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UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history
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UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history

UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history

UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history

UGA has a pretty illustrious sports history, including having produced such stars as Dominique Wilkins, Teresa Edwards, Frank Sinkwich, Courtney Kupets, Spec Towns, Charley Trippi, Fran Tarkenton, Bubba Watson and, of course, Herschel Walker, recently named by ESPN as the second-greatest college football player in the history of the game.

You'd expect an athletics program with such a storied history to be celebrated on campus in high style, as a way of commemorating past accomplishments, inspiring current student athletes and impressing future enrollees.

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UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history

Perhaps a statue like the University of Florida has for Tim Tebow? Maybe a street named after them like Peyton Manning has in Knoxville?

No? Well, surely, there's at least a first-class museum or hall of fame paying tribute to UGA's past athletes, right?

Unfortunately, that's not the case either, a point driven home to me this week when I stopped by Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens to drop off my annual Hartman Fund contribution, and I spent some time in the athletics headquarters' rotunda, perusing the somewhat underwhelming historical displays (you can't really call it a "museum," despite the Explore Georgia website optimistically trying to do so ).

The best thing you can say is that there's a display case for every varsity team that UGA fields, men's and women's.

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UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history

Plus, there are displays for three of UGA's football coaches ( Harry Mehre, Wally Butts and Vince Dooley), cases for Sinkwich and Walker that include their helmets and their Heisman Trophies, and a display paying tribute to longtime UGA publicist and tennis coach Dan Magill. Another case shows the evolution of football helmets through the years.

Although all sports are represented, the emphasis is on football. Kupets winning the 2008-2009 award as the national women's athlete of the year is noted inside the Gymdogs' case, rather than in a display of her own.

Around the rotunda are wall displays with photos and artwork depicting different eras of UGA football (the early years, the Butts years, the Dooley years, and 1989 to the present). There's a wall case with the four retired football jersey numbers (Sinkwich's 21, Trippi's 62, Theron Sapp's 40 and Walker's 34), and another display listing all of UGA's SEC championships. The national championship crystal football trophy is on display, too.

Also in the building is the Larry Munson Trophy Room, featuring awards and trophies Georgia football has garnered through the years, but that's on the second level (one floor down from the rotunda), where fans aren't as likely to roam. (It's aimed mainly at recruits, I think.)

Still, the most prominent display area is in the rotunda, where visitors have more immediate access.

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UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history

Unfortunately, my latest visit to the rotunda displays left me with the feeling the athletic association is not really trying much anymore when it comes to celebrating UGA sports history. The touch-screen audio-video displays with vintage footage and Munson calls that my son used to check out when he was a kid? Gone. And, I noticed the bowl history display hasn't even been updated since 2014!

The SEC championship display does at least include 2017, but that is the rotunda's only mention of that fairy-tale football season. (Thankfully, over on the other side of campus, the Hargrett Library's current football exhibit, "Beautiful and Brutal: Georgia Bulldogs Football, 2017," runs through Feb. 29. Thank goodness for Hargrett!)

Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton explained that "most of our individual sport museums' are spread around at the respective sport facilities. We have lots of special displays in various facilities the Boyd Golf Center, Stegeman, in and around the men's and women's basketball and gymnastics areas, equestrian facility, etc. All have historical displays (and graphics) of those particular sports.For example, we have a Teresa Edwards display in Stegeman that includes some of her Olympic medals, jerseys, etc."

That's fine, but I believe such displays would have a greater impact (and the historic artefacts more easily could be maintained and protected) if they were gathered together in one proper museum space.

I asked Athletic Director Greg McGarity whether, in the current $80 million expansion of Butts-Mehre, there are any plans for the history display area to be expanded/changed/moved at all. Any thought given to a more elaborate museum covering Georgia athletics?

"We do not have any current plans to renovate this space; however, we do have future plans that would address updating this area of the Butts-Mehre," he said, adding that the timing is still to be determined.

As for what happened to the touch-screen displays that my son used to use? "There were those kinds of screens years ago, but they always malfunctioned, so I assume they were never replaced," McGarity said, adding that "they were not here when I returned in 2010."

The only touch-screen they have now is "a display that indicates the hometowns of our football players, and it's located outside the public entry of the football offices on the second floor," one level down from the rotunda display. It is open to the public.

Also, McGarity said, "We have TV monitors that display content throughout the indoor [practice] facility, as well multiple areas throughout the entire facility. We have a mix of static' displays and a mix of the monitors that provide content change throughout the year."

However, the indoor practice facility is not open to the general public.

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UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history

So, a proper athletics museum may not be in the cards any time soon, but at least the recognition of UGA's past glories has improved a little bit at Sanford Stadium in recent years, with the addition of wall graphics, such as one emblazoned with "Oh you Herschel," borrowing a phrase from Munson.

But, aside from the SEC championship banners and the mascot cemetery, that's about it.

It seems like they could at least add some plaques or busts or something to Reed Plaza.

As I've written before, I've often wondered why you see so little of UGA's football history at Sanford Stadium, in contrast to schools like the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where Tar Heel history is a tangible presence at Kenan Memorial Stadium. UNC generally isn't thought of as a football power these days, but it has a statue of Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice.

Speaking of statues, aside from an 8-foot-long bronze likeness of former mascot Uga VI outside the veterinary school and another small statue of one of Uga's predecessors, Mike, in front of Memorial Hall, the only athletics-oriented statue at UGA is that of Dooley, located at the southernmost tip of the campus, in the athletic complex named for the coach.

It's not for want of trying. Athens sculptor (and UGA alum) Stan Mullins, who did the bronze statue of Dooley being hoisted by some of his players, also has created an 8-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Walker, but so far has had no luck getting the athletic association interested in putting it on display.

When he approached UGA few years ago, he said, "the initial pushback was that they needed to honor Sinkwich and Trippi first."

So, Mullins also created clay models of those two players. His grand plan, dubbed the Crowns of Glory Project ( which has its own Facebook page ), called for monuments at the four corners surrounding the stadium, with the Walker statue to be at the bookstore end of the Sanford Drive bridge, a Trippi statue at the other end of the bridge, and a Sinkwich statue near Gate 6 on the east side. A fourth monument, located at the other eastside corner, would have an uncarved 12-ton Carrara marble block as an unfinished sculpture, which Mullins views as a recruiting tool and incentive for players, showing that Georgia is waiting on its next hero.

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UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history

Mullins self-financed the casting of the bronze statue of Walker out of money he made doing a monument at Marshall University, and he unveiled it in 2016. The Walker sculpture spent time at various locations around Athens, and several months at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon, before settling down at Mullins' studio, a renovated and redesigned 18thcentury cottonseed oil refinery on Pulaski Street in Athens. "He's attacking the Greenway, the entry way to the river," Mullins said of the Herschel statue this week. The public is welcome to visit the statue there and take pictures, he said.

I asked Mullins about the status of his efforts to have the sculpture put outside the stadium. "I don't know," he said with a sigh. "I stopped trying. I kept hitting resistance.

" It seems like everybody else has one," he added, referring to athletic statues on other campuses. "It does not make sense. "

McGarity said the issue of adding statues "will always be an item for discussion moving forward," but he added that there are "no firm plans."

These days, Mullins is busy working on a sculpture of Tomochichi, a Yamacraw chief instrumental in Georgia colonial history, to be located in a park near Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. He made the point that commemorating past heroes with monuments is all about inspiring future heroes.

"The pageantry of sports leads to the pageantry of humanity," Mullins said. "And, if we don't celebrate it, it goes away."

I've never understood the reluctance to do more to celebrate UGA's athletics history. Whether it's the statues offered by Mullins, or monuments created by someone else, UGA athletics should do more to embrace its past, and not just Walker.

As a friend put it, "We have such a rich history, and I think we undersell it; we're more than just Herschel, as great as he was."

On Georgiadogs.com, it says that part of the UGA Athletic Association's mission is "to serve as a source of pride, a rallying point, for the legions of supporters that follow its teams."

I think that's one area where greater effort is warranted.

The post UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history appeared first on DawgNation.

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  • With everyone looking and trying to adjust to the new normal we're living in, any good news is certainly welcome. And over the past couple of weeks, Todd Gurley and Scott Sinclair have been able to provide that to a number of people who follow Georgia football. Gurley signed with the Atlanta Falcons, meaning he'll be making a return of sorts to the state of Georgia to play football. He also dropped a hype video, filled with moments from his standout Georgia career. https://t.co/SMfRMf3fW7 Todd Gurley II (@TG3II) March 28, 2020 As for Sinclair, he's continued to provide daily workout routines that people are mostly able to do from their home. With many gyms around the country closed, it is a good way to at least try and stay in shape for the moment. The Georgia strength and conditioning coach also shared some videos of Georgia football players working out, giving inquiring fans a look into how they are still focusing on the upcoming season. 3/27 Workout. All you need today is two chairs and some Friday motivation! Let's get it! @GeorgiaFootball #ATD #AttackTheDay #FinallyFriday #staysafe pic.twitter.com/WFr97uuhzC Scott Sinclair (@coach_sinclair) March 27, 2020 DawgNation's Connor Riley discusses both of these topics, as well as answers some questions on the likes of Jamie Newman, Todd Monken, Kirby Smart and a number of other topics pertaining to Georgia football at the moment. More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation Georgia quarterback D'Wan Mathis continuing comeback home' in Athens, granted exemption Georgia football: What would have been the talk of spring practices by now? Bracket season: Discussing the top moment of each Georgia football season under Kirby Smart iter says UGA among teams most hurt by missing spring practice SEC steps toward resuming football preparations, approves online chalk talks Jonathan Jefferson: 5 things to know about this week's 2021 Georgia commit Opinion: Kirk Herbstreit's reckless speculation does college football a disservice WATCH: If you don't like Todd Gurley on the Atlanta Falcons, you're anti-fun ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. breaks down D'Andre Swift draft stock The post WATCH: Todd Gurley, Scott Sinclair providing good Georgia football fans good vibes appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Like many of you, I have watched repeats of various SEC football games from recent years over the past couple of weeks, what with spring sports sidelined by the pandemic. In fact, I've even having resorted sampling a couple of Wake Forest games on the ACC Network to get a look at transfer quarterback Jamie Newman. Even though it's mostly repeats and old documentaries on the SEC Network and its ESPN parent right now, I've still been struck by how spoiled today's UGA fans are when it comes to seeing the Dawgs on television. Those of us following the Bulldogs in the 1960s, '70s and even the early '80s can remember when getting to see Georgia play on TV was a big deal, something that didn't happen all that often. Nowadays, all of the Dawgs' games are televised, even the cupcakes, but, through the '90s and even into the early 2000s, that wasn't the case. Still, the last time less than half the Bulldogs' schedule was televised was 1993, when we got to see only five games. And five games seemed a lot at the time. Incredibly, during the national championship season of 1980, Herschel Walker and the Dawgs were on TV only three times: the South Carolina matchup with George Rogers, the Florida game, and the Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame. No wonder Larry Munson's radio broadcasts were so important to us. Actually, I clearly can recall the very first time UGA was seen playing football on TV. It was New Year's Day, 1960, and Wally Butts' Bulldogs, led by QB Fran Tarkenton, were set to play Missouri in the Orange Bowl. I awoke that morning with both sides of my face ballooned out with a terrible case of the mumps, but my 7-year-old self was determined not to miss the game! Thankfully, Mom allowed it, propping me up with pillows to see Georgia take a 14-0 win. The next time the Dawgs were on TV was the following fall, when Georgia's 21-6 loss to Alabama in Birmingham became the first regular-season Georgia football game to be televised and, in fact, the first college football game ever televised by ABC Sports. The Bulldogs weren't on the tube again until Vince Dooley wound up his first season at the helm, with 7-0 win over Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl. The fact that Georgia rarely appeared on TV in those days wasn't unusual. Back then, the game of the week was literally the game of the week! I remember what a major event it was when ABC came to Athens to televise the 1965 season opener against national champion Alabama. There's no doubt that the Dawgs' flea-flicker upset win being televised to the entire nation was a big leg up for Dooley in returning the Georgia program to national relevance. I was in 8 th grade at the time, and attended the game with my Dad, so I didn't see the telecast, but 12-year-old Darrell Huckaby watched it on TV at his home. After the Dawgs won, he ran out his back door and turned down the alley toward the house where future Bulldogs player Craig Hertwig lived. 'We leaped into one another's arms, like in one of those old movies,' he recalled. Beginning in the late 1960s, and lasting until the mid-70s, Georgia usually only had two or three regular-season games on TV each year. An eye-opener for many younger fans is that the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville, now an automatic addition to the CBS schedule, wasn't televised at all until ABC gave it a regional slot (as opposed to national) in 1967. It would be another 20 years before the clash between the Dawgs and Gators started being televised every year. A little-remembered Dawgs TV footnote is that, in 1981-82, Georgia's games were taped for delayed replay Sunday nights on Channel 5 and Monday nights on cable's USA Network. Longtime Atlanta sportscaster (and UGA grad) Bill Hartman called those games, with folks like Lewis Grizzard, Buck Belue and longtime high school coach Butch Clifton doing the color. 'It was all about Herschel,' Hartman told me this week. 'Once he left Georgia, the production stopped.' Things started looking up in 1984, when Ted Turner's SuperStation signed an SEC football deal. That year, half a dozen Georgia games were televised, and that was about par for the course through the rest of the '80s. We gradually started seeing more games televised as CBS, ABC and Turner were joined by Fox, the nascent ESPN (which showed its first UGA game in 1984) and various regional syndicators like Jefferson-Pilot/Raycom. Local Atlanta stations even televised games occasionally. There also were a few cupcake games shown on pay-per-view. That included one game in 2004, the first season that all of Georgia's games were on TV in one way or another. An ESPN syndication package, originally called the SEC Network (later SEC TV), joined the fray in 2009, and all of Georgia's football games have been televised nationally or regionally ever since then. SEC TV was replaced in 2014 by today's 24-hour SEC Network. Looking back over 60 years of Bulldogs football on television, many high points come to mind. Asked to name their favorite Georgia game on TV, a lot of fans automatically say the 1981 Sugar Bowl against the Fighting Irish. Frankly, I think viewers who weren't fans of either school probably found that 17-10 Georgia win a bit of a snore. My longtime friend Ben Anderson conceded that it was 'not the most dramatic of games with a lot of twists and turns,' but he made the valid point that it still 'was a national title game with a one-possession final score.' The other great TV game that quickly comes to mind is the thrilling double-overtime 2018 Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma. Many believe that one is Georgia's greatest game ever and its back-and-forth nature made it great television, too. Another fan favorite is the 1971 Thanksgiving night comeback win over Georgia Tech engineered by Athens' Andy Johnson, televised nationally by ABC. A much less remembered game, treasured by Jeff Dantzler of the Bulldogs radio network as an 'underrated doozy,' is Georgia's 1982 visit to Starkvegas for a 29-22 win over Mississippi State. 'Herschel was tremendous,' recalled Dantzler, who watched the regional CBS telecast as a boy from his home in Statesboro. Another TV game that stands out in the memories of fans who came of age in the '90s is No. 12-ranked Georgia's 28-27 upset of 6 th -ranked LSU in Baton Rouge in 1998. The Dawgs' freshman quarterback, Quincy Carter, had a great night, completing 27 of 34 passes for 318 yards, catching a pass for 36 yards and rushing for 41 more. Three-way player Champ Bailey, who was in for 96 of the game's plays, caught 7 passes for 114 yards, and fellow defensive back Kirby Smart had a team-high 12 tackles. Clinging to a 1-point lead, the Dawgs' final, clock-killing drive of the fourth quarter, highlighted by a key third-down reception by Bailey, was gripping viewing. And, certainly a TV classic was the New Year's Day 2000 Outback Bowl, billed as 'the first sporting event of the millennium,' which saw Carter lead the Dawgs in an amazing comeback against the Purdue Boilermakers, who had future NFL star Drew Brees at QB. Brees set or tied six Outback Bowl records in the game, including passing for 378 yards, and, early in the second quarter, Purdue had a 25-0 lead over Jim Donnan's Dawgs. Things looked bleak. Terrence Edwards finally put the Dawgs on the scoreboard with a 74-yard scoring run, and it was all Georgia from that point on, with an 8-yard Carter-to- Randy McMichael TD pass tying the game with 1:19 remaining. After the Boilermakers missed a field goal in overtime, Georgia placekicker Hap Hines made a 21-yard kick for the win. At the time, it was the largest comeback in bowl history. Now, that's great television. When ESPN televised Georgia's visit to Tuscaloosa in 2007, I watched it on a big-screen TV with my two brothers, my daughter and one of my nieces. We wanted to hear how the Scott Howard-Eric Zeier broadcast team did in their debut without Munson, so we muted the sound on the TV and instead listened to the Bulldogs radio broadcast while watching. The last time previously where all three King brothers had watched Georgia on TV together was the 1999 game against Tech, an overtime affair that didn't turn out well. So, when this one also went to overtime, we were more than a bit nervous. Thank goodness, Matthew Stafford and Mikey Henderson were as cool as could be, though. After Bama kicked a field goal in OT, Stafford threw a perfect strike to Henderson for the one-and-done winning score. That's the last time the Dawgs have beaten the Tide to date. Another fan favorite from the 2007 season is the 42-30 win over Florida that saw most of the Georgia team celebrating the Dawgs' first score by dancing in the end zone. There was a lot more to the game, of course, with Knowshon Moreno running for 188 yards and 3 TDs, and the Dawgs defense sacking Gators QB Tim Tebow 6 times. But the 'Gator Stomp' is what fans remember most. Other fan TV favorites include the 1996 win over Auburn (Georgia was terrible in the first half, but the second half and four overtimes were great viewing); and the 2007 Auburn 'Blackout' game, with CBS' Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson dancing along to Soulja Boy in the booth. However, the most frequently mentioned choice as the greatest Bulldogs TV game is known by two words: 'Run, Lindsay.' The 1980 Jacksonville clash saw the Dawgs trailing 21-20 in the fourth quarter, facing third-and-long at their own 7-yard line. Backed up in his own end zone, quarterback Buck Belue found receiver Lindsay Scott at the 25-yard line. Urged on by Munson on the radio, Scott scored the game-winning touchdown. That game was playing on TV during Clint Ard's 21 st birthday party, and, he said, when Scott scored, 'my whole family exploded with joy. It was one of the greatest birthday presents I've ever received!' Jason Hasty, now the sports archivist at UGA's Hargrett Library, was just 5 years old at the time, but his favorite memory of watching the Dawgs on TV is looking up from playing with his toys to see his quiet church secretary mother on her feet as Munson shouted 'Run, Lindsay!' on the radio. Hasty still prefers a radio soundtrack for TV games. 'When I'm not in Sanford Stadium, the TV will be on with the sound turned down and the radio broadcast turned up,' he said. Mark Symms, meanwhile, was a UGA student watching that Florida game at the Alpha Gamma Rho house in Athens. After Scott's touchdown, Symms said, he and his drunken fraternity brothers ran out the front door and straight into Milledge Avenue, bringing traffic to a complete halt as they jumped up and down, screaming. A police officer, who had no idea what they were celebrating, got them out of the street and wrote Symms a ticket for 'rioting.' The brothers continued their celebration safely on the sidewalk for a few more minutes, when the cop suddenly returned. 'I am really in trouble,' Symms thought, but the officer grabbed the ticket and tore it up. 'He glared at me again, then winked. He had heard the news. He walks back to the car and says, Stay out of the damn streets. Go Dawgs!' As Symms put it: 'Greatest UGA TV game ever.' The post Dawgs on TV have produced some great memories for fans through the years appeared first on DawgNation.