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November 13, 2014

GEORGIA-AUBURN: A Tremendous Transformation (for the most part)

Evidently a photo of the 1892 Georgia-Auburn
game, which pitted doctors against one another.
Initially posted a couple of years ago, an updated/edited piece of mine regarding the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry:

Saturday's game between Georgia and Auburn marks the 118th meeting in the 122 years of Georgia versus Auburn. In 1892, the schools faced off for the first time opposing a couple of doctors against one another as head coaches (Dr. Charles Herty of Georgia, Dr. George Petrie of Auburn). It was only Georgia's second game ever in its brief football history, and  Auburn's first. Other commonly known details from the initial meeting include the game was played at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, while the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama would unfortunately be victorious, 10-0.  

The game in 1892 also featured a football field 110 yards long, only three downs, no passing allowed, and the play resembled more of a rugby-like scrum than what we commonly know today as football. Divided into only two halves, games were much shorter back then, as well.  The meeting at Piedmont Park, for example, started at 3:30 PM and ended just past 5:00 PM.

Most notably for many UGA followers, the team was represented by a goat as a mascot. As for Auburn, legend has it an eagle broke loose from a faculty member during the game, circled the field, eventually fell to the ground dead, and thus the "War Eagle" battle cry.

Notwithstanding, there are several details of the 1892 Georgia-Auburn affair which are unfamiliar to mostsome remaining hardly spoken perhaps by design. Still, such details undoubtedly indicate the rivalry has come a long way in more than 120 years.
Sketch of first mascots: 
Sir William and Dabble 

It was said that "thousands of men, women, and children flocked to Piedmont Park" in "vast armies" for an estimated game attendance of 3,000 spectators. Plus, a grandstand was erected at the field to hold 10,000 people, and organizers expected nearly every seat to be filled. However, bad weather of dark clouds and a steady rain kept a few people awaylike merely 70 percent of what was expectedand the thousands of dollars of anticipated gate receipts resulted in only $800.  

What would be unheard of today, 150 Georgia Tech students were not only part of the attendance, but actually rooted for Georgia while wearing their neighbor's school colors of "black and crimson." Not surprising, however, during the game the Techies began loudly and curiously singing, "I love codfish, I love codfish, I love codfish balls." Although Tech students nowadays wouldn't be caught dead at a Georgia game (they hardly go to their own team's games), they evidently were as strange and as big of nerds back then as they are today: codfish balls? Really?

As mentioned, Georgia trotted out its acclaimed goat, Sir William owned by Bob Gantt, who was greeted with shouts of "Shoot the Billy goat!" from the Auburn faithful. Actually, prior to the contest, it had been strongly suggested (you can read at my UGA Nickname & Mascot History page) that 79-year-old "Old Tub," a blind black man, be the school's mascot for the game instead of a goat.

On the other hand, Auburn did indeed feature an African American as its mascot for the meeting in Atlanta. Before any tiger, eagle, or cry of "War Eagle," the school had Dabble, "the negro boy," who was greeted with cries of "And take the negro out!" from the Red and Black rooters. But Dabble, as it was reported, ignored the shouts and "walked on calmly...across the field to his place near the judges' stand." You go Dabble!

Over the span of 122 years, things have certainly been transformed in the Georgia-Auburn rivalry, the sport of football in general, and in our nation's Deep South, and thank goodness for those changes.

However, in my research of the series' first game, I discovered a few details which indicate other aspects of the Georgia-Auburn rivalry have actually changed very little since 1892.
How things have changed...  From shouts
of  And take the negro out! at the first 
Georgia-Auburn game to having a black 
man as President of the United States.

Over the years, we've all known the die-hard UGA football eternal optimists; some of us may be one of them. The very first of these assured individuals was quoted just prior to his team's 10-0 setback: "Why, our Athens men can beat anything on earth playing football," declared an old gray-haired man from Athens. "We can beat Yale, Harvard, Princeton or what not, and I'd bet my last nickel on it!"

Auburn halfback Rufus "Dutch" Dorsey, a Georgia native, scored the game's first touchdown (thus, tallying the Auburn program's first-ever points) on a rush from less than a yard out, and then followed it up with another touchdown covering 40 yards. After the game, a disgruntled Red and Black player proclaimed to the Auburn team, "Well, you Alabama folks can't crow over Georgia, for you owe your victory to a Georgia boy." Unfortunately for us UGA fans, a Georgia boy playing for Auburn and being an integral part of a victory over our team would become a recurring trend during the long-standing rivalry.

Finally, leading up to the game, there was some controversy brewing in regards to Auburn's practice sessions: "They say Auburn has had a professional training their men down there," declared a newspaper.  Therefore, long ago using a professional trainer, recently featuring a professional-like, 180,000-dollar pay-to-play quarterback, and several others utilized in between, Auburn just can't help itself from cheating throughout the long history of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

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