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December 19, 2015

Brother Vs. Brother

With Georgia’s game looming against Penn State in the Gator Bowl (and, yes, that’s the name I still recognize the bowl as), I am reminded of a milestone in both Bulldogs football, and college bowl history occurring more than four decades ago at the old bowl in Jacksonville: Dooley vs. Dooley—Brother vs. Brother.

Following a 9-1 regular season in 1966, and while the Georgia Bulldogs coached by Vince Dooley were packing for the Cotton Bowl to face SMU, the team was minus an integral member: Bill, the other Dooley brother two years younger than Vince, who had been Georgia’s offensive coordinator. Billy, as Vince called him, was packing at the same time too, but heading not to Dallas, but Chapel Hill, N.C., to be the head football coach of the UNC Tar Heels.

Growing up in Mobile, Ala., with two older sisters, Vince and Billy were not extremely close. Like a lot of brothers, they often fought, had their falling outs, and Vince especially thought it was unfair how he, and never Billy, had to wash the family dishes. He could understand maybe when the two were really young, but Vince recalls always doing the dishes as late as 12 years old, and Billy being 10.  However, according to Vince, “let somebody try to pick on the other one, and he had a war on his hands.”

As the brothers grew up, they grew closer. When Billy graduated from high school, he desperately wanted to join Vince at Auburn, where he was a quarterback for the Tigers. However, Auburn wasn’t willing to offer a lineman weighing less than 170 pounds a scholarship, so Billy went the junior college route. And, Vince was there to drive his younger brother around the state of Mississippi as the two decided on a school. After two years of junior college, Billy was finally offered that elusive scholarship to Auburn, but turned it down for Mississippi State because he did not want to follow older brother to school.

Approximately a decade later, when Vince was putting his first Georgia staff together in 1964, he wanted the best offensive line coach he could find. And, “every time I kept inquiring about the best offensive line coach I could get, Billy’s name kept coming up,” Vince has said. “So, I hired him.”

After three seasons in Athens, Billy strung together three consecutive non-winning years as North Carolina’s head man. However, his Tar Heels rebounded for an 8-3 regular season in 1970, and a game better the following year. For the nine-win campaign of 1971, Billy and the ACC championship Heels were rewarded with a trip to the Gator Bowl opposite 10-1 and sixth-ranked Georgia, and the other Dooley, Vince. It would mark the first time in college football history brothers faced off as head coaches in a bowl game.

A few days prior to the game, Vince commented that in some ways he was looking forward to coaching against his brother, but in other ways, he was not. He added that he was normally impersonal with the opposing head coach after kickoff; once the game started, he did not even think about who was on the other side of the field, and he did not believe anything would change simply because he was opposite his brother.

As far as brother Billy, he was cautious as his Tar Heels prepared for the Bulldogs, inspecting North Carolina’s security one afternoon to make sure no one could see inside its practice field’s fences. A reporter asked him, “Surely, you aren’t worried about security and spying when you’re playing against your brother, are you?” Billy responded, “Well, you just never know.”

At a Gator Bowl dinner, Billy was asked about sibling rivalry with Vince when they were younger, and the youngest brother jabbed, “When we were small, he stole my fire engine and I’ve never forgotten it.” But, Vince promptly retorted, “If Bill is still using that as a way to get even in the game, then I’m going to give [his fire engine] back to him.” And, surprisingly, Vince pulled a toy fire engine up from under the table and offered it to his little brother.

After handing over the toy, Vince added that it was he, and not Billy, who had to pay for their two sisters: transportation to and from Jacksonville, tickets to the game, and a hotel room. Billy remarked that he would gladly help out by having the sisters sit on the UNC side.

In a game where Dooley’s Dogs were favored by 10 points—the largest point spread in Georgia’s 51-game bowl history—the Bulldogs barely squeaked by Dooley’s Heels, 7 to 3. Following the contest, as photographers, players, and fans swarmed the head coaches, the brothers only had time for a quick handshake and a brief word.

Still, at least one of the brothers was eager to see the other as soon as possible. “It’s been a tough week for all of us,” said Vince to a reporter just prior to a post-bowl gala and dance being held for the two teams. “I’m going to the dance tonight, see Billy, and talk about this thing more.”

The reporter then asked Vince if he was glad—really glad—he had beaten the Tar Heels, particularly because they were coached by his younger brother. Not really, Vince indicated; remember, once the game started, he did not even think about who was on the other side of the field. However, he added, it would have been a different story “if I were 12, and he were 10, and I still had to wash the dishes.”

December 7, 2015

When less than $3.75 million delivered a HOF coach, & an MVP

For the third straight year, no Bulldogs...
As I write this, looking upon the playing surface at the Georgia Dome prior to the start of the SEC Championship Game, I still find it hard to believe it has been three years since the Bulldogs last appeared in this game, and all while the SEC East has been relatively “down”—or, as was the case this season, really down.

I’m reminded of a story I recently heard, which first circulated around this time 51 years ago—an account of how the Georgia football program, after firing its head coach, instantly turned around upon the appearance of a new addition. And, although a young, first-year head coach and his assistants certainly were a major reason for the Bulldogs’ reversal of fortune in 1964, I do not speak of the arrival of the Vince Dooley coaching regime.

After a lowly 10-16-4 combined mark from 1961 through 1963, Georgia hired Dooley, and then got it, or acquired him, if you prefer—he was recognized by both, but most referred to him simply as “number 94.”

When No. 94 first came on campus that summer, it was said “students and faculty members alike lined to streets to watch” his arrival. Not long afterwards, Georgia was known for its hustling and dazzling play on defense and, as the 1964 regular season drew to a close, reportedly, “it can now be revealed that the ‘94’ helped make…the razzle-dazzle possible.”

Number 94 had the uncanny ability of anticipating the various play patterns of opposing offenses which, in turn, made the entire Bulldogs defense much more “knowledgeable,” as Dooley acknowledged—“like mind readers at times.” During a time when two-way players were on the decline, No. 94 was just as valuable to Georgia’s offense as its defensive side of the ball. “Needless to say, we’re enthusiastic,” Dooley remarked regarding the newcomer’s overall performance.

By the end of a 6-3-1 regular season, whereupon the Bulldogs were headed to a bowl game for only the second time in 14 years, it was declared No. 94’s “contribution to the red-shirted Dogs throughout the fall has been nothing but short of sensational, most fans and seasoned analysts, alike, agree.” And, he was likely “the Georgia Bulldogs’ most valuable player of the ’64 season.”

Sketch of Georgia's "most valuable player
of the '64 season"
No. 94. 
When I initially heard the beginning of this story, I racked my brain trying to figure out who, or apparently the MVP of Coach Dooley’s first Georgia football team, wore jersey No. 94 in 1964. I was absolutely stumped—that is, until I was informed that “he” was not No. 94 the Bulldogs’ football player, but No. 94 shortened for the IBM 7094 computer.

The arrival of Dooley resulted in a curiosity regarding if a scientific approach could better the team’s chances to win ballgames. Nearly filling an entire room at UGA’s Computer Center, an IBM 7094 computer was purchased by the university for around $3.5 million which, considering inflation, would equate to roughly $27 million today. Serving as a liaison of sorts between man and machine, Georgia’s head scout Frank Inman approached the center’s Dr. J.D. Williams, who developed a program which coded information into No. 94.

Scouting data from Inman was entered on a deck of “source cards” by Williams. The data primarily consisted of offensive and defensive play details like down and distance, formation, position on the field, etc., and obviously the plays' results. For each game in 1964, Georgia used the opposition’s play details from its previous four games. Taking about an hour to compute each game’s data, No. 94 compiled the information and then printed it out on “output sheets” for the coaches’ usage.

Although an opponent’s effort, spirit, and determination obviously could not be considered, nor if the Bulldogs happened to encounter new plays, No. 94 was able to reveal what was called “the complete picture” of every offensive and defensive play for that week’s opponent.

I did some research and found that from 1961 to 1963, or before the computer, Georgia’s .400 winning percentage ranked tied for 98th of the then-135 Division I college football teams. With No. 94 assisting the program, the Bulldogs recorded from 1964 through 1968 a 38-13-3 mark, or a .731 winning percentage—the 13th-best winning percentage in college football, which ranked second in the SEC only behind mighty Alabama. Georgia would not achieve a higher winning percentage over a period of five years until 1978-1982.

However, seemingly out of the blue, the Bulldogs promptly followed their extraordinary turnaround by finishing 5-5-1 in 1969, and then another .500 season at 5-5 in 1970, begging the question: What the heck happened?  

There are a number of theories as the reason for Georgia’s sudden two-season setback following its five-season success. For one, understanding technology develops so rapidly, doesn’t it always seem like when a new computer is purchased, in almost no time, it already seems outdated?

Well, by the late 1960s, IBM’s 7000s had become obsolete and were replaced by the company’s System/360 model. In other words, number 94, the presence which played a major role in turning around the Georgia football program in the mid-1960s, had run out of eligibility, so to speak, by the end of the decade.

December 4, 2015

What Kirby would have in common...

My first post in a while... Between my several responsibilities in covering the UGA football program, my blog has unfortunately had to take a back seat during the season. However, look for my posts to soon become more routine including, some time over the weekend, an intriguing look at a primary reason for the Georgia football program's tremendous turnaround in 1964 (and, it's not simply because of the arrival of Coach Vince Dooley).

As I've mentioned here before, one of my new responsibilities this season is as a contributor to UGASports.com of the Rivals network. There, for subscribers, I post approximately five times per week The Daily Dawg Callervery similarly to my blog, historical-related stories, facts, and stats regarding UGA football. 

Certainly not just for my posts but, if you're not already, I highly recommend subscribing to UGASports.com"Home of The Dawgvent." For what comes out to just 27 cents per day, you can be a subscriber, but beware... the information and insight you'll receive for those 27 cents per day can easily render an entire day spent browsing the site.

What Kirby Smart would have in common with nearly all of his predecessors... 

Kirby Smart to Georgia, Mark Richt to Miami: the coaches apparently returning to their alma maters reminds me of how intriguing it can be to survey the playing careers of collegiate athletes-turned-coaches. Dave does an excellent job of detailing Smart’s playing career for the Bulldogs from 1995 through 1998—a noteworthy career, especially when you consider he was not even one of the top-50 prospects coming out of Georgia in 1994.

I want to emphasize that Smart was a starter for only two seasons at Georgia, yet he remains ranked in the school’s top 10 in career interceptions (13) and passes broken up (22). Also, he earned All-SEC recognition for each of those two seasons, and was a team captain as a senior in 1998.

Of Georgia’s 12 head coaches the last century, Smart would be only the fourth who played football for the Bulldogs, and the only head coach in Georgia’s entire history who did not play on the offensive side of the ball as a collegiate player. Still, beginning with the first esteemed Georgia player who would eventually be a head football coach at the school—“Kid” Woodruff”—Smart and all but one of his nine predecessors interestingly do have one thing in common: a distinguished collegiate playing career.

1923—1927- George Woodruff (Georgia): Nicknamed “Kid” because of his diminutive 5-foot-8, 138-pound frame, Woodruff immediately impressed the Red and Black faithful as a newcomer, demonstrating a tough-as-nails persona, and an ability to play hurt even when considerably injured. Against Mercer in 1908, he was attacked by the opponent’s mascot, a bulldog, and its handler. With the handler swinging at his upper body, and the bulldog biting at his legs, Woodruff somehow managed to fend off the pair. Despite sharing the backfield with the legendary Bob McWhorter in 1910, Woodruff scored five touchdowns in Georgia’s first four games of the season. Moving to quarterback in 1911, he led the Red and Black to a 7-1-1 record while serving as team captain.

1928—1937- Harry Mehre (Notre Dame)... Read the rest at The Daily Dawg Caller...