Tuesday, June 12, 2012

12 June 1901: Summertime in Athens Means Talking About Football

On this day in 1901, less than a decade since the introduction of football to Athens, the Banner ran the following story about prospects for the Georgia football team in the coming season, which would not begin for another four months:

Despite high hopes published throughout the summer and early fall, Georgia's final record in 1912  1901 (thanks for the correction!) would be 1-5-2. The game schedule would also be altered by the time the season rolled around in mid-October, including replacing the Tech game in Atlanta with a meeting versus South Carolina in Augusta that would be Georgia's only win (10-5) that season. 

Georgia traveled next to Tennessee, where "the red and black" played two games in three days, losing both 0-47, first to Vanderbilt on Saturday, then again to Sewanee on Monday. The Banner started its story about the road trip with "The Georgia boys got it in the neck again yesterday," before pointing out later in the story that "Three of Sewanee's touchdowns were made by pure luck."

The first game in Athens that season came against Clemson on the 26th, and spirits were high until Georgia lost, 5-29. The headline the next day simply stated that "Clemson Won Football Game." Though daily papers exist through the month of October, the Banner seems to have mostly exhausted its enthusiasm for reporting on football in 1901 at this time. Even in the weekly papers, there is little talk of football of any kind, not just Georgia, but even for teams in the region. The Atlanta Constitution, however, continued to follow the team.

In the days leading up to the November 2nd meeting with North Carolina in Atlanta, UGA alumni in Atlanta sent a letter to the University requesting Georgia cancel the game. This request was refused, with the "physical director of the University," Professor A. H. Patterson noting that the three losses had come to teams that were "heavier" than Georgia, and the newspaper said that "the Atlanta alumni may yet see some good playing that they evidently do not expect to see." The alumni did not; Georgia lost to North Carolina, 0-27.

Georgia's next two games received no notice in the Athens newspapers, even those weekly editions published the day of or the day after a game. November 9th, Georgia tied Alabama 0-0 in Montgomery, then fell again in a 6-16 loss in Athens to Davidson College. 

The last game of the season was against Auburn on Thanksgiving Day in Atlanta.  The days leading up to the meeting had students showing up to cheer the team at practice, and energy and spirits were high. According to John F. Stegeman, however, "Georgia fans gasped" upon seeing an Auburn team take the field that was so much taller and heavier than the Georgia players. Georgia played hard, but was unable to score, including having a touchdown called back near the end of the game because the player's foot stepped out upfield. 

The game ended in a 0-0 tie, and both the team and the fans felt victorious since Auburn never crossed midfield. Spectators celebrated in Atlanta, and in Athens, "The chapel bell has been kept ringing, and the entire campus is aglow from three bonfires."  The team was met at the railroad depot that night by "a huge crowd and escorted by torchlight up College Avenue , through the town, and to the campus arch." The party continued until dawn, and ringing the chapel bell became a Georgia tradition.

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1 comment:

  1. You quote Georgia's record in 1912, in response to a 1901 article...