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100 Things Bulldogs Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Jon Nelson
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2010 Jon Nelson
All rights reserved.
I guess that you have to start a book like this somewhere, so why not start a book on Georgia football at the place where it all begins, the home of the Bulldogs ... Sanford Stadium.
First and foremost, to appreciate the history of Sanford Stadium, you've got to understand the history of the land itself. It may now be the sixth-largest capacity on campus stadium in college football, with a 92,746 capacity, but the stadium didn't get that big overnight.
Ground was broken on the stadium, named for former UGA president Dr. Steadman Vincent Sanford, in 1928. It took a little work and some engineering due to the fact that the site of the stadium had a creek running through it. The first game in that 30,000-seat stadium was played in October 1929 against Yale which, believe it or not, was the first time that Yale had played a game in the South.
Much like everything else in college football history, there's a story as to why the stadium was built in the first place. Legend has it that the folks at UGA were frustrated at having to play their archrival, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, at Tech's stadium every year. According to the stadium's Wikipedia page, then University President Sanford vowed to "build a bigger stadium than Tech" after the teams played in Atlanta in 1927 and the Yellow Jackets shutout the previously undefeated Bulldogs 12–0 to effectively end their season.
In 1940, the school put up field-level lights and added seats, growing the capacity to 36,000. Georgia played Kentucky to a 7–7 tie that season in the first night game in Sanford Stadium history. That lighting was removed in 1964 when the University began expanding the stadium in order to compete with the other teams in the Southeastern Conference. By the end of that season, the capacity had grown to 43,000 plus.
The year 1967 brought another round of expansion. The upper deck was put in along with the press box and club seats — something pretty common now but not so much back in the 1960s. Capacity was now up to 59,000 seats.
More growth arrived in 1981. The school had the east end zone enclosed and lights were put back in, though obviously not at field level. Adding those 19,000-plus seats grew the stadium to an 82,000-seat capacity and delivered night football back to the Athens area. Five more additions from 1991 through 2004 grew the stadium to its current capacity of more than 92,000 fans, making it the second-largest stadium in the SEC.
As big as the stadium has grown, it has become even harder to get a ticket. Routinely, the games sell out whether it is a non-conference game or one of several Bulldog rivals; it is extraordinarily hard to get a ticket. If you aren't a student, a member of the faculty, or a fairly large donor, you are going to have a hard time getting into a game.
However, if you have the opportunity, take advantage of it. Sanford Stadium is truly one of the more scenic and historic stadiums in college football. The game-day atmosphere and the pomp and circumstance make it an experience that not only should be enjoyed by anyone who considers themselves a Georgia Bulldog fan but a must-do for anyone who considers themselves a fan of college football.CHAPTER 2
Like this particular topic would be way down the list?
If you really want to get an entire nation mad, all you have to do is talk about the removal of the Hedges from their birth place, growth place, and rightful place in the universe. That's what happened in 1996 when one of the most recognizable pieces of shrubbery was booted from its roots so soccer could be played at Sanford Stadium for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
We'll get to that story in a bit.
How did the hedges get to be that all-important, all-imposing signature to Sanford Stadium? Back in 1929, President Steadman Sanford wanted the "best football stadium in Dixie." Charlie Martin, who held pretty much every job in the athletic program at one time or another, had seen the roses at the Rose Bowl three years earlier and thought that the flower would make a great addition.
One problem ... roses wouldn't last, so they settled on hedges that were installed just hours before the Georgia Bulldogs–Yale Elis game (notice the reference wasn't Bulldogs-Bulldogs game) on October 12, 1929, which UGA won 15–0.
More than 30,000 fans showed up for the game itself, and nine southern governors were also in attendance. Coach Dan Magill said it was the biggest athletic event ever held in the South at the time.
As the story goes, Grantland Rice, the legendary sportswriter who spent time at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in his early years, used the phrase "between the hedges" first. According to Coach Magill, Rice said that Georgia would "have its opponent between the hedges" when describing a game in Athens.
There is some debate as to what kind of hedge was actually planted at Sanford — some sources say it was an English privet hedge, while others claim it is Chinese privet. Frank Henning, penning a column in the Athens Banner-Herald in 2003, said that there are actually two sets of hedges inside Sanford Stadium. The inner hedge is Chinese privet with the outer hedge being a Chinese mix that yields "Bulldawg red" leaves in the fall.
While the hedges certainly look pretty, they actually serve another purpose: keeping ticket-paying customers from getting on to the field itself to celebrate a Georgia win. The storming of the turf only happened once in recent memory. On October 7, 2000, when the Bulldogs beat Tennessee for the first time in twelve years, not even the hedge and low-lying chain-link fence could keep fans off the field.
The hedges, if left unattended, will grow 3 feet per year and grow for eight out of the twelve months in the calendar. Kenny Pauley, UGA's director of sports turf and grass, oversees a staff of ten full-time employees and three students that get to trim the hedges when they need it, which is fairly regularly.
Now, to the removal of the hedges for the Olympics.
No one was told that the hedges needed to be removed to accommodate the width of the soccer pitch, and when the news was broken, plenty of fits were pitched instead — even when it was later discovered that the hedges were diseased.
They were stored in two separate locations. Close to 1,200 of the cuttings from the hedges were kept in a nursery in Quincy, Florida, while the other half were in the Dudley Nurseries in the town of Thomson — one exit west of the Augusta metropolitan area. People lined the highway to take pictures as the hedges left McDuffie County and headed home.
But Quincy, Florida, for the hedges? Housing them out of state? Isn't that sacrilegious or something?
George Hackney, owner of Hackney Nurseries in Quincy, was based 10 miles from the Georgia state line and 25 miles west of Tallahassee. He had to keep the whole thing a secret.
"It was really tough," said Hackney, who had the clippings since April 1994, told the Augusta Chronicle when he was interviewed in 1996. "We have about 30 employees, and most of them didn't know where [the hedges] came from or what they were for.
"It's a tremendous honor to take care of them, but we're glad to get rid of them."
"That's South Georgia, not Florida," Dooley told C. Jemal Horton of the Chronicle. "They were grown with Georgia soil and Georgia horticulturalists. These were South Georgia hedges. But we didn't want to let it out that they were in Florida."
But the bottom line was that they were returned in just as good a shape as when they were cut up and exported from Athens.
"The hedges are back where they belong," Coach Dooley said when the hedges were replanted, almost immediately after the Olympics left town. "Now we know the hedges are safely out of Florida. We welcome Hedges II.
"These are the sons and daughters of the original hedges," Dooley said. "They're home now."
Billy Payne was part of the group at the re-planting. "It's no secret of the affection I hold [for] this stadium and these hedges," Payne said. "It's a great experience taking part in this new era. I'll make good on my final Olympic responsibility, which is putting these hedges back where they belong."
All this attention for a 5' tall, 5' wide, 3,000-sq. ft. weed? One that has its own security system, alarms, and surveillance cameras? You bet — especially when it's an Athens-based Privet Ligustrum.CHAPTER 3
The Georgia G
For years, the headgear worn by the players of the Georgia Bulldogs was just a plain silver helmet. A block red "G" was introduced in 1963 — placed in the middle of those shiny silver helmets and only seen for home games. That year, the Bulldogs finished the season 4–5–1, and Johnny Griffith was relieved of his head coaching duties.
Vince Dooley was hired off the Auburn coaching staff in 1963, and he made an immediate cosmetic impact in Athens. Dooley redesigned the Georgia uniforms, choosing a red helmet with a black G on a white background as the dominant feature.
Coach Dooley was impressed with the look of the G emblem on the Green Bay Packers helmets and wanted something similar for the new UGA red helmets. He had hired John Donaldson, who played for the Bulldogs from 1945–48, as backfield coach. Donaldson volunteered his wife, Anne, who had a bachelor of fine arts degree in commercial art from UGA, to design the new logo to Coach Dooley's specifications. Anne Donaldson's oval G fit Dooley's vision and was similar to Green Bay's G but different in design and color.
Before the Bulldogs ran onto the field sporting the new oval G logo on their new bright red helmets, Dooley wanted to make sure it wouldn't ruffle any feathers up in Green Bay. The Packers first used their oval G in 1961. Joel Eaves, UGA's athletic director at the time, called the Packers to get their stamp of approval, which was granted by the team.
If you read the Green Bay Packers' story of their logo, it mentions that their G design has been borrowed by numerous colleges and high schools. When you read UGA's history of its G logo on georgiadogs.com, it mentions that the Green Bay Packers have redesigned their G several times, and it now looks like Georgia's original 1964 design.
Today the Georgia G is one of the most recognized logos in college sports and is used by virtually all athletic teams at the University of Georgia. The red helmet with the Georgia G has become a classic helmet in college football.
Most importantly, the G has brought good luck to the Bulldogs. Since its inception in 1964, Georgia has won seven SEC championships on the football field plus the 1980 National Championship.
UGA has always been dressed for success.CHAPTER 4
It Was Almost Over Before It Began
The Georgia Bulldogs' remarkable record of success in college football, including 12 SEC championships and five national championships, may not have happened if it wasn't for a grieving mother who stepped in to prevent the sport from being banned permanently in the state of Georgia.
Tragedy struck the Georgia football team in 1897 during a game against the University of Virginia at Atlanta's Brisbane Park. During the Bulldogs' 17–4 loss to the Cavaliers on October 30, 1897, Richard Vonalbade Gammon was severely injured on a play. Gammon was taken by horse-drawn ambulance to a nearby hospital, but he died from his injuries the next day.
UGA immediately disbanded its football program along with in-state rival Georgia Tech, who Georgia had defeated for the first time the week before, and Mercer University. The headline that ran in the Atlanta Journal proclaimed the "Death Knell of Football."
Then the Georgia legislature got involved, passing a bill to outlaw football in the state of Georgia. That bill sat on the desk of Governor William Yates Atkinson waiting to be signed into law when a letter arrived from Rosalind Gammon, the mother of Von Gammon.
In the letter, Mrs. Gammon wrote:
"It would be the greatest favor to the family of Von Gammon if your influence could prevent his death being used for an argument detrimental to the athletic cause and its advancement at the university. His love for his college and his interest in all manly sports, without which he deemed the highest type of manhood impossible, is well known by his classmates and friends, and it would be inexpressibly sad to have the cause he held so dear injured by his sacrifice. Grant me the right to request that my boy's death should not be used to defeat the most cherished object of his life."
After reading that letter from Mrs. Gammon, Governor Atkinson vetoed the bill to outlaw football in the state of Georgia.
The sport received a pardon at the eleventh hour.CHAPTER 5
1980 National Championship Team
No discussion with a longtime Georgia Bulldogs fan would be complete without talking about 1980, the last time the Bulldogs won the national championship. To any Georgia fan during that time period, it was a true moment to behold, a moment that probably will never be eclipsed.
For the Georgia Bulldogs, 1980 began in dramatic fashion. Finishing the 1979 season at 6–5 didn't do much for expectations in Athens. The team started out at No. 16 on the Associated Press rankings going into the season. The Bulldogs began their odyssey with a road game versus Tennessee in front of what was then an SEC-record 92,000-plus screaming fans. Trailing 15–2 late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs came back and won the game, 16–15. Certainly, the game was memorable because of the comeback. Had they lost, they wouldn't have been undefeated, and wouldn't have won the National Championship. The game was, to most Georgia fans, more memorable because it was the freshman debut of Herschel Walker.
A little-known tidbit about this team was that even to this day, it still holds the record for most yards rushing in an SEC season. Of course, Walker played a big role in that record, running for 1,616 yards. But without some other notable players, the season couldn't possibly have played out the way that it did.
Those players included quarterback Buck Belue, wide receiver Lindsay Scott, safety Scott Woerner, offensive lineman Hugh Nall, and kicker Rex Robinson. Nine All-SEC players and three National All-Americans headlined this group. You also can't have a conversation about the 1980 team without mentioning head coach Vince Dooley and his defensive coordinator Erk Russell.
The 1980 squad didn't always win pretty, but they won.
After the Tennessee win, they had no problem shutting out Texas A&M 42–0. But the next week they held on to beat Clemson 20–16 in Athens. The team won its next four games relatively easily before outlasting South Carolina 13–10. The next week, they took care of the Florida Gators 26–21 in a game that will always be remembered in Georgia football history — but more on that a little later.
The team climbed to No. 1 in the AP poll after that and finished off the regular season with wins over Auburn and Georgia Tech. Making it through the season 11–0 and No. 1 in the polls, the Bulldogs earned the right to play in the Sugar Bowl. Remember, these were the days before conference championships.
In the 1980 Sugar Bowl, the Bulldogs squared off with Notre Dame and its coach, Dan Devine. It was the first, and thus far, the last game the two teams played. The game was a low-scoring, physical contest that the Bulldogs won despite passing for a grand total of 7 yards. In fact, they were outgained on the day and outplayed for the most part by the Fighting Irish.
Herschel Walker earned the Most Valuable Player Award, running for 150 yards and a touchdown. At the end of the day, it was the Georgia Bulldogs pulling out a hard-fought victory that is remembered by many with the image of coach Vince Dooley being carried off of the field on the shoulders of his team.
The 1980 Georgia Bulldogs will always be remembered as the first national championship team in school history. There were other teams that won the title but had to share it with others. As has happened quite often in the past, there were disagreements between the various polls as to the best team in college football.
Excerpted from 100 Things Bulldogs Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Jon Nelson. Copyright © 2010 Jon Nelson. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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