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Southern Fried Football
The History, Passion, and Glory of the Great Southern Game
By Tony Barnhart
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2008 Tony Barnhart
All rights reserved.
A Chronology of Southern Fried Football
The Major Events That Shaped the Landscape of Southern College Football
1880: The first college football game in the South was played in Lexington, Kentucky, between Centre College and Kentucky University (now Transylvania University).
1881: The University of Kentucky, then known as Kentucky State College, beat Kentucky University 7¼ –1 in the school's first football game. After the three-game season, football did not return to Kentucky until 1891.
1888: On October 18 the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest played a game in Raleigh, North Carolina, the first-ever college football game in the state. Wake Forest won, 6–4.
On November 27 Trinity College (which later became Duke) played its first game, beating North Carolina 16–0.
Virginia also played its first football game that year, beating Pantops Academy 20–0.
1890: In January, after one of its players suffered a broken collarbone, North Carolina's faculty voted to discontinue football at the school. The ban lasted for only one season.
1891: On November 21 Tennessee played its first football game, beating Sewanee 24–0.
1892: On February 20 Georgia and Auburn played before 2,000 fans at Atlanta's Piedmont Park, starting the first college football rivalry in the Deep South. The game was organized by professors Charles Herty of Georgia and George Petrie of Auburn, who had learned about football while they were classmates at Johns Hopkins University. Auburn won 10–0.
Georgia Tech played its first game on November 5 against Mercer in Macon, Georgia, and lost 12–6.
On November 11 Alabama played its first football game at a baseball park in Birmingham, beating a group of players from Birmingham High School 56–0.
On Thanksgiving Day a team of Mississippi A&M (now Mississippi State) faculty members challenged a group of students to a game of football, the first on that campus. The faculty won 4 –0.
1893: LSU played its first football game, a 34 –0 loss to Tulane.
On February 22 Alabama and Auburn played the first game in their storied rivalry. Auburn won the game 32–22 on George Washington's birthday. Auburn, eager to win the first game against Alabama, hired F.M. Balliet to coach the Tigers for that one afternoon.
On November 11 the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) played its first football game, a 56–0 win over Southwest Baptist University of Jackson, Tennessee.
North Carolina A&M (now North Carolina State) played its first game against Tennessee in Raleigh, winning 12–6.
1894: On December 22 representatives from seven Southern schools met in Atlanta to form the first college football conference, the Southeastern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA). The league eventually grew to include as many as 30 schools.
Auburn beat Georgia Tech 94–0 but then scored only 12 points in its other three games to finish 1–3.
1895: John Heisman was hired as Auburn's football coach and led the school to a 2–1 record, including a 48–0 win over Alabama.
Glenn "Pop" Warner began his coaching career at Georgia. He stayed only two seasons but went on to record 319 career victories as the coach of various college football teams.
1896: On October 28 Clemson played its first football game, beating Furman 14–6 in Greenville, South Carolina.
At Mississippi A&M (now Mississippi State), members of the student body raised $300 to hire J.B. Hildebrand, the school's first full-time coach. However, a yellow fever epidemic and the outbreak of the Spanish-American War soon halted the school's attempts to create a winning football program.
1897: On October 30 Georgia player Richard Vonalbade Gammon died from injuries he sustained in a game against Virginia. The Georgia state legislature passed a bill making it illegal to play football at state institutions, but Gammon's mother, Rosalind, who knew her son's love of football, wrote a letter to Governor W.Y. Atkinson begging him not to sign the bill. The bill was not signed, and football continued in the state.
1898: Because of the Spanish-American War, Tennessee did not field a team in this year.
1899: A team representing the University of the South, which is located in Sewanee, Tennessee, pulled off one of the greatest feats in the history of college football. Beginning on November 9, 1899, Sewanee won five games in six days, all against national powers (Texas, Texas A&M, Tulane, LSU, and Mississippi), all on the road, and by a combined score of 91 –0. Sewanee went on to finish 12–0 and was declared the Southern football champion.
On December 8 John Heisman left Auburn to become the head coach at Clemson.
1900: Kentucky defeated Louisville YMCA 12 –6 without running a single offensive play. The Wildcats kicked on first down on every possession and scored on a pair of YMCA fumbles in the end zone.
1901: Four years after the school's first attempt, Mississippi State made a second attempt to field a football team. On October 28 the school won the first game in its history, a 17–0 victory over Mississippi.
On October 5, in a game that was shortened to 30 minutes, Clemson beat Guilford 122–0. Clemson was coached by John Heisman, whose 1916 team at Georgia Tech beat Cumberland 222–0.
1903: On November 26 John Heisman was hired as Georgia Tech's first full-time head coach. Heisman remained at Georgia Tech until 1919, posting a record of 102–29 –7. He might have stayed longer, but in a divorce settlement he agreed to live in a different city from his ex-wife. She chose Atlanta, and Heisman returned to Pennsylvania, his alma mater.
Vanderbilt hired Dan McGugin as its head coach. He went on to build one of the South's greatest college football dynasties. In 30 years at Vanderbilt, McGugin posted a record of 197–55 — 19.
1907: From November 4 to 9, Clemson played — and lost — three games in a week's time. The Tigers lost to Auburn (12–0) on November 4 (12–0), to Georgia (8–0) in Augusta on November 7, and to Davidson (10–6) on November 9.
On Christmas Day in Havana, Cuba, LSU beat the University of Havana 56–0 in front of 10,000 fans.
Alabama and Auburn played to a 6–6 tie in Birmingham. Because of various disagreements between the two schools, they did not meet again until 1948.
Some Southern college teams, frustrated with Vanderbilt's dominance under coach Dan McGugin, began bringing in paid professionals, or "ringers," to play for their teams.
Auburn's Mike Donahue took one year off from coaching the football team to concentrate on being the school's athletics director.
1908: Clemson's hopes for a winning season were dashed when several football players were expelled along with 300 other students for stealing a Civil War cannon from the Pendleton town square and bringing it back to Clemson. The Tigers went 1–6 that season.
1909: The University of Kentucky adopted "Wildcats" as its official team name.
1912: On January 1, in the first and only game the team has played outside the United States, Mississippi A&M (Mississippi State) defeated Club Atlético de Cuba 12 –0 in Havana.
1913: Georgia Tech students gathered to build the original west stands at Grant Field, which seated about 5,000 people. Today it is known as Bobby Dodd Stadium, and it remains the oldest on-campus Division I-A stadium in the country.
With a record of 8–0, Auburn won its first SIAA championship.
1915: Vanderbilt's "point-a-minute" team averaged 51 points per game, scoring 514 points in 510 minutes. The Commodores gave up only 38 points, 35 of those in a 35 –10 loss to Virginia, Vanderbilt's only defeat of the season.
1916: On October 7 Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland 222–0 in the most lopsided game ever played in the history of college football. At halftime Georgia Tech led 126–0 and coach John Heisman told his players, "but you just can't tell what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves."
Kentucky dedicated its playing field as Stoll Field.
1917: Georgia Tech went 9–0 and won the first of its four national championships. The Yellow Jackets outscored their opponents 491–17 but declined a trip to the Rose Bowl so that many of their players could enlist and fight in World War I.
1918: Vanderbilt did not field a team because of World War I.
North Carolina did not field a team in 1917 or 1918 because of the war.
1920: William Alexander succeeded John Heisman as head coach at Georgia Tech. In 25 years at Tech, Alexander posted a record of 134–95–15. He was the first coach to take teams to the Sugar, Cotton, Orange, and Rose bowls.
Representatives from the larger schools in the SIAA met in Gainesville, Florida, and formed the Southern Conference.
Mississippi State students renamed the school's football field Scott Field in honor of track star and Olympian Don Scott, a football letterman for the Bulldogs in 1915 and 1916.
1921: On September 24 Tennessee played its first game at Shields-Watkins Field, which would later become Neyland Stadium. The capacity at the field was 3,200. Tennessee beat Emory & Henry 27–0.
1922: A record crowd of 24,300 turned out for a game between Auburn and Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The gate of $45,000 was the largest ever for a college football game in the South.
After winning 99 games in 18 seasons, Mike Donahue left Auburn to become the head coach at LSU, where he was only 23–19 –3 in five seasons.
1926: In the biggest win of Curley Byrd's career as head coach, Maryland upset heavily favored Yale 15–0 in New Haven, Connecticut.
After Tennessee had lost 17 of its first 21 games against Vanderbilt, school officials hired then Captain Robert R. Neyland as the school's head football coach. Neyland's teams went on to beat Vanderbilt in 16 of the next 19 games.
1927: After a riot broke out at the end of the 1926 Ole Miss — Mississippi State football game, Ole Miss honor society Sigma Iota recommended that the two schools ease tensions by playing for a trophy, a golden football that later became known as the Golden Egg.
On November 12 North Carolina opened Kenan Stadium with a 27 –0 win over Davidson.
1929: On January 1 Georgia Tech beat California 8–7 in the Rose Bowl to go undefeated and win its second national title. The most memorable moment of the game was when California's Roy Riegels picked up a fumble and ran toward his own goal line. He was eventually tackled by his own teammates.
On October 12 Georgia defeated mighty Yale 15–0 in the inaugural game at Sanford Stadium. The price of a ticket was $3.
1930: On March 6 Wallace Wade agreed to leave Alabama and become head coach at Duke. Wade remained at Alabama for the 1930 season, leading the Crimson Tide to a 10 –0 record, a win in the Rose Bowl, and the national championship.
On July 15 Frank Thomas, a former Notre Dame player and the running backs coach at Georgia, was named the new head coach at Alabama.
1932: On October 15, in one of the greatest punting duels ever, Tennessee defeated Alabama 7–3 in Birmingham. Alabama's Johnny Cain averaged 48 yards on 19 kicks, and Tennessee's Beattie Feathers averaged 43 yards on 21 kicks.
Mississippi A&M was officially renamed Mississippi State.
1933: At a meeting on February 13, 13 charter members formed the Southeastern Conference. Alabama won the conference's first championship with a 5–0 –1 record.
1934: Alabama went 10 — 0 and beat Stanford 29–13 in the Rose Bowl to share the national championship with Minnesota. Two ends on that Crimson Tide team–Don Hutson and Paul "Bear" Bryant–were destined for the Hall of Fame.
Suffering from poor health, coach Dan McGugin retired after 30 seasons as head coach at Vanderbilt. Over the course of those years, he won 197 games and had only one losing season.
1935: Tackle Frank "Bruiser" Kinard of Ole Miss defined the term Iron Man when he played 708 out of 720 possible minutes during the 1935 season.
1936: Dan McGugin, who presided over the most successful period in Vanderbilt football history, died at age 56.
Ole Miss adopted "Rebels" as the official name of the school's athletic teams.
1937: In the first bowl game played outside the continental United States, Auburn and Villanova played to a 7 — 7 tie in the Bacardi Bowl in Havana, Cuba. The game was the climax to Cuba's National Sports Festival and was almost canceled when dictator Fulgencio Batista, who had just assumed power, did not find his picture in the game program. A quick trip to the printer solved the problem, and the game went on.
1938: Duke had posted a 9–0 regular season without giving up a point. The Blue Devils were 40 seconds from perfection when they gave up a touchdown to Southern California in the waning moments of the Rose Bowl and lost 7–3. That team, the school's most famous, became known as the "Iron Dukes."
1939: Georgia named Wally Butts, "the Little Round Man" from Milledgeville, Georgia, its head coach. In 22 seasons Butts won 140 games and four SEC titles.
Tennessee posted a 10–0 regular season, during which it did not give up a single point. Without starting players Bob Suffridge and George Cafego, the Volunteers lost to Southern California 14–0 in the Rose Bowl.
On November 30 Auburn played its first game in the school's on-campus stadium against Florida. Seating capacity for what would become Jordan-Hare Stadium was 7,500.
1940: After being unable to win a conference game in eight seasons, Sewanee withdrew from the SEC.
On January 1, in Clemson's first bowl appearance, the Tigers beat Boston College 6–3 in the Cotton Bowl.
On January 10 Jess Neely resigned as Clemson's coach and accepted the head-coaching position at Rice. The next day, Frank Howard was named Clemson's head football coach, a position he held for 30 years.
1941: On January 1 Mississippi State won its first bowl game, a 14–7 win over Georgetown in the Orange Bowl. That fall, Mississippi State won its first and only SEC title.
On November 15 Grambling's Eddie Robinson, who would later become the winningest coach in the history of NCAA football, won his first game, a 37–6 victory over Tillotson College. Robinson went on to win 408 games in 57 seasons at Grambling.
Tennessee coach Robert Neyland was recalled to active duty when World War II began. John Barnhill took over the program until Neyland returned for the 1946 season.
1942: Because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, large crowds were banned from gathering on the West Coast. As a result, the January 1 Rose Bowl was moved from Pasadena, California, to Durham, North Carolina, where Duke hosted Oregon State. Oregon State won the game 20–16 before 56,000 fans.
Georgia won its first SEC championship, led by the dream backfield of Frank Sinkwich and Charley Trippi.
On September 19 Clemson's Memorial Stadium opened with a seating capacity of 20,000.
1943: At the height of World War II, a number of schools around the South shut down their football programs.
1944: With many players still fighting in the war, some schools fielded teams with freshmen and "4-Fs," players who were not physically able to serve in battle. Alabama fielded such a team, nicknamed the "War Babies" by coach Frank Thomas. That team, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Harry Gilmer, went 5–2–2 and lost to Duke 29–26 in the Sugar Bowl.
1945: After 14 seasons as an assistant to head coach William Alexander, Bobby Dodd accepted the head-coaching position at Georgia Tech. Only the third head coach in Georgia Tech history, Dodd remained for 22 seasons and posted a record of 165–64–8.
Maryland hired Paul "Bear" Bryant as head coach. It was Bryant's first job as a head coach, and he put together a team of players from his Navy preflight squads and went 6–2–1.
1946: Georgia went 11–0 and won its second SEC title under Wally Butts.
After one year at Maryland, Bear Bryant left for Kentucky, where he coached for eight seasons.
After 16 years and 115 victories, poor health forced Frank Thomas to resign as Alabama's head coach. He was replaced by Harold "Red" Drew.
1947: On January 1 Georgia played North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl. The game featured a matchup between two of the era's best players: Georgia's Charley Trippi and North Carolina's Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice. Trippi led the Bulldogs to a 20 — 10 win over North Carolina and Justice in New Orleans.
Florida State, which had been a women's college until the 1940s, fielded its first football team. The Seminoles went 0–5 that season.
On January 14 Ole Miss hired John Vaught as its head coach. Vaught's team won an SEC championship in his very first season. Over the next 24 years Vaught led the Rebels to 180 wins, six SEC titles, and three national championships.
Excerpted from Southern Fried Football by Tony Barnhart. Copyright © 2008 Tony Barnhart. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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