Tech v. Alabama 1961

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Contents

Background

By the late 1950s, both national and local trends were leading toward greater professionalism in college football, especially in Georgia Tech. However, the institute had problems with raising academic standards for football players. Coach Dodd, who remained head football coach until 1967, was blamed for losing some players on the team. In an interview in 1958, Dodd accepted the hard reality of the Georgia Tech football team, thus he created an academic support program for football players and found ways to attract good football players from out of state. Although Coach Dodd made an effort, the game between Tech and Alabama in 1961 proved that Tech was still experiencing trouble due to Tech's sudden internal changes in its academic area.

Georgia Tech's advertisement for ticket sales[1]

The Game

The game was remembered as the starting point of hatred between Alabama and Georgia Tech because of a serious injury followed by an irresponsible action. It was an incident that displayed dirty football by Darwin Holt, a senior linebacker from Alabama. Georgia Tech player Chick Graning was running down field without any opposition, he assumed the play was over and left his guard down. Then Alabama player, Darwin Holt, jumped at Graning, and punched him in the face with his forearm. Holt struck Chick in the face with his left elbow. According to 'Engineering The New South', the full diagnosis, as indicated by the Tech team physician, was: “fracture of facial bones, five missing upper teeth and remaining front teeth broken, fracture of nasal bone, fracture of right maxillary sinus and sinus filled with blood, fracture of bone beneath right eye, cerebral concussion, possible fracture of base of skull.” [2]. The local newspaper and the articles from later in the year published many articles about the dirty football sport in general, especially about the game between Alabama and Georgia Tech. Due to this incident Chick was not able to finish the season for the Yellow Jackets. The Atlanta Constitution ran photos of the "brutalized young Graning lying in his hospital bed with his face smothered in bandages, and the papers called for Holt to be suspended for what was, to them, an obviously late and dirty hit" [3]. There was another reason why this game was very famous around the world. It was Coach Bryant. Despite the violation of sportsmanship, clearly recorded on film and in people's memories, Coach Bryant refused to announce a public apology and did not remove Holt from the team. In January 1962, Coach Dodd described Bryant’s behavior as the "expiration of the contract in 1964". The contract was originally between Georgia Tech and Alabama and agreed on appropriate and clean football games. Furthermore, Dodd's announcement showed that the contract was not important to him anymore because of Coach Bryant's reaction. Subsequently, in that time, "Bryant [had] already earned a reputation as an outlaw school that not only played dirty, but also received in their reputation as a dirty football team" [4]. The Graning incident served to confirm what other people already believed about Coach Bryant's reputation, and that hurt him externally. In fact, even local newspapers in Alabama criticized Bryant's actions. Georgia Tech also announced that Tech would no longer play Alabama, even though years later Tech decided to play against Alabama shortly before Bryant’s death, at that point memories of the incident had subsided.

Coach Dodd

Coach Dodd was one of the preeminent football coaches in the history of Georgia Tech. The excess of magazine articles and even a journal entry by him in the archive building at Georgia Tech tells how great Dodd was. He was known as the ‘savior’ who ignited the football spirit from the series of lost games. The conflict between him and Coach Bryant was never settled down until both deaths.

Coach Dodd (most right).

Dodd’s Care

From the game in 1961 with Alabama, Dodd truly demonstrated how he ‘excessively’ cared about his players. He treated them as if they were his sons. When Chick Graning was injured by Holt, and there was no sign of repenting from the Alabama side, Bobby Dodd was there. After Graining got hurt Dodd annullled the contract, having no discussion with Tech Athletic Department prior to the decision. Then the football players realized how much Coach Dodd would risk for his loving ‘sons’. Therefore, the 1966 football season was a highly successful one for Dodd, the team recorded nine wins, one tie and zero losses and won the Orange Bowl. Dodd brought the team back to a respectable showing after a series of less successful years in the late fifties and early sixties. This happened because of Dodd’s teaching.

Young Dodd

According to Dodd’s math teacher from Dobyns-Bennett high school, Dodd was famous in high school because of his talent in athletics [5]. His math teacher described him as “very obedient and had a strong heart that he would do his best in order to bring everyone in the team together”[6]. Subsequently, his early interest in football later transformed him into one of the best coaches at Georgia Tech. The math teacher told the reporter that Dodd would sometimes draw the football field on his notes during her lecture. Even though the teacher caught him not paying attention, Dodd would already know the material that was being discussed.

Dodd’s Coaching

Dodd’s coaching is different from other coaches. According to 'Bobby Dodd's manual on how to play football [7], Dodd taught that the most important thing for his players was to ‘win yourselves’, but also "taught his players the ‘Don’ts’, the ‘Always’, the ‘Cant’s’, the ‘Uses’, and the ‘Nevers’ of football. Each word is shortened from a phrase, such as, ‘Don’t’s’ are “Don’t lose your head”, or “Don’t fumble the ball”" [8]. According to 'Bobby Dodd's manual on how to play football , [9], the manual by Dodd was divided into five chapters, one of the chapters consisted of instruction that taught athletes how they should behave outside the football field.

Dodd’s legacy

Dodd remained at Tech until 1977. According to 'Engineering The New South', "Dodd [retired] after twenty-two years as head football coach at Tech, with an enviable 165-64-8 record, marked the end of a great era in Tech football" [10]. Also, "Dodd’s successor, Leon H Carson, was more nervous about Dodd’s phenomenal work" [11]. Since his work toward Georgia Tech was exceptional, Georgia Tech was able to obtain more professional athletes. Georgia Tech’s excellence in sports, especially, "intercollegiate football, was a key factor in making the school known throughout the country during Coach Dodd’s leadership, and that is the reason why Tech could keep winning many games after Dodd’s retirement" [12]. And most likely, the increase in scholarship opportunities for athletes contributed building stronger, tighter teams.

Sources

Source Summary:Inventory of the Bobby Dodd Papers, 1921-1989 (bulk 1945-1989)

Source Summary:Engineering The New South, Georgia Tech, 1885-1985 Athletics, The Post-Sputnik Era

Source Summary: Bobby Dodd's manual on how to play football

Source Summary:Newspaper Clippings on Bobby Dodd, 1951-1975

References

  1. http://www.historicfootballposters.com/fp_poster.php?12+Alabama
  2. Engineering The New South, Georgia Tech, 1885-1985 Athletics, The Post-Sputnik Era
  3. Engineering The New South, Georgia Tech, 1885-1985 Athletics, The Post-Sputnik Era
  4. Engineering The New South, Georgia Tech, 1885-1985 Athletics, The Post-Sputnik Era
  5. Newspaper Clippings on Bobby Dodd, 1951-1975 MS 380, Box 3, Folder 2
  6. Newspaper Clippings on Bobby Dodd, 1951-1975 MS 380, Box 3, Folder 2
  7. Bobby Dodd's manual on how to play football MS380 Box 1: Folder 1
  8. Bobby Dodd's manual on how to play football MS380 Box 1: Folder 1
  9. Bobby Dodd's manual on how to play football MS380 Box 1: Folder 1
  10. Engineering The New South, Georgia Tech, 1885-1985 Athletics, The Post-Sputnik Era
  11. Engineering The New South, Georgia Tech, 1885-1985 Athletics, The Post-Sputnik Era
  12. Engineering The New South, Georgia Tech, 1885-1985 Athletics, The Post-Sputnik Era
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