Image of the Hit Man's card from the 
Anti-Orange Page's Gallery
I recall around this time 25 years ago, or entering the 1989 football season, when I was handed by my father the first few of the many packs of the "Georgia's Finest" football cards I'd collect.  For those of you old enough, do you remember those?  I'll never forget opening what may have been my very first pack, thumbing through Georgia's best football players, only then coming across an individual I had barely heard of before (and at 14 years old, I knew my UGA football history pretty well back then too)—flanker Butch Box. 

The "Finest" cards had the players' yearly statistics on the back, and when I flipped Box's card over and observed some rather meager receiving statistics, I remember asking my dad something on the order of "how can a guy with six catches and just one touchdown for his entire career be one of 'Georgia's Finest'?  Who is this guy?"
That's when this admittedly football stat geek was taught for the first time in his life that often in sports, statistics don't tell the whole story.  And, when it came to the tough-as-nails Butch Box, arguably the greatest special teams coverage man in the history of UGA football, the saying couldn't be more true.  
Before arriving at UGA, Box had been a blue-chip wide receiver—one of the greatest in the annals of Alabama high school football.  In fact, his 51 career touchdown receptions from 1970 to 1972 at Tarrant High School, located just North of Birmingham, was an Alabama state record until the late 1990s, and still remains tied for the third-most ahead of notables Ozzie Newsome (49) and Julio Jones (43).
At Georgia in 1973, Box actually played back when you had to be extra special to see the field as a mere true freshman on head coach Vince Dooley's varsity squad.  Box returned kicks, held on placekicks, played a little at wide receiver, and was eventually even tried out at defensive back.  Returning a kickoff in the Tennessee game, Box broke his leg, but Dooley still allowed him to travel with the team for the rest of the season, including to the Peach Bowl in win over Maryland.  By season's end, Box had earned a letter.  He was one of just three, along with placekicker Allan Leavitt and receiver Gene Washington, to eventually become the first Georgia players to earn varsity letters in four seasons (1973-74-75-76) after freshmen became eligible to play college football in 1972. 
In the season opener of 1974 against Oregon State, Box scored his aforementioned lone touchdown—a 28-yard scoring reception on a halfback pass from Horace King.  However, standing at just 5-foot-9, weighing 170-something pounds, and with the Bulldogs loaded in depth at wide receiver, where Box could be utilized was the question.  The answer came in his uncanny ability on special teams coverage, especially on kickoffs.

"Coach [Erk] Russell was in charge of the kickoff coverage team, and he’d let me lineup anywhere," Box informed me this past week from his home in Birmingham.  "When Allan Leavitt was about to kickoff, I’d lineup anywhere—far left, far right, in the middle, wherever. ... We had a bunch of good guys on special teams then.  We weren't all that big, but we were fast and always fired up."
As this video of Box on a couple of kickoffs against Vanderbilt in 1975 demonstrates, he was indeed fast, routinely beating all his teammates down the field on coverage: 
"I don’t know if I was necessarily better than anyone else, I just hustled down there full speed and always wanted to hit somebody," Box responded after being asked how he stood out from everybody on coverage.  "Even when Allan would kick it out of the end zone or a guy would call fair catch on a punt, I'd just hit the closest guy to me.  Back then, you could do that.  Nowadays, you'd get penalized.  Even on offense (playing wide receiver), we ran the ball a lot, so often a defender was just standing there [as the play was ending] and I’d come up to him and jack ‘em!"

By his later years at Georgia, Box had become such a nuisance for opposing teams on kick coverage, he started to actually get double teamed at times (yes, on special teams!).  "But, that left one of our men not blocked, so they could make the tackle," he added.

This is according to a fellow wide receiver and coverage man of the time for the Bulldogs, Steve Davis.  You'll notice Davis (No. 80) on the first clip of the video, assisting Box with the tackle:

Butch was the best special teams player at Georgia the entire time I was there, and ever since from what I've seen.  He was always the first guy down the field on kickoff coverage even though not the fastest player.  He had no regard for his body, throwing himself into harms way, and was a great tackler.  Butch just had a knack like no other when it came to special teams play.

Although he wouldn't tell you so, Box was a fan favorite while at Georgia, as well, and was given a number of nicknames by the Bulldog Nation and the media, including the one mentioned on the back of his "Finest" card—the "Hit Man."

"We played back when the stadium wasn't enclosed and there were the track fans," Box recalled.  "We’d get off the bus [prior to entering the locker room before the game], and all those people on the railroad tracks would holler. I don’t know why, but some would specifically holler at me.  That’d really fire me up!  They'd call out my nicknames to me.  From the fans, or maybe a newspaper article, I was also nicknamed the "Wild Card" because you never knew where I'd lineup on kickoffs."

Box celebrates with a fellow special
teamer in 1975.  See those black stars
on his helmet's white stripe? Those
were given out each game to the top
UGA player on special teams... and
Box starred often.
I just had to ask the "Wild Card" what did he think was the problem with Georgia's recent coverage units.  The expert on kickoff/punt coverage remained humble, prefacing his answer by calling himself "only a couch coach." 

"All I know is that you need speed to get down there; size doesn’t matter.  A speedster doesn’t have to fight a block; he can dodge blocks.  You see what happened in that Auburn-Alabama game when ‘Bama tried that field goal with all them hogs out there (referring to Auburn's game-winning return of a missed field goal for a touchdown last season when Alabama's special teams unit consisted of primarily big, slow linemen)."

After graduating from UGA, Box quite appropriately, eventually became a firefighter for nearly 30 years.  He made an attempt at retirement but "just couldn't stay still," according to his wife, Freida.  Butch and Freida will be celebrating their 40th anniversary this December.  They were married during Butch's sophomore season and, get this, had their honeymoon in Orlando during Georgia's trip to the 1974 Tangerine Bowl.  Currently, Box works for Jay Electric Co., an industrial service and manufacturing business headquartered in Birmingham, in its mining market.  For a time, he—and again, appropriately—had the responsibility of going down into mines more than 1,500 feet deep and eight miles wide.

When it comes to Georgia football, Box still bleeds red and black.  "My whole family are big Dawg fans here [in Alabama]—my wife, my daughters and son," said Box, who is especially proud of his family.  "I got a great daughter-in-law too, and she and my son have one child, Ashlyn.  My granddaughter is very special to me.  Of course we all have to deal with those Alabama fans, and some Auburn fans that turned up this past year (laughing)."
Box has two daughters, Fran and Beth.  His son, Jody, was born at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens during Box's senior year.  Jody is married to Lorie, and their daughter, Ashlyn, is seven years old.
As we closed our conversation, the special teams great, who is even more so a great man, commented that it was "real sad"—sad that several players he had played with had passed away, including Jeff Sanders fairly recently.  He added, "But, I had a real good time seeing old friends at this past G-Day, and we're planning on coming to the Troy game for the lettermen's reunion on September 20th."
I'd like to add maybe in the meantime, Coach Richt can check to see if Butch has any remaining eligibility.  Playing when simply being "always fired up"  and really hustling—aspects perhaps missing from Georgia's coverage units of late—and not necessarily featuring defensive starters, made for special special teams play, Box was absolutely one of "Georgia's Finest," and he remains so—so much, I believe on kickoffs, the "Hit Man" could still jack 'em if need be.