Saturday, February 20, 2010

20 February 1892: Georgia and Auburn Play First Football Game

On this day in 1892, the University of Georgia met Auburn (then the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama) in Piedmont Park in Atlanta for a "game of foot ball [sic]." Each school sent a delegation of fans and players in decorated train cars, had a pep rally with each side giving "their respective college yells in grand style," then paraded to the grand stand at the park.

As Georgia Tech did not yet have its own team, the Athens Weekly Banner reported that "the Technological school was out in force wearing the colors of the University and aiding the lung gang by vigorous use of cow bells." The score was tied 0-0 at the half, and the second half, marked by heavy rain, produced a final score of Auburn 10, Georgia 0.

Football was a new sport in the South, having finally become more recognizable as a distinct venture from its roots in soccer and rugby in the 1880s. Much of the excitement attached to Georgia and Auburn fielding teams had to do with the status of football as created by Walter Camp at Yale and embraced by the other Ivy League schools. The game was arranged by Georgia chemistry professor Charles H. Herty and Auburn history professor George Petrie, who had each organized teams at their respective schools using Walter Camp's guidelines. They had learned the game while both were graduate students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The February game was Auburn's first football game, and Georgia's second, the University having beat Mercer at Herty Field in Athens three weeks earlier by a score of 50-0. Between 2,000 - 3,000 people attended the game at Piedmont Park, with tickets 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. It was Atlanta's first experience with college football, and in the weeks leading up to the meeting, the city's papers explained the new sport to their readers as well as hyping the game by noting that "Atlanta is wild over the matter."

The game is now "the longest continuous football rivalry in the South." With only a few exceptions, primarily due to player death or world war, Georgia has played Auburn every year since 1894, typically in mid-to-late November. It wasn't until 1959 that the game moved to alternating home campuses. In the 1980s, Georgia was coached by former Auburn player Vince Dooley, and Auburn was coached by former Georgia All-American Pat Dye; both are members of the College Football Hall of Fame. It is also one of the closest rivalries in the South: Auburn currently leads the series 53-52-8, but Georgia has scored 56 more points over the decades.

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