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November 6, 2015

The Despair of Butts and the Bear

Considering it's Georgia-Kentucky week, I have a story to tell about legendary coaches and friends Wally Butts and Bear Bryant. 

No, it's not this infamous story, or one nearly as R-rated or humorous as Butts' supposed rant just prior to the start of the 1960 campaign, but of an interesting conversation between the two during the 1947 season when Butts was in his ninth season at Georgia, Bryant his second at Kentucky.

The Wildcats threw the visiting and two-touchdown-favored Bulldogs a party the night before the game at Lexington's Keeneland Race Track. Butts and Bryant sat together, along with a newspaper reporter within earshot, recording the two discouraged coaches, who were filled with so much pessimism, it's difficult to comprehend.

BUTTS: "I don't know what we'll do if we have to substitute our ends."
BRYANT: "Tell you want I'll do, I'll trade you six [ends] for either [Wayne] Sellers or [Dan] Edwards."
BUTTS: "Including [Wallace] Jones and [Dick] Hensley?"
BRYANT: "Including all of 'em."

BUTTS: "Anyway, we're pitiful in reserves at that position."

BRYANT: "Well, I just hope you'll take it easy on us. We're building for the future."
BUTTS: "That's a laugh. You've got the best material in the league."
BRYANT: "At one time, I might have had, but you know 12 of them quit."

BUTTS: "Anyway, every time I look at the North Carolina pictures (Georgia had been defeated by UNC two weeks before), I see how bad an offense we have."

BRYANT: "It'll look good [against us] tomorrow night."
BUTTS: "You're kidding now. It couldn't possibly look good. We just don't have the personnel."

BUTTS: "I'll tell you this, that Alabama is going to beat the dickens out of somebody before the season is over and I'll guess it'll be ol' Georgia."

BRYANT: "Yea, you're right. But, instead of Georgia, it'll be Kentucky. We don't have a chance to win a conference game."

Notably, Alabama wound up beating the dickens out of Georgia and Kentucky that season. But, the Wildcats did win a conference gametwo of them, in fact, including a 26-0 upset over the Bulldogs the following night. Still, Butts and his boys would get revenge on the Bear the following season, easily handling Kentucky in Athens, 35-12.

Soon afterwards during the spring, another writer, the acclaimed Grantland Rice, discovered the two head coaches together again talking football and, again, at a Kentucky race trackthe Kentucky Derby, to be exact.

At the time, the Bulldogs and the Wildcats were considered arguably the top two teams in the SEC. Therefore, perhaps the gloomy outlooks of the coaches had been transformed into viewpoints of optimismor, maybe not. 

When Rice asked Butts and Bryant which schools would contend for the conference crown the upcoming season, the coaches agreed on a pair of teams undoubtedly the strongest in the SEC... Tennessee and LSU.

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