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December 10, 2009

Tommy Lugin-bleep

I was flipping around the TV last Saturday morning, came across SportsCenterU on ESPNU, and witnessed someone who I hadn't seen in a long time--Tom Luginbill--current college football analyst for ESPN and former Georgia Tech quarterback (Photo).

The last time I had seen Luginbill, it sounded like the entire UGA student section at Sanford Stadium was chanting his name; however, instead of "Luginbill," the Bulldog faithful were hollering "Lugin-(starts with a "b" and rhymes with witch)" on the particular night I recall more than 15 years ago. 

Luginbill's "story" is rather interesting in how it pertains to UGA football.  Let's go back...

In 1994, Tommy, as he was known then, Luginbill came to Georgia Tech after a two-season stint at a California junior college.  There, he was a big-time JUCO All-American and seemingly ready for major college football.

Tommy's father, Al, had been Georgia Tech's head coach Bill Lewis' defensive coordinator while Lewis was the head coach at Wyoming from 1977-1979.  Lewis was Georgia's secondary coach in 1980 and was then promoted to defensive coordinator after Erk Russell left, where he remained until Coach Dooley retired in 1988.

Luginbill was lured to Tech with the promise from Lewis that the Yellow Jackets would run more of a pass-oriented offense.

The once-heralded Donnie Davis, Tech's popular and starting quarterback in 1993 and a junior in '94, was involved in a heated competition with Luginbill for the starting position in spring and summer practices.  In late August, Lewis handed Luginbill the starter's role and Davis was eventually moved to backup receiver; the move caused strife amongst some of the Yellow Jacket players.

Georgia Tech opened the '94 season against seventh-ranked Arizona and nearly defeated the Wildcats, Luginbill playing admirably.  Through the first half of the season, the quarterback continued to be impressive but the Jackets kept losing.  Around midseason, Luginbill's play resembled the rest of his team's and both struggled down the stretch.  Coach Lewis was fired after eight games and in stepped interim coach George O'Leary.

By the Georgia game on November 25, Georgia Tech's morale was at an all-time low and Luginbill, although he had completed 56% of his passes for more than 2,000 yards and thrown for more touchdowns than interceptions (14/11) for a miserable team, was deemed a "disastrous choice," according to the Atlanta Constitution, by Lewis as quarterback over one-time starter Davis.

The Yellow Jackets slumped into Athens on the Friday after Thanksgiving--the last time Georgia played a home game not on a Saturday--16-point underdogs and with a 1-9 record only four years removed from winning a national title; it's only victory in '94 coming against I-AA Western Carolina.  Georgia, on the other hand, was just 5-4-1 and trying to keep its own coach, Ray Goff, from getting the boot.

In the second quarter, Tech and Luginbill were keeping it close, 17-10.  Georgia's All-American Eric Zeier suddenly left the game with an injury.  Just as the Techies believed a victory was within their grasp, backup Mike Bobo, a freshman who had thrown only 11 passes all season, led the Bulldogs on a scoring binge.

Georgia's defense, which had been terrible that season, allowing more than 27 points and 400 yards per game, suddenly looked like the Steelers' old Steel Curtain.  Tech would score no more points and Luginbill was benched in favor of freshman Graham Stroman.

Bobo passed for more than 200 yards and, along with Zeier, to date, became only one of two pairs of Georgia quarterbacks to each throw for 100+ yards in a single game since 1991 (other being David Greene and D.J. Shockley vs. Kentucky in 2002).

In addition, Georgia's Terrell Davis rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns while the Bulldog defenders intercepted three passes, two thrown by Luginbill.  The first was corralled by current Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

Five months later, Davis was named Tech's starting quarterback for the '95 campaign by Head Coach O'Leary during spring practice and Luginbill decided to transfer after only one season on The Flats.  On why he was transferring, Luginbill said, "The reason why ... I don't want to get into too deeply right now. ... I want you to understand and know it has nothing to do with who's going to be the starting quarterback."

Only a week later in early May of '95, reports were released on how Luginbill was harassed by several teammates after supplanting Davis as Tech's starting quarterback the year before; the abuse he supposedly endured was almost unbearable.

"There were guys on the team sending letters to me saying, 'We don't want you here,' saying I should leave," Luginbill said. "I'd get notes on my car. My girlfriend would get them on her car."  

Luginbill stated that, once he had beaten out Davis for the starting job, "it wasn't a good situation. We had the team split on who they wanted to be the quarterback."

"To be honest, I think [the team splitting] had quite a bit to do with [Georgia Tech's poor showing in '94]," Luginbill said. "People seemed to be putting so much energy toward their unhappiness and not putting it toward winning games. It was ridiculous. . . . I truly believe one of the main problems last year was that we had too many guys griping and moaning."

The former Yellow Jacket also commented that he didn't believe Coach Lewis knew about the abuse he was taking until Luginbill's daddy, Al, informed the coach.

After insisting he was not transferring because of being demoted behind Davis, Luginbill claimed the treatment he received from his teammates did not influence his decision to transfer either.   

After deciding to transfer to Portland State, Luginbill changed his mind and instead went to Eastern Kentucky.

Somewhat confused at the time, I now realize why the UGA students were calling Tech's quarterback of 1994 "Lugin-_____."  Knowing what I know now, the student section should have also directed their banter at the rest of the complaining and divided Yellow Jackets.

I didn't mean for this post to turn into The Life and Times of Tommy Luginbill.  I'll follow this up tomorrow with what he said on ESPNU last Saturday.  Based on the "statistical determination" he gave, it appears Tommy learned a thing or two in the math courses he took during his one year at The Georgia Institute of Technology.


Anonymous said...

You obviously don't watch any of the ESPNU high school recruiting shows because Tom has been a part of that show for the last few years. He also announced some of the high school games on ESPN.

Patrick Garbin said...

Nope, I don't watch. First time I'd seen the guy in more than 15 years...

Anonymous said...

don't remember the taunting of luginbill, but i remember the game very well. it was really weird to play on a friday night. dogs whooped tech. awesome blog! keep up good work !

Unknown said...

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