Butts, the Bear, and even Andy Griffith…
Leading you up to tomorrow’s G-Day, I presented a few days ago “The Specifics” concerning the history of the Bulldogs’ annual spring affair. Today, I’ve chronicled “The People”—my top half-dozen most notable individuals from yesteryear who made what is now primarily considered a seemingly insignificant football game rather meaningful decades ago.
WALLY BUTTS: Recently, there’s been some talk regarding the current Georgia head coach and the media about what should, and shouldn’t be reported concerning the players. From 1950, how about this for a head coach being totally open about his players with the press in the spring?
The day after G-Day in 1950, which resulted in the first tie in the spring game’s history, it was reported Wally Butts couldn’t even bear to watch film of the game. After observing only a portion of the first half, the head coach emerged from the film room, and declared to the media, “You should see [the Georgia players]. I never saw as many people standing around with hands on their hips. Nobody blocks at all. We’ve got a lot of work to do before we can even show up for a game in this league.”
ANDY GRIFFITH: At only 27 years old, Andy Griffith, introduced as “Deacon Andy Griffith,” stood in front of a G-Day crowd at Sanford Stadium in 1954 and presented his What It Was, Was Football. Now, if you’re familiar with the monologue told from the point of view of a naive country preacher trying to figure out what was going on in a football game, you’re aware of the repeated mention of a “big orange drink.” Accordingly, after Griffith addressed the crowd, he called out “Clegg” Stark—Georgia’s long-time water boy—and presented him with, well, a big orange drink. The pair received a standing ovation.
PAUL “BEAR” BRYANT: Many Georgia enthusiasts are familiar with the unfortunate scandal involving Wally Butts and Paul “Bear” Bryant, whereby the Saturday Evening Post ran "The Story of a College Football Fix" in its March 23, 1963, issue alleging that the then-UGA athletic director and Alabama head coach had conspired to fix the 1962 Georgia-Alabama game. Although Butts would win a libel lawsuit against the magazine, the scandal essentially cost him his job at the school. Still, there’s an old saying that if you don’t want trouble, don’t go looking for it…
A few years before, just prior to G-Day in 1959, Butts, who was the Bulldogs’ head coach at the time, actually invited the Bear and one of his Crimson Tide assistants to watch Georgia’s spring game from Sanford Stadium’s press box, and the Alabama duo agreed to do so. However, in the end, the Bear would not show up for G-Day. Perhaps, Bryant had thought better of the gesture, believing some trouble could ensue if the opposing coach was allowed to watch his season opener’s spring game and, unthinkably, by invitation of the rival school’s head coach? Not so much. Instead of Bryant and one assistant, five Alabama assistants showed up to watch G-Day. And, as far as the Bear, he indeed witnessed a spring game outside of Tuscaloosa on that day—the A-Day game of chief rival Auburn.
OUTLAR and BOWERS: Beginning in 1976, and for the next 15 years or so, notables in the media were chosen as honorary guest head coaches for G-Day. The first of such games pitted Jesse Outlar of the Atlanta Constitution coaching the Black, who benefited by having the services of No. 1 quarterback Ray Goff, against Harley Bowers of the Macon Telegraph coaching the Red, who was stuck starting the Bulldogs' No. 3 signal-caller, Anthony Flanagan (No. 2 quarterback Matt Robinson was injured). At halftime of what would be a notable upset—a 19-13 victory by the underdog Red—Outlar declared to his quarterback that if he didn't lead the Black to a couple of quick scores, he'd be fired as head coach. Goff wasn't amused, asserting, “To heck with the coach! Did you see what the other quarterback is doing? I'm the one who may get fired.”
LEWIS GRIZZARD: For the 1978 G-Day game, the honorary coaches were the legendary Lewis Grizzard for the Black and WSB Radio's Phil Schaefer for the Red. Behind tailback Willie McClendon, the Black throttled the Red, 24-0, including scoring a touchdown on the final play of the game. Afterwards, Grizzard was jokingly asked why he didn't go for two points following the final touchdown and really run the score up. Grizzard quipped he had been too busy hugging the cheerleaders to realize he had scored—and, it was the only mistake he made the entire contest. Schaefer was then not too complimentary of the game's officials, whereby Grizzard joked again, “I thought my Uncle Charley called a good game!”
LEROY DUKES: The 1984 G-Day game, a contest pitting the then-current team against a group of alumni players, featured the charismatic Leroy Dukes—a starting linebacker on Coach Dooley's first team 20 years before, who had gained roughly 50 pounds since his 190-pound playing weight. Dukes would be playing opposite of his son, redshirt freshman quarterback David Dukes. According to the elder Dukes, who worked as manager of the Ramada Inn Hotel in Athens, “I want to get [into the game for] just one play—a blitz in the split 60 [defensive formation]—so I can tackle David.” Accordingly, in the second quarter, it was reported Leroy "waddled on the field, blitzed before the ball was snapped and grabbed" David. But, Leroy couldn't bring his son down. Having appeared for the one play, as he promised, Dukes "puffed back to the sideline," whereupon he removed his No. 42 jersey, giving it to teammate Bill Krug (1975-1977), and then put on a specially made "I Survived" t-shirt.