The Origins of the Southeastern Conference

1921VandyFootballteam

Utter the words “Southeastern Conference” during football season and your listeners will envision national championships, top ten rankings, and lucrative television contracts. Today the term is synonymous with the madness that is college football in the South. But in truth, the phrase was not always so meaningful.  The Southeastern Conference (SEC) was not always known by this name.

As college football took hold at schools across the country, southern school officials began to realize that an affiliation with similar institutions would make sense from an economic and geographic perspective. Southern football’s first game took place in 1881 as Kentucky State (now known as the University of Kentucky) beat Kentucky University (now known as Transylvania University) 7.5 to 1.  By 1892, the birth of southern football began in earnest.  Teams from Alabama, A & M College of Alabama (Auburn), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt were playing.  LSU began its proud football history in 1893, Arkansas and Texas A & M in 1894, Mississippi A & M (Mississippi State) in 1895, and Florida in 1906.

Dr. William Dudley, a chemistry professor at Vanderbilt, answered the call for an affiliation of southern schools.  Representatives from seven schools—Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Sewanee, and Vanderbilt—met Dudley on December 22, 1894 at the Kimball House in Atlanta to form the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA), the grandfather of the SEC.  The SIAA was formed, according to Dr. Dudley, to provide faculty regulation and control of all college athletics.  A year later, 12 more schools were added, including Clemson, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Texas, and Tulane.

The SIAA held together through the 1920 season.  At the annual conference on December 10, 1920, a disagreement among the schools took place.  The smaller SIAA schools, through their collective vote, passed a rule allowing freshmen players to compete immediately with the varsity and voted down a proposition to abolish a rule that allowed athletes to play summer baseball for money.  Additionally, the SIAA had reached 30 members making it very difficult for the schools to play one another and crown a true champion.  Led by University of Georgia English professor Dr. S.V. Sanford, 18 schools left to form the Southern Intercollegiate Conference (Southern Conference) on February 25, 1921 in Atlanta.  At that point, the SIAA became a conference for small colleges and eventually disbanded in 1942.

The Southern Conference grew to 23 schools by 1932.  Again, the league was too big.  Dr. Sanford convinced the 13 schools west and south of the Appalachian Mountains—Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU,  Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane, Vanderbilt–to reorganize as the Southeastern Conference.  Play began in 1933.  By December 1953, eight other schools—Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest—had left the Southern Conference to form the Atlantic Coast Conference.  The Southern Conference survives to this day.

Sewanee resigned from the SEC in 1940, Georgia Tech in 1964, and Tulane in 1965.  Arkansas and South Carolina joined the SEC in 1990, and Missouri and Texas A & M joined in 2012.

From its SIAA infancy in 1894 to its full maturation in 2012, the SEC has been a force in college football.  The league boasts eight out of the last eleven national champions, landed the largest television contracts (CBS and ESPN) in the history of college football in 2008, and launched its own network in 2014.  The South has indeed risen again.

 

 

 

 

Peach Bowl History

Courtesy UserB

Courtesy UserB

Atlanta’s Peach Bowl showcased its first game in 1968 and is the fifth oldest college bowl game behind the Rose Bowl (1902), the Orange Bowl (1935), the Sugar Bowl (1935), and the Cotton Bowl (1937).  The Peach Bowl joined the College Football Playoff (CFP) system in 2014 and is one of only six Bowl games that are eligible to host a national semi-final game or the national championship game.  The Peach Bowl is hosting this year the semi-final game between Alabama and Washington. When it’s not hosting the semi-finals or the championship, the Peach Bowl will host two of the highest ranked teams not in one of the four semi-final slots.  The bowl has come a long way since its meager beginnings.

The Peach Bowl originated as a fund-raiser for the Lions Clubs of Georgia but in its early years struggled with attendance, revenue, and bad weather.  The first three games (1968-1970) took place at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field and moved to Fulton County Stadium for the 1971-1992 games.  Since 1993 the Georgia Dome has been home to the Peach Bowl.  The game will move into the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium after the 2017 college football season when the Peach Bowl will host the CFP national championship game.

In a December 14, 2015 article by Corey Clark in the Tallahassee Democrat, Clark spoke with Peach Bowl President and CEO Gary Stokan.  Stokan stated that the bowl game’s Executive Director Dick Bestwick approached the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce after the 1985 game.  Bestwick told officials there that if Atlanta’s business leaders did not support the game through ticket purchases and sponsorships, the bowl would not survive.

With only 18 bowl games in existence at that time, the loss of the Peach Bowl would be a loss to the economic viability and reputation of the city, according to Stokan.  Ron Allen, head of the chamber and CEO of Delta Airlines agreed to support the Peach Bowl and gave a check to Bestwick for $100,000 to put the game on a sound financial foundation.  However, the weather still caused problems for the game until it moved into the Georgia Dome.

After the move to the Georgia Dome, Stokan and Peach Bowl officials brokered an agreement between the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) to play one another in the game and attendance improved.  Beginning with the 1997 game, Chick-fil-A, Inc. became the major sponsor and the bowl game became known as the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.  With the help of Chick-fil-A’s marketing expertise, the game became a sell out every year from 1997-2013.  From 2006-2013, the game shortened its name to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

However, as part of the agreement with the CFP system, the game reverted back to its original Peach Bowl moniker.  CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock noted that the other bowls in the system—Rose, Cotton, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta—all carried singular names without a corporate sponsor in the title and therefore, wanted all bowl names to be parallel.  In order to be compliant with the CFP mandate, the Atlanta game changed its name.

From a fund raiser for the Lions Clubs of Georgia to the College Football Playoff system, the Peach Bowl has indeed come a very long way.  Much credit must go to Gary Stokan and his staff and to Chick-fil-A, Inc.

Below are the Peach Bowl records for the current SEC and ACC schools:

SEC                                                                             ACC

Alabama                      0-0                                           Boston College             0-0

Arkansas                     0-0                                           Clemson                         3-5

Auburn                        4-1                                            Duke                               0-1

Florida                         0-2                                           Florida State                 2-2

Georgia                       3-2                                            Georgia Tech                 0-4

Kentucky                    1-1                                             Miami                             2-1

LSU                             5-1                                             North Carolina             2-3

Mississippi                 1-1                                            NC State                        4-3

Miss. State                  1-2                                            Pittsburgh                     0-0

Missouri                      0-0                                           Syracuse                        1-0

South Carolina            0-2                                          Virginia                         2-2

Tennessee                    1-4                                           Virginia Tech                2-2

Texas A&M                  1-0                                           Wake Forest                 0-0

Vanderbilt                   0-0-1

 

How Atlanta Became the Host City for the 1996 Olympic Games: Part 1, Capturing the USOC Nomination

 

 

399px-1996_Atlanta_Olympic_Games_Torch_(Replica)

With the immortal words from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch on September 18, 1990—“The International Olympic Committee has awarded the 1996 Olympic Games to the city of…Atlanta.”—Atlanta had officially won its bid to host the centennial of the modern Olympic Games.  Billy Payne’s vision had become reality.  He had help, and plenty of it, from a wide assortment of business and political leaders and a throng of volunteers.  The journey was long and arduous but certainly worth it in the long run.

Payne, a real estate attorney, first thought of bringing the Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1987.  He believed that if he had the right help, Atlanta could secure the Games.  He summarized his thought process this way, “If you believe that if you surrounded yourself with enough talent, enough good friends, enough people willing to push or pull all in the same direction, there can be absolutely no limitation on what you can achieve.”

As a first step, Payne formed a non-profit group called the Georgia Amateur Athletic Foundation (GAAF).  This group would be tasked with bringing the Games to Atlanta. Payne also persuaded fishing buddy Pete Candler to join him.  Candler’s relatives played an instrumental role in the founding of the Coca-Cola Company.  Payne then took a leave from his law profession to become a full-time volunteer with the GAAF and also borrowed $1 million from friends using real estate holdings as collateral.  In a short amount of time Payne convinced other friends to join him as volunteers for the campaign.  All had strong leadership skills, influence, and most importantly, contacts, which could aid the effort.  The group became known as the Atlanta Nine.  Besides Candler, the group included Horace Sibley, a partner with powerful law firm King and Spalding and one who also had strong ties to Coca-Cola; Ginger Watkins, known for her work as a charity fund raiser and with the Junior League; Linda Stephenson, also known for her work with the Junior League; Cindy Fowler, who managed an event-organizing business; Tim Christian, a construction company executive; Charles H. Battle Jr., a gregarious Atlanta attorney; Charles Shaffer, another attorney with King and Spalding; and Bobby Rearden Jr., an Atlanta businessman.

As the group moved forward, they realized they needed someone who knew Atlanta but had the respect of influencers nationally and internationally.  Andrew Young, then the mayor of Atlanta, could not have been a better choice.  People from across the globe respected Young for his work as a United States congressman and Ambassador to the United Nations.  He also was a revered leader of the Civil Rights Movement and former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Young endorsed the GAAF proposal for the Games and would later prove instrumental in winning international support for the Atlanta bid.

With his team in place, Payne directed his attention to the first hurdle: the official United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) endorsement of Atlanta as the United States representative in the battle for the Games.  Payne developed a personal touch strategy for the GAAF that would carry through the USOC bid process and the international process involving the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  The first example of Payne’s strategy came in September 1987 when GAAF members hand-delivered the formal bid to the USOC offices in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The other 13 United States cities bidding on the Games, including Nashville, San Francisco and Minneapolis mailed their bids.  While there Payne and his associates gave their presentation to the USOC board.  The GAAF produced a video entitled “Live the Dream,” which focused on Atlanta’s enthusiasm for the Games.  The video also delineated Atlanta’s strengths:  the international airport; existing sports venues; the construction of new venues such as a stadium for athletics (track and field), the Georgia Dome for basketball and gymnastics and a natatorium on the campus of Georgia Tech; existing facilities for the athletic village; over 60,000 hotel rooms; an extensive rapid rail and bus transportation system; experience in handling large amounts of people because of Atlanta’s extensive convention experience; and private funding sources through corporate sponsors, television rights, and ticket sales.

Payne’s personal touch strategy manifested itself again when the USOC sent 100 voting members to Atlanta in January 1988 before the official USOC Site Selection Committee’s visit.  The GAAF entertained the voting members in an Atlanta house, where they experienced an elegant and intimate dinner.  When the Site Selection Committee visited in February, the GAAF took the group to all existing facilities, the different sites for the new venues, meetings with local political leaders, and a lunch hosted by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce attended by prominent business leaders.  Upon leaving Atlanta the Committee told the GAAF that they were impressed with the group’s attention to detail, the overwhelming business and community support, and the overall enthusiasm for the Games.  The only negative cited was the city’s limited amateur athletic experience.

The possibility existed that the USOC would not recommend any city for the 1996 Games because Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in 1984 and the USOC was unsure if any American city could get the international nod so soon after LA.  However in March, the USOC moved forward with the process and cut the field from 14 to 2—Atlanta and Minneapolis.  Payne and the GAAF began preparations for the final presentation to the USOC Executive Board in April in Washington, DC.

The GAAF intensified their lobbying efforts.  They mailed each board member the formal Bid Proposal, hosted members in Atlanta to view competition sites, and met with national and international sports federation officials.  If the GAAF could not meet personally with board members, the group wrote personal notes, made phone calls or both.

Payne further exhibited his personal touch strategy by renting the famous Kalorama mansion in Washington.  By this time, Andrew Young was fully invested in securing the Games for Atlanta, and he, Payne and other GAAF volunteers greeted USOC board members in the mansion while a 10-piece string ensemble entertained them.  The next day, Young, Payne and Georgia Governor Joe Frank Harris reiterated Atlanta’s strengths to the board.

The USOC board carefully considered the city’s organizing ability, enthusiasm for the Games, venues, hotels, large airport, rapid transit system, and the capability of handling thousands of people for the duration of the Games.  These attributes pushed the city ahead of Minneapolis and compelled the USOC board to award their nomination to Atlanta.  Young, Payne and the rest of the GAAF had cleared the first hurdle.  Now they must convince the international community that Atlanta would be a worthy host for the centennial of the modern Olympic Games.

 

College Football National Champions Since 1990

120px-SEC_new_logo

Of the Power 5 conferences, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has twice as many national champions since 1990 than the second place Big 8/Big 12 Conference—12-6. During this same period, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has four national champions, the Big 10 Conference has three and the Pacific 10/Pacific 12 Conference has two, although the 2004 champion USC Trojans had their title vacated by the NCAA for rules violations. Only schools voted number one by the Associated Press and/or the coaches’ poll at the time are included in this compilation. Dual champions were crowned in 1990, 1991 and 1997. With the advent of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1998, the national title went to the winner of the BCS game. Two years ago marked the beginning of the College Football Playoff system. Listed below are the national champions since 1990 and their affiliated conference at the time.

1990    Georgia Tech (ACC), Colorado (Big 8)

1991    Miami (Big East), Washington (Pacific 10)

1992    Alabama (SEC)

1993    Florida State (ACC)

1994    Nebraska (Big 8)

1995    Nebraska (Big 8)

1996    Florida (SEC)

1997    Michigan (Big 10), Nebraska (Big 12)

1998    Tennessee (SEC)

1999    Florida State (ACC)

2000    Oklahoma (Big 12)

2001    Miami (Big East)

2002    Ohio State (Big 10)

2003    LSU (SEC)

2004    USC (Pacific 10)

2005    Texas (Big 12)

2006    Florida (SEC)

2007    LSU (SEC)

2008    Florida (SEC)

2009    Alabama (SEC)

2010    Auburn (SEC)

2011    Alabama (SEC)

2012    Alabama (SEC)

2013    Florida State (ACC)

2014    Ohio State (Big 10)

2015    Alabama (SEC)

One can argue about the best conference in college football on a year-to-year basis, but one cannot argue with the recent success of the SEC in the national title games. Since 2006, the national champion has come from the SEC, and the two times the SEC did not win the national title, the conference lost in the title game—Auburn in 2013 and Alabama in 2014. When it comes to big games the SEC has no peer. The 2016 season kicks off in about three weeks. Can’t wait!

Milestones of ACC Basketball

675px-Atlantic_Coast_Conference_wordmark.svg

 

Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) basketball has a long and rich history. Many years, the media have anointed the conference as the best in the land. Because of the conference’s academic reputation, the league’s fans have been dubbed the “Wine and Cheese” set.

However, some of college basketball’s most storied programs reside in the ACC. Below is a breakdown of the current conference teams in terms of overall win-loss records (through the 2014-15 season) and place within the Top 50 nationally; the number of national championships as determined by winning the NCAA Tournament, which began in 1939; the number of Final Four appearances and the number of ACC titles as determined by the winners of the ACC Tournament.

  1. Overall Won-Loss Record and National Ranking (vacated and/or forfeited games do not count):
    1. North Carolina 2140-767 (3)
    2. Duke 2062-853 (4)
    3. Syracuse 1920-851 (5)
    4. Notre Dame 1795-972 (9)
    5. Louisville 1755-884 (11)
    6. C. State 1661-1008 (25)
    7. Pittsburgh 1556-1099 (45)

No other ACC school placed in the Top 50 nationally.

  1. National Championships:
    1. North Carolina and Duke 5
    2. Louisville 3
    3. N.C. State 2
    4. Syracuse 1
  2. Final Four Appearances:
    1. North Carolina 18
    2. Duke 16
    3. Louisville 10
    4. Syracuse 5
    5. N.C. State 3
    6. Virginia 2
    7. Georgia Tech 2
    8. Notre Dame 1
    9. Florida State 1
    10. Wake Forest 1
    11. Pittsburgh 1
  1. ACC Titles:
    1. Duke 19
    2. North Carolina 17
    3. N.C. State 10
    4. Wake Forest 4
    5. Georgia Tech 3
    6. Virginia 2
    7. Florida State 1
    8. Miami 1
    9. Notre Dame 1

 

The ACC is replete with powerful basketball programs and the statistics above support this claim. Five out of the top 11 all-time win leaders reside in the ACC. A Final Four is rare without either Duke or North Carolina and both schools are among the national leaders in NCAA championships. With the recent additions of Louisville, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Syracuse, the conference may be the most competitive it has ever been. So come tournament time, remember to have a nice bottle of chardonnay and some brie while watching the games!

 

 

Paul Johnson Has Work to Do

 

Photo by Michael Schneider

Photo by Michael Schneider

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Coastal Division has some new and powerful blood among the coaching ranks, which just made Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s job much more difficult.  Unless Johnson recruits better players and/or hires better coaches, his time at Tech may come to an end sooner than later.  Johnson has coached the Yellow Jackets since 2008, has compiled a 61-44 overall record, and a 38-26 mark in the Coastal Division, finishing first or second six out of his eight seasons on the Flats.

The new coaches in the division are Mark Richt at the University of Miami, Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech, and Bronco Mendenhall at the University of Virginia. Before examining some statistics from Johnson’s eight years at Tech, a brief examination of how Johnson has fared against the current coaches in the Coastal Division requires an examination.

Johnson has a record of 6-2 against David Cutcliffe at Duke University, but Cutcliffe has won the last two meetings against Johnson’s Yellow Jackets.  Larry Fedora of the University of North Carolina, fresh off the 2015 Coastal Division title, is 2-2 versus Johnson, with wins the last two years.  Pat Narduzzi came to the University of Pittsburgh before the 2015 season after a long and successful run as the defensive coordinator at Michigan State University.  From 2011-2014, Narduzzi’ s Michigan State defenses were the only ones ranked every year in the Football Bowl Subdivision Top 10 in total defense and rushing defense.  In Narduzzi’s first season, he led Pitt to the school’s most wins, 8, since 2010.  In Johnson’s only game against Narduzzi, Pitt won 31-28.

While at the University of Georgia, Mark Richt’s Bulldogs defeated Johnson’s Yellow Jackets six out of eight times, including this year’s 13-7 victory.  Tech is 2-6 against the University of Miami in the Johnson era, and if one combines that with Richt’s dominance while at Georgia, it would seem that Johnson will have a very difficult time beating Miami.  Bronco Mendenhall’s Brigham Young University teams easily defeated Johnson’s Tech teams in 2012 and 2013, with the closest deficit being 18 points.  Johnson sports a 5-3 record against Virginia, which has not had a winning season since 2011.  Johnson will have to do a better of job scheming against Mendenhall than the two games against Mendenhall while he was at BYU.  Johnson’s teams have struggled mightily against the Virginia Tech defenses of Bud Foster.  Georgia Tech is 2-6 against Virginia Tech in the Johnson era.  Virginia Tech now has one of the most sought after coaches in college football, Justin Fuente.  Fuente, considered an offensive wizard, took over a University of Memphis program that had won only five games in the prior three seasons.  Within three years Fuente brought Memphis a winning season and a bowl victory.  Under Fuente, Memphis finished 19-6 the last two years.  One of Fuente’s first moves as the Virginia Tech coach was to retain Bud Foster as the defensive coordinator.  With Fuente’s offensive genius and Foster’s defensive wizardry, Johnson will find victories over the Hokies to be a challenge.

Paul Johnson has no peers with his knowledge of the triple option. According to cfbstats.com, Tech’s offenses have generally been very prolific.  In the Johnson era, his teams have finished in the Top 5 in the country in rushing offense every year (except 2015).  This is out of 128 or 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools, depending on the year.  In scoring offense, Tech has finished 21st or better in four of Johnson’s seasons, while in total offense Tech has finished 44th or better in six of eight seasons, including two Top 20 finishes.  However, Tech’s defenses and special teams have struggled most years under Johnson.

Three defensive coordinators have served Tech under Johnson.  Tech’s best defense came in 2008, Johnson’s first year.  With players recruited by former coach Chan Gailey, the unit finished 25th in the country in total defense and 28th in scoring defense.  Since then, Tech has finished no better than 53rd in scoring defense and 43rd in total defense (except for the 2013 season, 29th and 28th, respectively).  Again, this is according to cfbstats.com and the rankings are based on 128 or 120 teams, depending on the year.

Special teams play can influence the outcome of a game, and generally, Tech’s units have recorded poor results, according to cfbstats.com.  Punt and kickoff returns help to establish field position, while punt and kickoff coverage can effect field position as well, thereby making it more difficult for opposing offenses to score because of the length of the field they must navigate. From a punt unit standpoint, Tech has had one very good season, 2012, finishing 17th in the country in punt returns and 14th in opponents’ punt returns (OPR).  The 2009 punt return unit finished 10th and scored two touchdowns but the OPR finish was only 43rd.  In Johnson’s other six seasons, the punt return units have finished no better than 53rd and the OPR units have finished no better than 39th, with three of the units finishing 64th or worse.  The kickoff units have been dreadful for almost every season during the Johnson era.  The Kickoff Return units have finished 47th or worse—four units finished 96th or worse—every year except 2012, when the unit finished 27th.  The Opponents’ Kickoff Return units have finished 41st or worse—three units finished 101st or worse—every year except 2010, when the unit finished 18th.

The above statistics are not meant to give an exhaustive statistical indication of Tech’s strengths and weaknesses under Johnson but do offer a fair account of some of the units’ strengths and weaknesses over the years.  While Johnson’s offenses amass large amounts of yardage and points, the defensive and special teams play have generally been detrimental to Johnson’s overall record.  Maybe Johnson can improve his defenses and special teams with better athletes on those units and/or better coaching.

His strategy to this point seems to be to score as many points as he can and hope that is enough to win.  With the stable of capable coaches in the Coastal Division, Johnson’s chances of using this strategy to win games will more than likely lead to more losses.  Of course, he still has to find a way to beat Clemson and Georgia.  The bottom line:  Johnson must continue to maintain highly productive offenses and consistently develop strong defenses and special teams or he will force Athletics Director Mike Bobinski to make an unpleasant decision.

 

Clemson-Georgia Tech Gridiron Memories

Georgia_Tech_Outline_Interlocking_logo.svg299px-Clemson_University_Tiger_Paw_logo.svg

The Clemson University Tigers and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Tech) Yellow Jackets have played 79 football games against the other, the first taking place in 1898. Tech leads the series 50-27-2. For some undocumented reason, the schools played 29 games in Atlanta from 1902 through 1973, and after one game in Clemson in 1974, the series returned to Atlanta the next three years. The series ended briefly after 1977 but resumed in 1983 when both schools competed as members of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Tech and Clemson have met every year since then with each winning 16 games. The two schools actually met in the ACC Championship game in 2009 but the National Collegiate Athletic Association vacated Tech’s victory and ACC title after it found Tech used an ineligible player during the last three games of the season. The Tech-Clemson rivalry ranks as one of the South’s oldest and has produced some poignant memories.

In 1902, for example, Clemson coach, John Heisman, played a ruse on the Tech program worthy of a Broadway production. The day before the game between the two schools, Heisman sent a group of Clemson students by train to Atlanta with the instructions to pose as football players and conspicuously party the night away. The day of the game, members of the Tech program received word of the actions of the fake Clemson players and assumed they would be in no shape to compete on the gridiron. Unbeknownst to Tech, Heisman had his real players stay at a hotel in nearby Lula, Georgia. Much to the surprise and chagrin of the Tech team, the well-rested Clemson boys routed the Yellow Jackets, 44-5.

After the 1903 Clemson team routed Tech 73-0, the largest margin of victory for either team, Tech lured Heisman to Atlanta with a 25 percent pay raise. Heisman coached on the Flats for 16 years, overseeing 102 wins, three undefeated seasons, the 1917 national championship, and the beginning of Tech’s 15-game winning streak over the Tigers.

In 1977, Tech officials announced the series would end after the game that year. According to an SB Nation article, Clemson faithful bemoaned the thought of not staying in and enjoying Atlanta, at least every other year. Clemson booster George Bennett concocted a plan that he hoped would convince Tech and Atlanta officials that a game with the Tigers in Atlanta would be an economic boost for the city. For the 1977 game, Bennett encouraged Clemson supporters to pay all of their expenses in Atlanta with two-dollar bills stamped with tiger paws. While the plan did nothing to change the minds of Tech or Atlanta officials, it did spur a road/bowl tradition—the Two Dollar Tiger Bill.

After Tech joined the ACC in 1983, Clemson won four out of the first seven games. The 1990 game marked only the third time in series history that both schools were ranked in the polls (1959 and 1984 were the previous encounters), Clemson 15th and Tech 18th. Tech led 14-3 at halftime on two touchdown passes from Tech quarterback Shawn Jones but the Tigers repeatedly moved the ball in the second half only to settle for field goals. With the score 14-12, Tech’s Kevin Tisdel returned a kickoff 87 yards to set up a T.J. Edwards touchdown run to make the score 21-12. Clemson took the ensuing kickoff and drove all the way to the Tech one-yard line before the Tech defense held on fourth down. After a Tech fumble on the Tech 41-yard line, Clemson scored on a DeChane Cameron 3-yard run with 3:27 left in the game to make the score 21-19. After Tech punted, Clemson had one last chance, but All-American kicker Chris Gardocki missed a 60-yard field goal at the end of the game. Tech’s win that day proved pivotal as the Jackets would become the United Press International’s national champions at season’s end.

Six games from 1996-2001were all decided by three points, Tech won four of those. Clemson came to Atlanta in 2001 ranked 25th to face off against the 9th ranked Yellow Jackets. Both offenses marched up and down the field but Tech had no answer for Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler. With 15 seconds before halftime, Dantzler scored on a 38-yard run that became known in Clemson annals as the “Hail Mary Run.” Regulation ended tied at 41, and after a Tech field goal in overtime, Dantzler worked his magic again by scoring from the Tech 11-yard line on third-and-six for a 47-44 Tiger victory.

Clemson’s last victory in Atlanta came in 2003 when Coach Tommy Bowden led the Tigers to a rout of the Chan Gailey-coached Yellow Jackets, 39-3. Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst passed for 298 yards and three touchdowns. The rout marked Clemson’s largest victory over Tech subsequent to the Heisman-led 73-0 pasting in 1903.

Since 2003, Tech has won eight out of the twelve games, including the 2009 ACC Championship contest. In the 2014 game at Grant Field, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Tigers’ offense left the game with a first-quarter knee injury. The Tech defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns, held the Tigers to 190 yards of total offense, and the Yellow Jackets cruised to a 28-6 win.

One of the South’s oldest rivalries will add another chapter this Saturday in Death Valley. The oddsmakers favor Clemson by more than a touchdown but don’t be surprised if the outcome of the contest comes down to a final bit of trickery. John Heisman would not have it any other way.

 

The Holy Trinity of Georgia Tech Football

 

Courtesy of UserB

Courtesy of UserB

In the 120+-year history of Georgia Tech (Tech) football, three coaches have accounted for nearly 60 percent of the school’s overall wins. From 1904 through 1966, John Heisman, William Alexander, and Bobby Dodd led the program to more than 400 wins and three national championships. For over 60 years, Tech was a football power. Since this era, Tech has produced some very good teams– the most notable being the 1990 national champions–but has not enjoyed the sustained success that these three men engineered. Each man had his own coaching style and personality, but they share a common thread: the ability to win football games. Meet the Holy Trinity of Georgia Tech football.

John Heisman coached Tech from 1904 -1919, compiling a 102-29-7 record. Heisman honed his skills while playing at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) in the 1890s. He earned a law degree at Penn but decided coaching football was more satisfying. Heisman started his coaching career at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1892, moved to Buchtel College (now the University of Akron) and then back to Oberlin before heading south to coach the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1895 and Clemson University in 1900. Heisman left Tech after the 1919 season to coach Penn. He and his wife divorced and as part of the settlement, Heisman agreed not to reside in the same city as his wife, who chose to remain in Atlanta. After Penn, Heisman coached at Washington & Jefferson University and Rice University before becoming the director of athletics at the Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) in New York. The DAC began awarding a trophy to the nation’s best college football player in 1935. Upon Heisman’s death in 1936, the trophy became known as the Heisman Memorial Trophy.

Heisman was a demanding perfectionist and keen strategist. He loathed fumbling and would tell his players at the beginning of pre-season practice while holding up a football, “Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football.” His teams employed the jump shift,the forerunner to the T and I formations; lateral passes; backward passes; reverses; onside kicks and sweeps with pulling guards. His players did not huddle and the quarterback would shout a play or series of plays at the line of scrimmage. Heisman is also credited with developing the center/quarterback exchange to begin a play and leading the battle to legalize the forward pass.

From 1915-1918, Heisman’s Tech teams were 30-1-2 –the University of Pittsburgh beat Tech in 1918. The 1917 team went 9-0 and won the national championship.

Probably the most memorable contest of Heisman’s Tech coaching career was a game against Cumberland College in 1916. Heisman also coached baseball at Tech and he agreed to take his 1916 baseball team to Nashville to play Cumberland College. Cumberland embarrassed Heisman’s team 22-0, allegedly using pro players against Tech’s college kids. Even though Cumberland had dropped its football program before the 1916 season for economic reasons, Heisman was determined to avenge the baseball loss and demonstrate to sportswriters the folly of awarding the national championship to the highest-scoring team. Heisman offered Cumberland a $500 guarantee and an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlanta if they would honor their agreement to play Tech in football. Cumberland accepted and produced 16 players, mostly members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity with little knowledge of football. The game lasted 45 minutes and Tech scored 32 touchdowns in the 222-0 rout.

Unlike Heisman, William Alexander, also known as Alex, began and ended his coaching career at Tech. Alexander came to Tech to study engineering in 1906 as a 16-year-old boy. He walked on to the Tech football team in 1908 and played sparingly under Heisman. However, Heisman must have seen something in Alexander because he added Alex to the coaching staff after Alex’s senior season. Upon Heisman’s departure to Penn, Alexander became Tech’s head coach, serving from 1920-1944. He compiled a 134-95-15 record, won the 1928 national championship, and was the first coach to place a team in all four of the major bowls of the time: the Rose in 1929, the Orange in 1940, the Cotton in 1943, and the Sugar in 1944.

Alex was regarded as a tough taskmaster and a man of high character who rarely lost his poise. He was a fierce defender of his players. After Tech lost a game to Alabama on a last-minute interception return for a touchdown, an assistant coach began verbally abusing some of the players in the locker room after the game. Upon hearing the assistant’s tirade, Alex told him to leave and declared, “This is your team only when it wins. Now it’s my team. Get out before I throw you out.”

After disappointing seasons in 1929 and 1930, Alexander sought a bright young assistant. In the middle of the 1930 season, Alex sent assistant Mac Tharpe to Knoxville to scout the North Carolina -Tennessee game. Tharpe’s car broke down en route and he did not arrive in Knoxville until after the game. Tharpe hoped to receive an analysis of Carolina from Tennessee head coach Bob Neyland, but Neyland directed Tharpe to quarterback Bobby Dodd. Tharpe reported back to Alexander that, “Dodd’s analysis of Carolina is better than any scouting report that I could have made.”

Alex hired Dodd as an assistant coach in December of 1930. Dodd said of Alexander, “Coach Alex was wonderful to me. He could growl and snap, but when it came to an emergency, he was our guy. He enabled me to purchase the home my family and I lived in so many years. And he did the same thing for our black trainer, Porto Rico.”

Bobby Dodd worked for Alexander as an assistant for 14 years before succeeding him as head coach in 1945. Dodd coached Tech from 1945-1966 and had a record of 165-64-8. He guided Tech to a 31-game winning streak from 1951-53, including a 12-0 season and a national championship in 1952. Also in the 1950s, Dodd engineered an eight-game winning streak against arch rival Georgia, the longest Tech streak in the series. After coaching, he remained at Tech as athletics director until 1976, then as an alumni association consultant until his death in 1988.

Generally, Dodd believed in taking it easy on his players during practices (although, numerous exceptions can be documented). He rarely left his team bruised and battered after practice–some coaches believed this method would toughen the players for the upcoming game. Instead, Dodd left his players physically and mentally piqued to give it their all on Saturday. Instead of being among the players during practice, Dodd stood in a tower overlooking the field while his assistants ran the practices.

Bobby Dodd never graduated from Tennessee, something he deeply regretted. So he constantly preached and demanded education. He provided tutors for players struggling in the classroom and badgered them until they earned their diploma. He also approved of marriage for his players while most coaches frowned on the players being married so young.   Dodd believed that the wives would police their husbands and felt confident that he knew where his married players were every night.

Bobby Dodd was arguably one of the greatest football coaches of all time. Furman Bisher wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Robert Lee Dodd brought a different style to coaching, an emphasis on craftsmanship, finesse, well-rehearsed execution and sideline genius. Many a time have I heard it said, ‘Bobby Dodd was the best sideline coach I ever saw.’”

The Holy Trinity brought football fame and recognition to the Flats for over half a century. Heisman, Alexander, and Dodd are names that will forever be linked to the halcyon days of Georgia Tech football.

Georgia College Nicknames

 

Courtesy of Beussery at English Wikipedia

Courtesy of Beussery at English Wikipedia

People in the Peach State are proud of their college affiliations.  All you have to do is observe people on a daily basis to see what they are wearing.  You’ll see colleges from all over the country represented on hoodies, t-shirts, polo shirts, purses and even belt buckles.  Of course, you’ll see many people wearing Georgia Bulldog, Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, and Georgia Southern Eagle clothing.  Have you ever wondered how the nicknames for these schools came to be? Here’s a little trivia to impress your friends.

Some people believe that the University of Georgia took its nickname from the Yale University Bulldogs. Georgia’s first president, Abraham Baldwin, graduated from Yale, but no definitive evidence can be found that Georgia adopted the Bulldog moniker from Yale. Before 1920, University of Georgia (UGA) sports teams had nicknames such as the “Crackers,” the “Wildcats,” and the “Bulldogs.”  Morgan Blake is credited with the call for the “Bulldogs” as the permanent nickname for the school.  In a November 3, 1920 article in the Atlanta Journal, Blake wrote, “The Georgia Bulldogs would sound good because there is a certain dignity about a bulldog, as well as ferocity.”  Several days later in the Atlanta Constitution, Cliff Wheatley used the name “Bulldogs” five

Courtesy of UserB

Courtesy of UserB

times in his piece about the Georgia-Virginia game that ended in a 0-0 tie in Charlottesville.  The name stuck and the market exploded for Bulldog clothing and other paraphernalia.

Georgia Tech athletic teams have been known by many nicknames over the years, including the “Engineers,” the “Techs,” the “Blacksmiths,” the” Golden Tornado,” and the “Ramblin’ Wreck.”  In 1905, an article in the Atlanta Constitution used the term “Yellowjackets” to describe the Tech students and other fans of the athletic teams.  Supporters of the teams commonly came dressed in yellow coats and jackets.  The term became commonplace after the article and eventually came to be spelled “Yellow Jackets.” The origin of the name had nothing to do with the six-legged insect with the sharp stinger.

Over the years Georgia Southern University (GSU) athletic teams have been called the “Culture,” the “Aggies,” the “Normal Nine” for baseball, the “Blue Tide,” the “Professors,” and the “Teachers.” In 1959, after a campus-wide contest and vote, the official nickname became the “Eagles.” The school changed its name from South Georgia Teachers College to Georgia Southern College that year and the administration thought a new nickname was in order.

Every school has its own unique history and the nickname is just a part of it.  Be true to your school and wear your GeorgiaSouthernBaldEaglet-shirts proudly.

The Masters Tournament at Augusta National

For a golf fan, the Masters tournament at Augusta National is the ultimate venue for golf. Legendary Atlanta golfer Bobby Jones designed the course and Horton Smith of Missouri won the first tournament in 1934. Americans won the tournament from 1934 through 1960 (no tournament 1943-45) before Gary Player of South Africa won the first of his three titles in 1961.

Interestingly, very few golfers with Georgia ties have won the Masters. Savannah-born Claude Harmon won in 1948 while Tommy Aaron from Gainesville put on the green jacket in 1973. Larry Mize from Augusta and Georgia Tech took home the title in 1987. St. Simons resident Zach Johnson won in 2007 before UGA golfer Bubba Watson earned his green jacket in 2012.

Jack Nicklaus has won the most titles with six while Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have won four apiece.

For those of us who won’t be at Augusta National this weekend, grab a pimento-cheese sandwich and some sweet tea, plop yourself in front of the tellie, and enjoy a bit of heaven as the world’s best golfers vie for the title of Masters champion!
800px-AugustaNationalMastersLogoFlowers
Photo by Pocketwiley