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February 26, 2010

Recognizing the 1910 Red & Black

Image from the University's Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library—photo of the 1910 team secured on a piece of cardboard with the Georgia-GA Tech score from that season written at its top.

Over the next couple months, I'm going to post a few entries about the Georgia football team from exactly 100 years ago—the 1910 Red and Black squad—likely the best at UGA in the program's first three decades. 

I'm rather familiar with this Georgia squad.  For one of my books, I did extensive research on the team and found its players and head coach, details of games/practices, and the overall "goings on" of the school at the time, to be some of the most unusual and fascinating accounts in all of my research on UGA football (of course, it was a century ago).

To fully appreciate the 1910 Red and Black football team, you have to first understand its foundation, or lack thereof.

(The UGA football team did not have an official nickname until 1920 when "Bulldogs" was adopted. Until then, Georgia was labeled by several nicknames, most predominantly "the Red and Black.")

This was a program that, on the whole, had been quite sub-par since its beginning in 1892, registering a losing 50-53-10 overall record (and I include these four "unofficial" games, three of which are victories). 

Call the 1892-1909 Georgia squads the South Carolina Gamecocks of the last 20 years—mostly average teams, several stinkers, and only a couple campaigns that were noteworthy.

In 1909, Georgia had a record of just 2-4-2 and scored a total of only 19 points the entire season.  In fact, the Red and Black's offense had been far from potent for quite some time entering 1910, scoring just 46 points in its last 14 games dating back to late October of 1908.  That's an average of a whopping 3.3 points per game! 

As far as the 1910 season, Georgia was envisioned to be no better than the last several years; five of the previous seven seasons ended in losing campaigns.

The Red and Black returned only five players from the year before and, of the 1910 newcomers, the most promising recruits failed to meet the school's entrance requirements.  Also, the schedule was alleged to be very difficult despite starting the season against two prep schools—Locust Grove and the Gordon Institute—at UGA's Herty Field.

"The football prospects for Georgia are not brightening by any means," declared Joseph Brown of The Atlanta Constitution the day before the Locust Grove game.

To make matters worse, the team apparently wasn't even properly equipped for the rigors of its upcoming season.  "An attempt is being made to get a training table for the team," reported Brown, "but it is not definitely decided yet that it can be secured." 

You're familiar with the old saying/excuse, "We're just two players away..."  Looking back at Georgia from 1910, it was a legitimate motto for the team as it entered the season.  Except for two players, the Red and Black was just two people—a player and a coach—away from being successful. 

I seriously doubt anyone, not even those two individuals—halfback Bob McWhorter and head coach Alex Cunningham—remotely had a clue the impact they were about to make on UGA and southern football.

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