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August 18, 2014

Much More Than a "Little" Recovery

Raise a hand for each season you
were a first-team All-American...
Two weeks prior to the season opener against Clemson, I reached out to a former UGA football playera Bulldog hero of mine as a kidwho had two notable games against the Tigers; one of which was rather memorable to me, the other apparently forgettable for him. 

The 1986 Georgia-Clemson game was supposed to be a little different than the close, nail-biting defensive affairs which had preceded it in the rivalry.  The Bulldogs, which had routed Duke in their opener, were nearly a double-digit favorite over the Tigers, which had been upset by Virginia Tech at home the week before.  Instead, Clemson inexplicably rolled through the Bulldogs seemingly at will, gaining nearly 300 rushing yards while averaging almost five yards per carry.  The poor-passing Tigers even found success through the air, and at the end, found themselves ahead on the scoreboard after their placekicker, David Treadwell, won the game with a 46-yard field goal with no time remaining.

The Georgia defense would get called out following the loss, especially its senior leader and team captainone who entered the Clemson game considered perhaps the best and most important player on the field.

"I must have had a bad game because I don't remember much from it," John Little informed me with a slight chuckle regarding the '86 Clemson game.  Little had been a first-team All-American defensive back the season before as a junior.  "Honestly, I don't remember if I had a bad game, an okay game, or whatI really don't.  What was even the score?"

Clemson 31, Georgia 28, marking the first time in nearly 40 years since a 41-28 loss to Texas in the 1949 Orange Bowl that a Bulldog team scored more than 24 points and did not win.

I had asked Little about the '86 Clemson game because of the aftermath that followed, when a team's head coach uncharacteristically named names and pointed the finger.  This was especially uncharacteristic of this particular coach, who exemplified the "the team is much greater than the individual" principle.

"You just don't inherit a job," Vince Dooley said following the setback.  "You earn it based on your performance and [Little] has not performed."  The head coach would add Little did have "a lot of company" (teammates) as far as those who had also played poorly on defense.

How the mighty had fallen, especially considering the memorable performance Little had against Clemson in 1985, then highlighting a brilliant Bulldog career which had been successful as soon as he finally set foot on the field.

Little, an All-State high school quarterback from Lynn Haven, FL, had decided to attend college six hours north of home because of a closeness he developed with assistant Ray Goff after being largely ignored by the major nearby programs during the recruiting process.  Soon after arriving in Athens, the signal caller was making another transformationthis time, to the other side of the ball.

"I remember looking at a depth chart [in the summer of 1982] and I was about the ninth quarterback out of 10," Little recalled.  "I was moved to defense pretty soon after thatmaybe the third practice."  To assist him in making a smooth transition, Little was redshirted as a true freshmanaccording to him, "a great move for me."  Turns out, yes, it was indeed.
Little was placed at the roverback spot—a position which is essentially a combination of a safety and linebacker, and occupied by a player capable to sniff out running plays, help out in pass coverage, while simply making big plays.  Georgia had started utilizing the "rover" approximately a decade before in the early 1970s upon moving from a six to a five-man defensive front.  "It might have been the best position on the defense, in that if you put yourself in the right position, you made a lot of plays," Little added.
Against Clemson in '85, Little (bottom on ground)
stopped the run as well as the pass, tripping up
Clemson's Kenny Flowers (No. 48) on this play.
Entering the 1983 season, the Bulldogs had their smartest, hardest-working, and biggest play-making defender starting at roverback in senior Terry Hoage.  The year before, Hoage had tallied an NCAA-leading and UGA-record 12 interceptions while earning consensus All-American recognition.  For 1983, it appeared Little would likely have to wait an entire season as Hoage's understudy until seeing significant playing time.
An injury to safety Charlie Dean in the third game of the season shifted Hoage to Dean's position while moving Little into the starting rover slot.  Making his first collegiate start the next week against Mississippi State, the freshman had what would be his finest performance of the season, recording 15 tackles, including one for loss, and breaking up a pass.  Little finished the campaign starting six games, or actually one more than Hoage, becoming just the second freshman defensive back in the Coach Dooley era to be considered a season starter.
As a sophomore in 1984, Little closed the regular season by making 25 tackles against Georgia Tech; no Bulldog defender has tallied as many in a single game since then.  And, it was during this time the young roverback started to be compared to his legendary predecessor.  From both being unheralded, out-of-state former high school quarterbacks to having tremendous success academically to developing into standout roverbacks, Hoage and Little's experience at UGA was becoming eerily similar.  Entering the 1985 campaign, Little was even "in the same class with Terry Hoage," according to defensive coordinator Bill Lewis.
"Before the game, we were on the field stretching and the Clemson players first rubbed that rock, and then ran down the hill," Little recalled of the Clemson game that year.  "Plus, it was really hot if I remember correctly.  So, playing at Clemson was pretty intimidating.  We played at LSU the next season, and that was tough, but Clemson was probably the toughest place to play in my opinion."
For the first nationally-televised football game at Clemson, Georgia faced the Tigers in Death Valley for the third game of its 1985 season.  With the Bulldogs leading the Tigers 17 to 13 midway through the fourth quarter and Clemson approaching midfield, Little intercepted a Randy Anderson pass, prompting CBS-TV's Brent Musburger to erupt, "It's Little—the roverback has done it for Georgia!  It is the most glamorous position on that Georgia team!...The number-one man in Georgia that the fans want to know about is, who's going to play rover..."
With just over a minute remaining and Georgia having added a field goal to lead Clemson by a touchdown, Anderson heaved a pass into the end zone from the Bulldogs' 36-yard line.  Little dove in the air literally over the intended Tiger receiver, making a spectacular interception and clinching a 20-13 victory for the Bulldogs—Georgia's first win at Clemson in nine years.  Little's memorable two-interception performance earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors; it would be more than two years later before another Bulldogs' defensive back received the same recognition.
Whether having a performance which earns conference defensive player of the week honors in one season, or the head coach declaring the All-American roverback in jeopardy of being demoted to a second-teamer the next, Little doesn't remember much in regards to individual play from either of his distinguished performances against the Tigers.  Instead, what stands out the most regarding the Georgia-Clemson rivalry came when he was merely standing on the sidelines.
"Honestly, the time we played Clemson on Labor Day night the year I was redshirted sticks out the most for me," Little said referring to the 1982 meeting and that season's opener.  "We were down [7 to 0] but then [Dale Carver] blocked a punt for a touchdown to tie it, and Sanford Stadium went nuts.  I didn't play, but that was my first game experience at the University of Georgia, and [the 13-7 victory] was phenomenal!" 
Although he likely wouldn't acknowledge it, what was also phenomenal, but not all that surprising, was Little's recovery from his game against Clemson four years later as a senior.  Just a week following the loss, he made a critical second-quarter interception at South Carolina, leading to a touchdown in an eventual five-point victory.  Against Kentucky, Little scored his only touchdown while at Georgia, intercepting a Wildcat pass and returning it 46 yards for a score—what would be the only interception return for a touchdown by a UGA player over a span of 64 consecutive regular-season games (September 1983 to November 1988).  Moving positions for similar reasons why Hoage was moved from roverback three seasons before, Little played most of the 1986 season at safety, ending the campaign with an interception against Boston College in the Hall of Fame Bowl.
Little (extreme right) is mobbed by teammates (L to R)
Tony Mangram, Calvin Ruff, and Gary Moss following
his diving, game-winning interception vs. the Tigers.
In 1985, Little had been recognized as a first-team All-American by the Football News.  By season's end a year later, he had received the same honor from the same magazine, in addition to being selected by the Walter Camp Foundation.  To date, Little remains one of just approximately a dozen Bulldogs to be recognized at the end of two seasons as a first-team All-American. 
Just a couple of months before the end of the 1986 season, Dooley had claimed Little had to "earn" his starting job.  I'm guessing the head coach would be the first to declare it was a job absolutely well earned by one of the greatest defenders in UGA football history.
At the end of his tenure at Georgia, Little's 381 career tackles, 18 passes broken up, 5 forced fumbles, and 10 interceptions ranked 5th, 3rd, 3rd, and 10th, respectively, all time at UGA.  Invited to play in the 1987 Senior Bowl, Little helped the South to a victory over the North by intercepting a pass thrown by then-Michigan quarterback, now-49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.
After not being chosen in the NFL Draft, Little was invited for a tryout with the Miami Dolphins.  Eventually earning a free agent contract, he was a member of the team for nearly four months until leaving the squad only a few weeks prior to the Dolphins' regular-season opener.  
For 25 years, Little has worked for Georgia Crown Distributing.  He lives in the Columbus, GA, area and in his spare time, he's very involved with his two teenage boys' travel baseball teams.  Therefore, Little might see the Bulldogs in person once or twice each fall.  "I don't miss them on TV though; I still love my Dawgs!" he added. 
And, there's no way he'll miss his beloved Dawgs come August 30th against Clemson.
"You know, when I was at Georgia, to a lot of us, the rivalry with Clemson was as big as Georgia-Florida, if not bigger," Little said towards the end of our conversation.  "They had a lot of players from the state of Georgia, but we had about four or five standouts from South Carolina: Clarence Kay, Tron Jackson, Kenny Sims, Norris Brown... (who all together happened to be members of only the 1982 Georgia team)."  He continued, "There was so much atmosphere and electricity for that game in 1982—the previous two national champions playing against one another, on ABC-TV on Labor Day night, under newly-installed lights...  it was like it was the 'Game of the Decade.'"
By way of the Georgia-Clemson rivalry, John Little was not only proof that after apparently a poor outing, one can recover and perform as well as before, if not better, but evidence that Georgia's big "TEAM"-little "me" philosophy instilled into him more than 30 years ago is still obvious today.

August 8, 2014

Say Cheese!

Picture Day was a little easier back when Quincy
commanded a crowd in '98, and especially when
the likes of DAWG! and Rusty Gillespie roamed
the practice fields in '84.
Yesterday, I was given details regarding Georgia's annual picture day or "Fan Day," or "Fans' Picture Day," if you prefer, happening a week from tomorrow. 
I surprise some people when I inform them I've been to only one picture day in my life, and that was 30 years ago.  Therefore, I'm rather unaccustomed to some of the current event's specifics.  For example, for access to Coach Richt and Uga IX, special ticket coupons are requiredand just 150 of those are even available.  From the time the ticket coupons are handed out until Richt is actually accessible to those select few is a span of, oh, only six hours.  Also, as far as getting memorabilia signed by players, coaches, etc., fans are limited to two items per person.  And, UGA actually provides those two items in the form of 2014 Football Schedule posters; no other memorabilia can be brought inside picture day.
This all is likely not news to a lot of you, but it certainly was to me.  Apparently, besides being a big UGA football devotee, a requirement for attending a picture day of late is having a lot of patience. 
The event's modern-day guidelines got me thinking back to a time when picture day was, well, simpler.  A lasting image I have in my head is one of Quincy Carter in 1998, being mobbed by fans while signing much more than football schedule posters.  I also think back to my lone picture day when there were hardly any lines, and absolutely no wait at all if you found the right player, or Dawg.

When my sister and I were let free to roam the Woodruff practice fields in August 1984, my plan for the two-hour event was to first seek out those standing by their lonesome (I guess I didn't have much patience back then either.).  I first came across "Fluffie" or "Fluffie Dawg."  For you older Dog fans, do you remember UGA football's first costumed mascot, preceding the renowned Hairy Dawg by several years?  Although the first, Fluffie had become a distant second to Hairy in popularity by 1984, and would soon disappear altogether.  Nevertheless, on picture day 30 years ago, he signed the cover of a media guide I had brought into the event with simply, "DAWG!"

I next turned to a player standing alone that I didn't recognize.  I'll never forget, the player took my media guide, mumbled something on the order of, "I think I'm in here somewhere," and found and then signed his bio photo.  Senior Rusty Gillespie, a walk-on second-stringer at both placekicker and punter, was indeed featured in the media guide, but was actually the only one listed without a jersey number.  Regardless, Gillespie was a standout JV kicker for UGA, and would defeat Georgia Tech just over three months later with a game-winning field goal to capture the 50th annual Bullpups-Baby Jackets game.  Last I heard, Gillespie was an assistant coach at Kell High in Marietta, appropriately coaching kickers and punters.

I don't remember much from picture day of 1984, except for my memorable autographs from DAWG! and Gillespie, I only had to waita short waitin a line, maybe two, and above all, everything seemed rather laidback and easy.

Georgia's annual "Picture Day" was even more so effortless, yet perhaps more eventful, when it began to become popular during the 1970s, or when the media first started covering the event. 

At Picture Day in 1975, the greatest defensive coordinator
and mascot in football were both easily accessible.  And,
apparently, Uga III was even available for doggie rides.
In 1975, the Bulldogs were coming off a disappointing 6-6 season the year before, and were actually supposed to be even worse in the upcoming campaign.  The preseason predictions for '75 were said to be the "worst ever in Dooley's regime."  Yet, at picture day that year held literally on the field at Sanford Stadium, Georgia's head coach seemed to know something few others were aware of.  The always-pessimistic Dooley was unusually upbeat and optimistic, prompting a photographer to say, "Usually Dooley is down.  I never heard him say such good things [about his team]."  Picked to finish towards the bottom of the SEC, Dooley and his "Junkyard Dogs" would soon embark on a nine-win regular season resulting with a major bowl appearance.

Five years later on August 16, 1980, Georgia held what was believed to be the then-most attended Picture Day ever with approximately 2,000 fans.  Dooley unveiled the new pants his squad would be sporting that season—silver britches—while Leroy Dukes, a member of the last Georgia team to wear silver britches in 1963, was present passing out hats and bumper stickers declaring, "Go You Silver Britches."  Still, the day's biggest attraction was a true freshman tailback and wearer of those britches—Herschel Walker.

"I sure wasn’t expecting this," Walker said of the '80 Picture Day. "But I’m having a good time even though I’ve never held so many babies in my life."

After a young boy got Walker’s autograph, he asserted, "He’s the greatest football player in the country," and like Dooley had in 1975, the boy seemingly knew of something few others were aware of: "[Herschel's] going to make Georgia the best football team in the country."  And, we all know how the 1980 season transpired.
In 1986, the annual summer event essentially resulted in a noteworthy moment in the history of UGA athletics.  Henry King Stanford, who had been appointed the school's Interim President just a few months before, was seemingly unaware of the team's racial makeup until attending picture day.  There, he noticed "about half" the team was black, yet there were no African Americans serving on the Georgia Athletic Association Board of Directors at the time.  What soon followed was, according to Stanford, "I appointed two black colleagues to that board."
By the late 1990s, the spectacle Herschel "wasn't expecting" had grown even bigger.  In 1999, picture day attracted 5,000 fans and included representatives from every UGA team for the first time.  In 2000, it moved from the practice fields to inside for the first time at Stegeman Coliseum.  The next year—Coach Richt's first at UGA—the event moved again to the Classic Center.  For the first time, fans were asked to limit photographs, but the event still had a taste of the old by lasting just two hours.
By the mid-2000s, Picture Day had become a grand
event for many in the Bulldog Nation... if one was
willing to wait and try to find room to breath. 
It was a few years into the Richt era when UGA's picture day, or "Fan Day" as it was being called by then, began being distinguished not necessarily by foretelling coaches and fans, quotable players, or notable moments like in the past, but more so its sheer numbers of attending fans and how long they all waited in lines.
By 2003, picture day had increased to a four-hour event.  The next year, an estimated record 7,500 fans attended, including those that were in line by 7 a.m., or six hours before the doors opened.  
Over the last 10 years, Picture Day's location has changed again, but its number of attendees remain high, the lines long, while the guidelines and restrictions persist.  The event is now held at the Reed Plaza area of Sanford Stadium, while from the time the special coupon tickets are distributed until the affair officially ends is a span of a whopping eight hours.
In 2000, new offensive line coach Doug Marrone was astonished with the event, exclaiming, "I've never seen anything like this at a Picture Day.  This is really incredible."  You may question his judgement since the current head coach of the Buffalo Bills had just spent four seasons at Georgia Tech. Still, Marrone was witnessing around the time when UGA's Picture Day began its quick but drastic transformation to what it has become today: an event where patience is a virtue for many, and where there would even be a wait for a distant second-string kicker, and a forgotten second-string mascot.

August 1, 2014

The Dogs' "Flaming Hogs"

Seeing Red: An 85-year redheaded transition, of  
sorts, from (top) Leathers and Maddox to (bottom)
Theus, Kublanow, and Pyke. 
I'll warn you in advance: this week's post is rather random...   Nevertheless, shortly after reading another article indicating that redheads could become extinct (I thought that theory was put to rest a few years ago?), it dawned on me that this season's Red and Black squad is certainly and remarkably represented by redheaded players.

Redheads, which are thought to make up only between 2 and 8 percent of the American population, are represented at Georgia by John Theus, Brandon Kublanow, and Greg Pykeall of whom are offensive lineman, and all of whom may very well start in 2014.  What are the chances?  Well, I decided to figure it out using some roughvery roughmath.

Considering the population of redheads in our country, plus a couple of other factors which I won't bore you by explaining their details, I eventually figured that the probability of a major college team featuring at least three redheads of its starting five offensive linemen is roughly 1 in 15,000.  In other words, the entirety of FBS football should average having a team with a trio of starting redheaded offensive linemen about once every 120 years.  Phenomenal!  I thought to myself, because of such rarity, this Bulldog threesome is most deserving of a nickname of some kind.

The first nickname which popped in my head was one given to a group of Bulldogs from 85 years ago: the "Flaming Sophs of '29."  There were 12 members of the Flaming Sophs, eight of whom were starters (of just 11 positions) on Georgia's 1929 team.  Led by this distinguished dozen, the Bulldogs compiled a respectable 21-8-1 record in three seasons, including a 12-0 combined mark vs. Georgia Tech, Auburn, Yale, and UNC.  In October of this group's initial season, it dedicated Sanford Stadium with an upset over Yale; and in October of its final season, it was recognized by some in the media as college football's best team of 1931.

The Flaming Sophs featured a redheaded pair regarded as one of the best guard tandems in football, each of whom was even nicknamed for their hair color: Milton "Red" Leathers and Ralph "Red" Maddox.  Both were All-Southern linemen; Maddox was also a first-team All-American in 1930, while Leathers eventually became the first Athenian to play in the NFL.  

According to another UGA football historian, it was the hair color of the two Reds why the entire group was nicknamed the "Flaming Sophs" in the first place.  However, I personally haven't found any evidence of such, believing the nickname was actually given in retrospect, while the sophomores were regarded as "flaming" not because two of the 12 members had red hair, but likely because the dozen instantly became an integral part of the Georgia program as mere sophomores.  Still, led by Red Leathers and Red Maddox, the Flaming Sophs were appropriately nicknamed.    
As for the current three RedsTheus, Kublanow, and Pykethe nickname "Flaming Sophs II" wouldn't work; although Kublanow and Pyke are sophomores, Theus is a junior.  And, the "Flaming Linemen" just doesn't have a good ring to it.

Since I'm high on the hogthat is, a big fan of the Hog Index, which comparatively measures the strength of a team's offensive lineGeorgia's "hogs" have performed rather well the last two seasons (ranking 2nd in 2013 and 5th in 2012 of the Bulldogs' annual offensive lines the last 19 seasons), and Georgia will likely look to Theus, Kublanow, and Pyke to be three of the team's lead hogs in 2014, I thought it was appropriate to consider the moniker the "Flaming Hogs" for the Dogs' 1-in-15,000-chance redheaded threesome.
Whether nicknamed or not, and perhaps we should wait to see if the trio is actually deserving of one beyond their rarity, Georgia's three flaming linemen have a tough act to follow in 2014 behind the two famed Reds who spearheaded the Flaming Sophs of '29.   

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.