If this seems very similar to something I wrote last year (and the year before that), there’s a good reason. This is Florida-Georgia week, time for my annual reminder to the Gator Nation why I despise Georgia and why you should, too. If you’re a newbie to the Florida-Georgia game then let me be the first to remind you of something the late, great Bear Bryant once said that applies here: “This isn’t a matter of life and death … it’s much more important than that.”
This is Florida-Georgia and yes, it is fifth-ranked Florida playing eighth-ranked Georgia with the winner likely to defend the SEC East’s honor in Atlanta in five months. That’s one good reason to get fired up about this game, but there are plenty of others and most of them should make your blood boil.
The reasons to despise the Georgia Bulldogs with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns go well beyond “The Incident” of last year which has been fueled in recent months by the feeble attempts of Coach Pinocchio and his top apologist Mark Bradley to make us believe that this was just a bunch of zany kids acting spontaneously.
At SEC Media Days, in describing what happened, Coach Pinocchio actually said (this is the word-for-word quote): “I was in shock as much as anybody else. My initial reaction is, Oh, heck, you know, what’s going on (smiling)?”
Oh heck? You’re a coach and 70 of your players storm the field. If a fight breaks out because one of your guys says something or does something, you’ll probably lose your cushy $2.5 million a year job and you’re saying “oh heck”?
You only stand on the sidelines, smile and say “oh heck” if the whole incident is concocted. You only tell that story at media days if you’re lying and trying to spin. Coach Pinocchio’s nose grew so much that day in Birmingham that I could have snapped it off and used it as a belt around my all too ample waistline. Third World nations that can’t feed their starving citizens tried to hire Coach Pinocchio as a consultant, figuring that if he can do that for a nose, imagine what he could do for unproductive, drought-stricken fields.
Now, “The Incident” didn’t cause Florida to lose that game. Pin the blame on a lack of blocking and tackling and holding on to the football by the Gators who flat out gave away a very winnable game. “The Incident” was nothing more than a low-class stunt, the kind you expect from folks that can’t even spell D-O-G-S.
But “The Incident” is only one reason to loathe Georgia. I’ll give you a few others.
REASON NUMBER ONE: My dad was a 16-year-old freshman at the University of Florida in 1942, biding his time until he was 18 when he could sign up to join the Navy to fight the Germans and the Japanese. On most of the college campuses across the nation, the physically able athletes had already signed up to fight for their country in the weeks immediately after Pearl Harbor. Florida had gone 4-6 in 1941 but expectations were high that 1942 would be different thanks to season-closing wins over Miami and Georgia Tech and a close loss to UCLA. Those hopes and dreams went out the window with the unilateral declaration of war against Germany and Japan.
The most able bodied of Coach Thomas Lieb’s football team were already in the military when the 1942 season arrived. Most of the Gators were players who couldn’t pass the physical or were waiting for their eighteenth birthdays.
That wasn’t the case at Georgia, which had one of the two or three best ROTC programs in the country. Georgia was already loaded when the war broke out. By the time the 1942 season began, Coach Wally Butts had a roster full of stars who were enrolled in the ROTC program, including All-Americans like Flatfoot Frankie Sinkwich (he won the Heisman that year), George Poschner and Charlie Trippi, who would go on to become one of the greatest college football players in history.
When Georgia and Florida squared off in Jacksonville on November 7, no one gave the Gators a fighting chance. Who in his right mind would have? Georgia had a roster of All-Americans. Florida’s roster was a bunch of skinny 17-year-old kids and guys who were 4-F at their local draft board.
The game was over by the first quarter and by halftime, it was total carnage. Butts could have called it off any time he wanted, but he kept pouring it on. Late in the fourth quarter Sinkwich and Trippi were still in the game pouring it on.
The final score was 75-0. Georgia went on to win a national championship. Florida went 3-7 with wins over Randolph-Macon, Auburn and Villanova.
REASON NUMBER TWO: Florida had been picked to win the SEC and finish in the top five in the nation in 1968 but problems on and off the field torpedoed those dreams. Florida’s bubble burst in Chapel Hill on a rainy Saturday in October when the Gators lost seven fumbles and fell to the Tar Heels, 22-7. From there the season was a downward spiral and by the Georgia game on November 7, the Gators were 4-2-1.
Florida’s team was embroiled in a quarterback controversy with half the team supporting Jackie Eckdahl and the other half behind Larry Rentz. But that was only half the problem. The defensive players thought they were doing their part and they were angered by the Eckdahl-Rentz controversy.
The week before the game Florida’s offensive guru, Coach Fred Pancoast, was hospitalized for an appendectomy. Ed Kensler was the coordinator, but Pancoast was a real genius, which would be proven the next year with the Super Sophs led by John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez. Desperate for something to spark his team, Coach Ray Graves swapped out defensive coordinator Gene Ellenson and Kensler for the Georgia game. Graves figured things couldn’t get worse but they did.
On a cold, rainy, miserable day in Jacksonville (those of us who were there will NEVER forget how miserable that day was) ninth-ranked Georgia hammered the out of sorts Gators from the opening whistle. It was 42-0 and over by halftime but with seconds remaining in the fourth quarter Dooley called time out and let his center, who hadn’t kicked since high school, kick a field goal to make the final score, 51-0.
For those of you who never understood Steve Spurrier’s obsession with running it up on Georgia, now you know. Coach Ellenson, who was Spurrier’s close friend, called Spurrier in San Francisco (Spurrier was with the 49ers then) that night and told him what had happened. Those who know Spurrier know that he has a VERY long memory. He never forgot how Dooley called time out to run up the score. He never felt any reason to show a moment of sympathy.
REASON THREE: Florida went on NCAA probation in 1984 for such heinous crimes as assistant coach Dwight Adams giving Dale Dorminey an extra T-shirt during his campus visit and buying him a pack of gum and a Sprite at the Gainesville airport. I’m not making that up. It’s all in the NCAA transcripts.
Not all the crimes were petty. There were some dastardly deeds by Florida boosters who were out of control during those days and the Gators got caught for them and paid the price. However, Florida wasn’t the only school taking its chances outside the law of the NCAA. Florida State got caught for illegal recruiting inducements that same year (Bobby Bowden was the FSU coach … you could look it up) but the Seminoles got a slap on the wrist.
Georgia got caught by the NCAA in a major scandal that revolved around the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner, Herschel Walker. That NCAA investigation hit a stone wall and eventually Georgia lost two scholarships. There were no bans on television or bowl games. Rumors persisted for years that Dooley, who was chairman of the NCAA’s powerful television committee, lobbied long, hard and successfully to keep Georgia out of hot water.
There is a pattern of run-ins with the NCAA while Dooley was coach and/or athletic director. Georgia got hit with major infractions for football three times (1978, 1982, 1965) while Dooley was the coach and again for football in 1997 while he was the athletic director. The Georgia basketball program got hit for major sanctions under Dooley-hired coaches Hugh Durham (1985) and Jim Harrick (2004).
And then there was Jan Kemp, who blew the whistle on the fraudulent academic support program at Georgia under Dooley in the 1980s. She refused to give athletes passing grades at the insistence of the higher ups in the athletic department and when she complained, she was fired. She sued and was awarded $1.08 million by the jury.
What happened at Georgia is important because in 1984, Florida, got hit with some of the most serious sanctions in NCAA history that included two years without television and severe scholarship reductions. The probation cost Coach Charley Pell his job and cost the Gators the SEC championship. The Gators won the SEC on the field but the Gators were stripped of the championship in a vote of the SEC athletic directors and presidents. Among the leaders of the vote against Florida was Vince Dooley.
In an interview I did with Gator great Wilber Marshall three years ago, Wilber said, “I went to Florida because it was close to home and I’m a mama’s boy. I didn’t go there because they paid me to go but other schools made offers … some big offers … some of the same teams that voted to strip the SEC championship from us in 1984. You would go on recruiting trips and some fat cat booster would let you know what you could expect … that was pretty common then.”
REASON FOUR: Galen Hall was informed that he would be fired as Florida’s football coach just prior to the LSU game in Baton Rouge on October 7, 1989 (Florida won the game, 16-13). Hall’s crime was allegedly paying one month of child support for Jarvis Williams. Hall denied that he ever gave money to Williams and the NCAA has yet to prove conclusively that he did. Yet, Florida got a year of probation (served in 1990) with no bowl game.
It’s bad enough that Florida’s probation was dubious, at best, but the alleged incident happened before any of the players who were on that 1990 team arrived on the UF campus. Still, the SEC athletic directors and presidents, in their infinite wisdom, made the Gators ineligible for the SEC championship in 1990 and denied the Gators a chance to go to a bowl game.
Among the leaders of the vote against Florida was Vince Dooley.
That 1990 season was Steve Spurrier’s first year at Florida. Florida had the best record in the SEC and the Gators should have been the SEC champs. There was no bowl game for a team that deserved to be in the Sugar Bowl. Now, take 1968 and add to it 1990.
Do you understand why Spurrier was obsessed with humiliating Georgia any and every chance he got?
I wasn’t around in 1942 but my dad was and until he died in 1986, he took delight in every loss by every Georgia team in any sport all because of that 75-0 game. I was there at the 1968 game and I’ll never forget what Dooley did. I will also never forgive Dooley for twice voting to pour on the sanctions against the Gators. I can’t think of Dooley without the words self-righteous hypocrite coming to mind. As far as I am concerned, there is only one reason to ever pull for Georgia in anything and that is if Georgia winning helps Florida win a championship. Otherwise, I hope Georgia is beaten so badly and humiliated to the point that dropping the sport is a serious consideration.
Now before I finish, here’s my ultimate football dream. Maybe someday Urban Meyer will make it come true. This year would be a nice time to give it a shot. Here goes: There are 15 seconds left in the game and the Gators have just scored to make it 98-0. Instead of kicking the extra point, the Gators go for TWO and make it! Then, just for good measure, Florida kicks onside and the Gators outhustle the humiliated Bulldogs to recover! Instead of taking a knee, the Gators throw deep, straight down the middle! TOUCHDOWN FLORIDA! Now that would be righteous!
FEARLESS FORECAST FOR 2008 GAME: This is the best team the Gators have faced all season, but Georgia isn’t unbeatable and Florida is certainly not the team that couldn’t block, tackle or hold onto the ball like last year. The Gators have the best defense Georgia has faced all season and that includes Alabama, plus the Gators are better offensively than that LSU team that ran up 500 yards and 38 points on Georgia last week. I believe Florida plays its best game of the season, stuffs the run, harasses the quarterback and gets into the end zone early and often on the Georgia defense. I look for Tim Tebow to show all those Georgia apologists just who the best quarterback.
I like it something like Florida 38, Georgia 17.