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May 15, 2009

Victories Lost?


I was recently looking on the College Football Data Warehouse website, which provides a plethora of information on the world's greatest sport, and noticed it credits Georgia with 724 victories in its history. However, the NCAA, the University of Georgia, and most everyone else recognizes the Bulldogs with 723 wins all time, ranking 11th highest of Division 1-A schools.
I looked into things further and found that the CFB Data Warehouse acknowledges a 5-0 win over the "Atlanta Olympians" in Athens (newspaper clipping prior to 1909 Georgia-Atlanta Olympians game courtesy of The Atlanta Constitution) to open the 1909 season on October 2. Seemingly, everyone else claims the '09 season did not start until a week later with a 0-0 tie with Citadel. I began to search through my Georgia football resources and archived newspapers and discovered, in fact, the Red and Black opened both the 1908 and 1909 seasons with wins over the Olympians--victories not recognized in the school's official football records.
On October 3, 1908, Georgia defeated "The Olympians of Atlanta" at Athens' Herty Field by a score of 29 to 5. Not much was reported about the game besides the Olympians were captained by Dan Sage--interestingly, Georgia's team captain three seasons earlier in 1905.
The following season on October 2, Georgia was scheduled to host Dahlonega but, for whatever reason, the visitor "dropped out" and the Olympians took its place on Georgia's slate. The star of a 5-0 Red and Black victory was on the losing end--quarterback Frank Dobson of the Olympians. The bizarre thing about Dobson is he had been an assistant coach (yes, a coach not player) at Georgia Tech the season before and by the end of the 1909 season, was Georgia's head coach! This may be the only time in college football history an individual played against and coached for the same team in the very same season. Dobson is a very interesting story himself; I'll post something about him within the next couple weeks. In the second half of the game, Georgia halfback John Cox scored on a run up the middle and the Red and Black held a 5-0 lead (touchdowns counted for five points from 1898 to 1911) it would not relinquish. Georgia's point-after was missed.
The reason I believe Georgia does not regard these victories as official games is because they likely were thought of as exhibitions, especially since "The Olympians of Atlanta" sound like some sort of club team instead of one from a particular college. Also, it appears the Olympians were made up of former college football players.
Nevertheless, there are some reasons to believe these two games should be acknowledged in the football annals of the school. Georgia has played "official" games versus teams made up of college all-stars or former football players in the past, primarily during World War II (e.g., Daniel Field), and also against squads not from traditional colleges but "prepatory" schools (e.g., Locust Grove). In addition, not once in the archives are the games against the Olympians referred to as exhibition or practice contests.
The argument can be made that the 1908 and 1909 Atlanta Olympians games are not recognized since the opponent is not associated with a college or university, however, other college programs count such games from the past. For instance, I recently did research for a publisher releasing a book on Southern Cal football and became well accustomed to the history of its program. One-hundred years ago and more, the Trojans played the likes of Los Angeles and Santa Ana High Schools, San Diego YMCA, and SC Prep--all teams not associated with any college but recognized as official games in USC football history.
Towards the end of the 1909 season, in several of its issues, The Atlanta Constitution printed game results for southern football teams of interest--Georgia, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Sewanee, Clemson, Alabama, Mercer, and Tennessee. Listed as Georgia's first result was a 5-0 win over the "Olympians." It seemed 100 years ago the Red and Black's victories over a club team counted, so why would they not be recognized later by UGA? Especially when other schools, like the USC Trojans, uphold games against similar opposition.
Now, the difference between 723 and 725 victories do not seem like a big deal. But, just think, should Dawg fans have celebrated the program's 700th victory against Ole Miss in late September of 2006 rather than versus Auburn six weeks later? (I know, it's still not that big of a deal.)

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