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July 19, 2012

An Historical Opening Act

As I've indicated before, the opening game of the 2012 season versus Buffalo is significant in the annals of UGA football as the contest will mark the 40th anniversary of the first African Americans  Horace King, Larry West, and Chuck Kinnebrew  to appear in a varsity football game for the Bulldogs.  But in addition, the 1972 season opener against Baylor was somewhat of an historical event for other reasons, as well.

Georgia's 24-14 affair with Baylor in 1972 was significant for
reasons other than a victory over the presumed-lowly Bears. 
Before we know it, this year's freshman class will report to campus for its initial collegiate football practice.  It wasn't too terribly long ago that this annual event simply signified the formation of UGA's freshman Bullpups squad, little more.  However, this all changed in early January of 1972 when the NCAA voted to allow true freshmen to participate in varsity football and basketball going forward; Bullpups could now also be Bulldogs

At the time, the Southeastern Conference opposed the ruling, as did UGA athletic director Joel Eaves and head football coach Vince Dooley. 

"Freshmen just aren't ready [to play football]," said Dooley in April 1972.  "It's a poor rule."

Nevertheless, two days prior to the Baylor game on September 16, 1972, eight of Georgia's more than 40 incoming freshmen were told they would dress out as varsity members against the Bears.

The Bulldogs were coming off an 11-1 campaign in 1971, were preseason ranked 17th in the nation, and considered a darkhorse contender for the national title.  On the other hand, 28-point underdog Baylor had slumped to a 1-9 record the year before and was led by a first-year young Bear coach in his 30s, who had just spent three seasons at Angelo State  Grant Teaff.

There was no doubt Dooley would get  to play all eight freshmen; in fact, some questioned why the coach didn't dress out all 40+ in what was assumed to be a blowout victory. 

Speaking of blowout, notably, the 1972 Baylor game is also significant as it represents one of the biggest failed pranks in UGA football history.  Around 4:30 AM the morning of the game, or more than nine hours prior to kickoff, as the Bears players slept, their Athens motel received an early-morning phone call in attempt to disrupt their sleep. 

"There's a bomb due to go off in your hotel in a few minutes," said the caller.

Come to find out, and as one would expect, there was no bomb planted in the motel.  But not nearly as obvious was who was more senseless: the prank caller, who phoned the motel wing where the Bears were not staying, or the police, who would later tell the press that the bomb threat "apparently came from a Georgia fan."

A Georgia fan?  You're kidding...  Anyway, the Bears apparently got plenty of sleep that night as they trailed the four-touchdown-favored Bulldogs by only four points late in the third quarter, 10-6. 

What about the eight dressed-out freshmen?  According to frosh quarterback Ralph Page, "all of us got to play." 

After the Bulldogs added two quick touchdowns for an 18-point lead, Dooley began inserting the freshmen in an eventual 24-14 victory.  After the win, Page added that his upperclass teammates "were a lot nicer in the game than they are around [McWhorter Hall]." 

In '72 vs. Baylor, Harrison became the
first Bulldog true frosh since 1953 to run the
ball in a varsity game  an achievement
currently not acknowledged by UGA.  
The following are the eight freshmen of '72, who each saw action in their first game as a Bulldog.  You may recognize some of the names: Joe T. continues to this day to work within the program, Steve Wilson would play 10 years in the NFL, while Glynn Harrison's 2,031 career rushing yards ranked 2nd in UGA history (only behind Frank Sinkwich) upon his departure from the school in 1975.

DG- Jim Baker (Columbus, GA)
DT- Cooper Gunby (Thomson, GA)
RB- Glynn Harrison (Decatur, GA)
  C- Will Legg (Athens, GA)
QB- Ralph Page (Mobile, AL)
LB- Stan Tedder (Lawrenceville, GA)    
TE- Joe Tereshinski (Washington, D.C.)
OT- Steve Wilson (Macon, GA) 

Speaking of "Gliding" Glynn, Georgia credits him with 2,026 career rushing yards, mistakenly omitting the five yards he gained on two rushes as a true freshman in 1972; both carries coming against Baylor. 

In its record-keeping, UGA apparently had a difficult time in recognizing the efforts of its true freshmen.  Its head football coach, on the other hand, did not.

"The best two hits I saw all day were by freshmen [Stan Tedder and Jim Baker]," Dooley said after the game. 

Whether by the end of the '72 Baylor game or eight years later when an 18-year-old named Herschel arrived on campus, Dooley most certainly had a change of heart regarding freshman eligibility as a "poor rule," but rather believed that some freshmen are indeed ready to play football.  

1 comment:

Brad Taylor said...

Haha, I remember Gliding Glynn Harrison. Must mean I am old. I write a blog also and I am here researching some old Georgia Running Backs. http://collegefootballcrazy.com