Intercollegiate Athletics at The University of Georgia - A History
Sporting programs at the University of Georgia began almost 150 years ago, founded and even directed by students themselves. The evolution of athletics at UGA has traveled a great distance in that multi-generational span. Today, the Athletic Association strives to fulfill many roles, most notably: to field nationally competitive teams in 21 sports; to provide wide-ranging educational opportunities to its student-athletes; to enhance the national and international profile of the University; and to serve as a source of pride, a rallying point, for the legions of supporters that follow its teams.
--- The First Sports --------------------------------
1953 Georgia Bulldogs Baseball Team
The sport of baseball sprouted on many college campuses in the years that followed the Civil War, and Georgia was no different. Club teams were formed at UGA as early as 1867. In 1886 the school organized its first baseball team, a squad that won both of its games, the first against a local club team and the latter against Emory College in Oxford, Ga.
Major colleges in the Northeast began playing a form of organized football as early as 1869. By the time Charles Herty introduced the game to his alma mater in 1890, football had become purely American, a hybrid game that drew upon both soccer and rugby. Herty had learned the game while pursuing his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University.
Shortly after he joined the UGA faculty as a Chemistry professor, Herty organized the University's football program, one of many ways he championed the cause of athletics on campus. On Jan. 30, 1892 the Georgia team (coached by Herty) played its first game, a 50-0 victory over Mercer. On Feb. 20, Georgia traveled to Atlanta for its only other game that season, a 10-0 loss to Auburn, thus beginning what is still referred to as the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry."
Track and Field, too, was borne from the popularity of student-run physical activities. Shortly after the 10th annual "Field Day" - popular outings that included greased pig chases, as well as dashes and throws - Georgia competed in its first-ever track meet, the 1897 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) championship in Nashville, Tenn. A year later the Bulldog cinder men were dueling with in-state rival Georgia Tech.
UGA had an active fraternity tennis league as early as 1888. Ten years later, L.A. Cothran represented the school in the first Intercollegiate Tennis Meet in Montgomery, Ala. In 1905, Georgia held its first dual-match competitions when it defeated Mercer and Georgia Tech.
The next year, Athens YMCA director W.T. Forbes organized UGA's inaugural basketball squad, which combined the best of the student teams that frequented his gymnasium. That 1906 team played but two games, a pair of close losses to Georgia Tech. Early teams, however, enjoyed their share of success, culminating in the 1932 Southern Conference championship.
--- Conference Affiliations --------------------------------
Steadman V. Sanford
Herty also played a key role in the formation of the aforementioned SIAA, originally a 7-member league that announced its inception on Dec. 22, 1894. Naturally, Georgia was one of the seven charter members. The stated goals of the SIAA were to approve a set of eligibility rules, as well as to stage a championship track meet and a basketball tournament.
The SIAA expanded each year until membership surpassed 25 schools by 1920. That year, after several years of disagreement over a freshman-eligibility rule, 14 schools - Georgia among them - announced they would form their own Southern Conference and begin operations in the 1921-22 academic year. The league's founding president was UGA's own Steadman V. Sanford, professor in Journalism and Faculty Chairman of Athletics.
In 10 years, however, the Southern Conference had expanded at nearly the same rate as the SIAA, reaching a roll of 23 schools by 1932. On Dec. 9 of that year, at the SoCon's annual meeting in Knoxville, Sanford announced that 13 schools - aligned geographically west and south of the Appalachian Mountains - were withdrawing to form their own league. Today, Georgia is one of 10 charter members that have remained in the Southeastern Conference since that day.
--- Major Facilities --------------------------------
By the dawn of the 20th Century, what few Georgia teams there were all played on a cleared-out parcel of land called, appropriately, Herty Field. Dr. Sanford, who by then had assumed the Faculty Chairmanship of the athletics program, thought this an inadequate setup. By 1910, Georgia teams had moved to a new facility where both football and baseball teams could thrive, and where more than 1,000 of their followers could watch. The grateful student body suggested the new park be called Sanford Field, and so it was.
The growing popularity of college football swept southward in the Teens and Twenties. Soon enough, there simply weren't enough bleachers at Sanford Field to match the number of interested spectators. Through some deft politicking by Sanford and the contributions of many - monetary, physical and otherwise - Georgia christened its new Sanford Stadium on Oct. 12, 1929 with a shocking 15-0 upset of Eastern power Yale. In the 80 years that have followed, a total of six expansions have brought the stadium's capacity to its current level of 92,746, all the while keeping it among the nation's most picturesque settings for football.
Not until 1924 did the Georgia basketball team enjoy its own home court. That's when the Bulldogs moved into Woodruff Hall, a first-rate facility in its prime, but one that was scorned for its dim, drafty conditions by the 1950s. On Feb. 22, 1964, over 13,000 spectators watched Georgia defeat Georgia Tech in the inaugural game at the Georgia Coliseum. In the final home game of the 1996 season, it was renamed in honor of Herman J. Stegeman, an early pioneer of basketball in the South, coach of several sports at UGA and also its first athletic director.
Other major facilities through the years include Stegeman Hall, built by the U.S. Navy in 1943 and home to the UGA Athletic Association, the Physical Education department and the UGA swim teams until 1996. Since 1966, the baseball team has played at its current location, named Foley Field two years later and renovated in 1990. The Ramsey Student Center for Physical Activities opened in 1996 and provides competition venues for Georgia's swimming and volleyball teams.
--- Football Flourishes --------------------------------
It is the opinion of many that Georgia's 15-0 upset of Yale in 1929 marked the advent of "big-time" football in the South. Detractors would certainly argue, but surely that day ushered in a new era on the UGA campus. Indeed, baseball had been the most popular sport in the early years of Georgia athletics. Not until that memorable showdown did football weave itself so prominently into the tapestry of the University.
During the 1940s, Georgia truly became a national power in football. All under the guidance of coach Wally Butts, six Bulldog teams played in bowl games that decade, led by the 1942 squad that won the national championship and featured Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich. Four years later Charley Trippi and several of his 1942 teammates returned from military service to form another juggernaut that produced a 10-0 record, a Sugar Bowl victory over North Carolina and a No. 1 ranking by at least one authority.
In the 25-year Vince Dooley era, Georgia enjoyed perhaps its most glorious run ever during the early 1980s. The Bulldogs went 43-4-1 in the first four years of that decade, won three straight Southeastern Conference titles and the school's second consensus national crown (1980). Tailback Herschel Walker also became UGA's second Heisman Trophy winner in 1982.
During the Mark Richt era, the football team compiled 106 victories in 11 years (2001-2011), won two SEC championships, four SEC eastern division titles and tied for another.
--- Athletic Association Growth --------------------------------
The first half of the 20th Century featured the addition of several sports programs at UGA. Some have thrived and reached greatness in the decades that followed. Others were not as fortunate.
Georgia's first golf team organized in 1923 and, without a coach, went undefeated in its matches and won the SIAA Tournament that year in Knoxville. Georgia golfers have, of course, gone on to win two NCAA team championships and 28 SEC team titles.
The swimming & diving program started in 1926, competing at the Athens YMCA facility. Georgia enjoyed sporadic moments of success through the years, but not consistently until two key factors: the leadership of Jack Bauerle, first as women's head coach in 1979 and, beginning in 1983, as coach of both men's and women's teams; and the opening of the world-class Gabrielsen Natatorium as their home facility in 1996.
Three other intercollegiate teams were founded at UGA in the Twenties: Boxing and Lacrosse in 1926, as well as Polo in 1928. The Georgia boxing program lasted longest of the three, operating in fits and starts until it was disbanded in 1949. Both lacrosse and polo were disbanded in 1934 and 1935, respectively, for a lack of funds and a shortage of competing teams in the region.
It should also be noted that the Athletic Association started two other programs for men in the latter half of the 20th century: Wrestling and Gymnastics. Both were started in the 1960-61 season. The wrestlers' last year of competition came in 1980, the gymnasts in 1986. In each instance, the reasons for disbandment were the same: the lack of competing teams in the region and an increased movement toward equal athletic funding for women.
--- Women's Athletics at UGA --------------------------------
Before 1972, sporting opportunities for women on campus were confined to intramurals and a few club teams. The enactment of the Title IX of the Education Amendments that year, however, brought vast and sweeping change to the landscape of college athletics.
Georgia very slowly began its efforts to comply with Title IX. It took six years after its enactment before UGA awarded a scholarship to a female student-athlete. Behind the leadership of Liz Murphey - Georgia's first women's athletics administrator - and the support of athletic director Vince Dooley, Georgia emerged as a national leader for women in college athletics. Beginning in the early Eighties and continuing today, UGA has built an exemplary record of opportunity and success with its women's teams.
Murphey took a $15,000 grant from the Athletic Association in 1972 and founded six women's teams the next year, though some did not fully compete until later: basketball, golf, gymnastics, swimming, tennis and volleyball. Track & field was added in 1980. Amazingly, five of those seven sports have since won at least one national team championship. Three of them, led by the gymnastics team's dynastic total of 10, have captured multiple national team titles.
The Athletic Association continues to increase its opportunities for female student-athletes, having added three more latter-day sports: soccer in 1995, softball in 1997 and most recently, equestrian in 2003.
--- High Standards --------------------------------
Particularly in the past quarter-century, athletic teams at UGA have succeeded at an astounding rate. Indeed, NCAA championships have become almost an annual occurrence among Bulldog teams. The men's tennis team of coach Dan Magill captured the school's first-ever NCAA team title in 1985, and since then 25 other teams have followed suit. Under the direction of coach Suzanne Yoculan, the gymnastics program has won 10 NCAA championships, including the last five of her 26-year tenure that ended in 2009.
In all, UGA's athletic teams have won 38 national team championships, beginning with the football program's crown in 1942. Additionally, Georgia student-athletes have won a total of 171 national individual titles, starting with back-to-back wins in 1936-37 by Forrest "Spec" Towns in the 120-yard hurdles. On a regional scale, UGA teams have won 143 Southeastern Conference team titles.
The national success of UGA teams is reflected in the Director's Cup, a relatively new competition that measures a school's overall performance in a given year. Using a scoring system that awards points according to a team's national finish, Georgia has fared exceedingly well in all 19 years of Director's Cup standings. Bulldog teams, in fact, have top-20 finishes in each of the past 15 years, including top-5 showings on three occasions: 1999 (2nd), 2001 (3rd) and 2004 (5th).
--- Academic Excellence --------------------------------
Led by its football program, Georgia has also built a record of success in the classroom. The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) sponsors the most comprehensive program for honoring classroom excellence with its Academic All-America teams. Since 1960, UGA student-athletes have earned a total of 111 CoSIDA Academic All-America appointments (14th among all Division I schools) including 56 first-team honors. Terry Hoage, an All-America defensive back in 1982-83, was inducted into the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 2004.
In addition, Georgia student-athletes have earned 56 NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships, fifth-most among all member institutions. Thirteen of those were awarded to Bulldog football players, who have also earned 12 post-graduate scholarships through the National Football Foundation.
--- International Stage --------------------------------
Teresa Edward and Katrina McClain
Many UGA athletes and coaches have brought great notoriety to their school as participants in the Olympics. These competitors have not only won 27 total medals, including 16 golds, but many have distinguished themselves in others ways as well. Spec Towns brought home a gold medal from the 1936 Games in Berlin by winning the 110-meter high hurdles. Bulldog All-American Teresa Edwards remains the only basketball player, male or female, to compete in five Olympiads, from which she took home three gold medals. She has also served in a pair of distinguished, non-competing roles: as Olympic oath-taker (1996) and chef de mission for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. Former UGA swimmer Sheila Taormina competed in four Olympic Games, beginning in 1996 as a gold medal-winning member of the 800-meter freestyle relay team. She returned in both Sydney and Athens as a triathlete and, incredibly, in Beijing as a U.S. entry in the Pentathlon. Georgia swimming coach Jack Bauerle has also participated in two Olympiads: in 2000 as a U.S. team assistant and in 2008 as the U.S. Women's Swim Team head coach.
At the 2012 Games in London, Allison Schmitt became the first-ever gold medalist in an individual event when she won the women's 200-meter freestyle race. It was the first of five medals for Schmitt in London and one of seven overall for UGA representatives.