Monday, February 20, 2012

Deep South's Oldest Rivalry: 120 Years Old Today Yet Facing Extinction

The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry: as all-American as apple pie.
(UGA-Auburn Program, 1944).

Today, February 20th, is the 120th anniversary of the first game in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, UGA's second game in program history. The game, played in Piedmont Park in Atlanta, was the capstone to the 1892 Georgia football season, a season which was the first year of organized football being played south of Raleigh, NC.

Auburn fans uniquely identify with the first game in the Rivalry as being the origin of "War Eagle," with an eagle purportedly brought home by a wounded Civil War veteran from the Battle of the Wilderness rallying the crowd and students from Auburn to a 10-0 victory over Georgia, where at the end of the game the eagle crashed and died on the field.

The game has also served as a rallying cry for Georgians. The inaugural game attracted 150 students from the nearby Georgia School of Technology to dress up in red and black and cheer for Georgia, and the second game, a 10-8 Georgia victory in November 1894, caused quite the celebration once the team & fans arrived back in Athens:

"The Varsity special left at 7 o'clock and the people of Athens awaited the arrival of the party at the Athens depot with a brass band and plenty of enthusiasm. Merchants opened their stores and told the boys to help themselves to boxes. Soon a large bonfire lighted up the campus, the college rang out on the night air and the college yell was heard on every hand. The night had far spent itself when the last echo of the bell was heard and the dying embers of the great bonfire was all that was left to remind the passer by that the great day was over. Georgia had triumphed!
Three years had she waited and now the defeat that had once befallen her by the hands of the Alabamians was blotted out." (The Red & Black, December 1, 1894).

Since 1898, the series has only been halted for 3 years, 1917-18 (when we were 'Over There' for WWI) and 1943 (WWII). The Georgia-Auburn rivalry is considered the oldest rivalry in the South, with UGA-Auburn's first game preceding the South's "Oldest" Rivalry (UVA-UNC) by 8 months. While UVA and NC have played 116 times through 2011 (to 115 for UGA-AU), the UVA-UNC series was notably not halted during World War 2.

Ours is a rivalry that is extraordinarily even, with Auburn holding the series lead 54-53-8 thru 115 games, yet Georgia leading by 76 points scored in the overall series, 1854-1778.

Yet all this history may be on the chopping block, along with Alabama's rivalry with Tennessee, for the sake of the greater good of the conference. Once you go down this path for the sake of Missouri, TA&M, and a more 'balanced' 8 game conference schedule, you destroy the fabric of a storied rivalry, trample upon a game that predates the Southeastern Conference itself by 40 years, and kill one of the biggest traditions in both program's storied histories.

On this, the 120th anniversary of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, take a moment to call, fax, or write a letter to Mike Slive and let him know of the importance of the Georgia-Auburn annual rivalry in the SEC and the need to keep fixed annual cross-division rivals. While Commissioner Slive may not have an ounce of Southern blood in him, common sense at some point may kick in to prevent the SEC's own 'New Coke' fiasco.

ESPN-produced Intro to the 2004 Game.


sUGAr Falling CEO said...

Great post. Those in power in the SEC and elsewhere throughout the country have become arrogant to the point they believe they can make changes like this without consequences. They know that regardless of what they do, fans in the SEC will continue to sell out stadiums and turn on the TV. And they are right. However, it would be extremely sad if this great game was sacrificed for a bigger pay check.

Amanda said...

Georgia & auburn usually have the best games in the SEC i have fun watching each other play i hate auburn but that's what makes the rivalry fun to see you don't know what year gonna see in this game.Amanda Vanderpool