rent like champion

November 27, 2013

** Double the Dispute **

Seventy years ago, Bill Rutland (center) and Johnny
Cook (No. 10) tackle a Yellow Jacket ballcarrier...
Looks likes a real Georgia-Georgia Tech game to me.
During every Thanksgiving week for the last five years, it's a tradition, so to speak, here at the About Them Dawgs! Blawg, where the post is annually updated, but its message always remains the same.  It's an opinion that I'm not proud of, nor does most of the Bulldog Nation support, but one I've argued for quite some time.  It's a stance giving our hated rival to the southwest some creditan intrastate adversary, despite my opinion, that I hate with a passion:
 
I do not like The Georgia Institute of Technology, and especially hate its football  program.  I cherish the fact that after winning 20 combined games in 2008 and 2009, Coach Paul Johnson and his high school offense will soon lose five games or more for the fourth consecutive year.  However, when I started rooting for the Bulldogs in the early 1980s, I felt more sorry for Tech than actually disliking the Wramblin' Wreck.  "Hate" is a strong word, and it was more reserved for the likes of Clemson, Auburn, and maybe Florida.
 
In 1984, my feelings of pity were instantly altered when I witnessed an underdog Georgia Tech team come into Athens, soundly defeat my Bulldogs, and tear up Sanford Stadium's beautiful hedges afterwards.  The next day, on the cover of the sports section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tech coach Bill Curry was pictured loving on John Dewberry, a transfer from Georgia two years earlier.  Worse, Dewberry, the winning quarterback of the Yellow Jackets, had torn off a piece of our beloved hedges.

This exhibition of disrespect will not be accepted, I decided then, nearly 30 years ago.  No longer did I feel sorry for our in-state rival; I felt absolute hatred.

However, there is one, and only one, single issue I do side with our bitter rival.  Most Tech and Georgia football fans are familiar with this controversy and the pair of asterisks that have made it renowned.  If you're NOT familiar with the dispute, I'm sure you'll hear about it this Saturday when watching the 108th, or 106th meeting between Georgia and Georgia Tech; the game's television broadcast mentions it annually without fail.

The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets cannot agree on how many times they've faced one another in football.  Georgia defends a 63-37-5 advantage; Georgia Tech claims a 39-63-5 disadvantage.

The disagreement lies with the games played between the teams in 1943 and 1944both blowout wins for the Yellow Jackets by a combined 92-0 score. Georgia Tech counts the two games, while Georgia does not recognize them in the series results.

By the start of the 1943 football season, World War II was raging. Because of the war, graduation, and injuries, every one of the Bulldogs' lettermen from the 1942 national championship squad was lost.  Of the 38 "men" on Georgia's 1943 roster, 30 were only 16 or 17 years old and too young for the war's draft.  The few remaining players of 18 years and older were only members of the team because they had not met the military's physical standards.

Many of the teams around the country were in the same predicament as Georgia and a good number of schools cancelled their '43 football campaigns.  Only a day before the Bulldogs' season opener, Coach Wally Butts asked his boys if they too wanted to cancel their season.  They refused, joining only three other SEC schools of the conference's 12 members, who decided to field a football team in 1943.

"So we'll play football as long as 11 men are available to put a team on the field," said Butts.

Like Georgia, rival Georgia Tech was one of the four participating schools in the SEC.  However, unlike the Bulldogs, the Yellow Jackets were prospering from the war.

Clean Old-Fashioned Jackasses
As did a few other schools, Georgia Tech benefited from its on-campus Navy V-12 Program, whereas any student who signed up for the program could remain in school and continue playing athletics.  In addition, Tech had a Navy flight school which drew students, including football players, from other universities.

In 1943, not only did the Yellow Jackets return most of their team from the year before but, according to Dan Magilla long-time member of UGA's athletics departmentTech's squad was also joined by the captains of Alabama and Vanderbilt and other players from various schools.  This gave the Jackets an overwhelming advantage over Georgia and it was evident on the gridiron with a 48-0 victory in 1943 and a 44-0 win in 1944.

Soon after his hiring as publicity director of UGA athletics in 1948, Magill told Coach Butts he would no longer count the 1943 and 1944 games in the series record between Tech and Georgia.  In the school's football records, Magill placed asterisks next to the two Bulldog losses because "those were not true Georgia Tech teams," Magill has personally told me before and countless others for decades.
 
"There's no question about it, there's no way they are true Georgia-Georgia Tech games," Magill said.  "There's no question about that.  [Georgia] had a freshman team."
 
Unfortunately, this is where I am in disagreement with one of the greatest Bulldogs of all time, and admittedly side with the enemy.
 
First off, that freshman team for Georgia in 1943 reached as high as No. 20 nationally in the AP Poll during the season.  Entering the Georgia Tech game the following year, the Bulldogs were actually recognized as only a slight underdog; some local bookies even placed even odds on the game.  More significantly, I have a feeling if Georgia would have been victorious in one or both of the '43 and '44 contests, the games would be recognized today in the series results and there would be no asterisks.
 
Both the NCAA and SEC acknowledges the two games as losses for the Bulldogs.  And, actually Georgia also recognizes the losses in its yearly results and all-time record (just not in the series results).
 
Soon after the beginning of the controversy, few stood by Magill on his stance or took his asterisks seriously.  Three years following Magill's debatable decision, the Athens Banner-Herald recognized the '43 and '44 games, announcing the 1951 Georgia-Georgia Tech contest as the "46th Annual Battle," not the 44th.  Magill's statement during the late-50s of "Henceforth our records will refer to those 1943 and 1944 games as Georgia versus the Georgia Tech Navy" was countered by sportswriter Furman Bisher with the following:
                                                                                                    
That being the case, Louisiana State, Wake Forest and Daniel Field, three other teams that defeated Georgia those two years, are expected to be notified in due time that their victories have been revoked.

Let me add, although Georgia basically had an all-freshman team during those two seasons, while Georgia Tech was supported by a Navy program and a few players from other schools, remember, Coach Butts had asked his young team if they wanted to participate, and they agreed to play the '43 season, which included a game against Georgia Tech.  They consented to do so with knowledge of the circumstances and what the consequences might be.
 
"I asked [the 1943 team] frankly if they wanted to pay the price in defeats they'll have to take," said Butts.
 
Considering there were actually very few "bona fide" college football squads from the 1943 and 1944 campaigns, should all of the remaining "non-true" programs revoke their results from the two seasons?  If the Bulldogs were not a "true" team in '43 and '44, should they discount the 13 combined victories they achieved those years?
 
In its early years, Georgia played several athletic clubs featuring former college players and even a preparatory school or two; all of these games are recognized in UGA football's yearly and series results, although they do not seem to be "true" opposition.
 
In 1907, Georgia played against Georgia Tech with at least four "ringers," or former collegiate or professional players from the North, who were paid for their services.  Because of this illegal action, Georgia's head coach would eventually be banned from coaching in the South forever.  The result of the game, a 10-6 Georgia loss, is acknowledged in UGA's yearly and series results.
 
In the first Georgia-Georgia Tech football game of 1893, the Red and Black played a professionally paid trainer at halfback, while three of Tech's five touchdowns were scored by a 28-year-old doctor in the U.S. Army.  In addition, the umpire of the game, who made several controversial calls in favor of Georgia Tech, was the brother of Tech's trainer.  This 28-6 Georgia Tech victory is also recognized by Georgia.
 
In more support of identifying the 1943 and 1944 as true games, I believe author Bill Cromartie might have put it best in his book on the Georgia-Georgia Tech football rivalry, Clean Old-Fashioned Hate:
 
If the games are not official, then the University [of Georgia] boys who got their teeth kicked in (so to speak), played the games for nothing. They would, most likely, want them to count.
 
I personally know Dan Magill well.  Among other things, he is the greatest NCAA tennis coach of all time, the foremost knowledgeable historian of UGA sports, probably has done more for UGA athletics than anyone ever, and is a wonderful and kind individual.  However, and I say this with the utmost respect, I totally disagree with his decision from more than six decades ago regarding the 1943-1944 Georgia-Georgia Tech gamesa decision he still vehemently stands behind today.
 
During the time of Magill's 1948 ruling, unlike when I was growing up, no Georgia football fan felt sympathy for Georgia Tech, just hate.  I suspect part of the decision by "Dangerous Dan," as Bisher tagged him in 1957, was because of this hatred for Georgia's chief rival of the time.
 
Nevertheless, Magill's judgement and asterisks will remain in the UGA football record books forever, whether I, the Yellow Jacket faithful, or anyone else likes it or not.  Personally, I have and can certainly continue to live with the Bulldogs having two less losses to the Jackets, especially if (and God forbid), as was the case when Magill made his determination, Georgia football was to ever falter, while the Eternal Enemy prospered...  
 
Of course, I don't see that happening anytime soon.
 

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