“1980 Dawgs”, the review

I’ve always felt a slight sense of amusement in reaction to some fans’ assessment of Mark Richt’s career at Georgia not measuring up because of his failure to win a national title, as if that is some sort of natural state for a school that’s won the MNC once in my lifetime.  The reality is that ours has been a program which has enjoyed good stretches of national prominence sprinkled in with a legitimate chance or two a decade to grab the brass ring.

That’s not meant as a criticism.  There are plenty of programs out there that can’t say nearly as much.  But in a conference as tough as the SEC, a lot of things have to break right for a school to get that opportunity.  You think back on the years that were near misses – 2007 and 2002, 1992, 1982 and 1981 – and you think about the dropped pass here, the half a dozen points there, the turnover fest in Clemson, etc. – and realize that there’s been a very tight window to negotiate.

That’s what makes Georgia’s 1980 season so remarkable.  You think about all the things that had to fall in place that year and did.  A team that had to grow up and put a disappointing 6-5 season in ’79 behind it, that had to dodge its share of bullets several times from start to finish and that had to deal with the distraction of its head coach pondering a job offer from another school in the days leading up to the bowl game that would clinch the MNC proved it possessed the mental toughness to succeed.

And having the greatest freshman in the history of the sport as a catalyst certainly didn’t hurt.

It’s a great story, even from the perspective of a fan looking from the outside in.  I was lucky enough to attend the games in Jacksonville and New Orleans and they’ll always be two of the greatest experiences of my life as a sports enthusiast.  But if you’ve ever been interested in hearing how the players on that team felt as they went through the program’s greatest year, that’s not a story which has been told.  Until now, that is.

Now there’s “1980 Dawgs”, which bills itself as “The Inside Story of the National Championship Season”.  It’s a 2 DVD set of interviews from players, coaches and others close to the program that season along with footage.

But more than that, it’s a labor of love.  There’s a lot of pleasure taken in the retelling of what went on that year and you can sense that from the beginning, which is a look back at how the team regrouped after 1979 and how Georgia landed the most sought after recruit in the country.  Herschel Walker isn’t interviewed, but you’ll hear plenty from people like Frank Ros, Mike Cavan and Scott Woerner.  The lack of ego is refreshing; the sense of accomplishment is palpable.

You’ll get a kick out of the segment on the tracks (1980 was the last season before that end of Sanford Stadium was enclosed).  You’ll no doubt learn some things that you may not have known or forgotten long ago, such as Dooley electing to burn Terry Hoage’s redshirt for the bowl game because of his great week of practice on the kick block team (Dooley’s judgment was rewarded, as Hoage blocked a Notre Dame field goal attempt).   And trust me, you won’t want to miss Freddie Gilbert’s observation on why Auburn was a bigger rival than Florida.

There’s plenty to savor – the set runs about three and a half hours in all – and in the end, you won’t ask yourself why it was done, just why it took so long for anyone to put it together (that’s especially true as you listen to the tributes to Munson, McDuffie, Erk and Jimmy Payne).  “1980 Dawgs” is a must have for any Dawg fan of my generation, but it’s a joy to watch to regardless of age if you follow Georgia football.  Plus, you might learn something about what it takes to get that ring.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to ““1980 Dawgs”, the review

  1. AthensHomerDawg

    “the turnover fest in Clemson,” yeah that was a tough one to watch. Sometimes it just isn’t your day!

  2. X-Dawg

    I got this about 3 months ago. I’ve watched it a couple of times and will watch it again before the Outback Bowl. If anybody is looking for a Christmas gift for a Dawg fan, this is it. The first UGA game I ever attended was the 1980 GA-FL game. The segment of the DVD discussing that game alone is worth the price.

  3. UGLYDAWG

    Please tell me Loran ain’t in it. : }>

  4. Rebar

    I was on the tracks in 1980 for all the home games, and Erk loved all us folks sitting up there and cheering the team on. He always gave us a little wave and smile!

    • Russ

      Never sat on the tracks for a game, though I did party there on Friday nights (and sometimes Thursday nights). It was a great tradition.

      Our engineering club cut up sections of the old tracks and sold them as a fund raiser. I still have a couple of them laying around.

  5. AusDawg85

    Your first two opening paragraphs should be mandatory reading before anyone can sign-up for this or any other UGA blog. The whole “we have the money…we should already have another….’everybody’ else is getting one..” mentality really needs to grasp this perspective.

    Then we can fire Bobo! :-)

    • “You may glory in a team triumphant… But you fall in love with a team in defeat.”
      Roger Kahn

      It’s those near misses listed above that we play over and over in our minds that deepen our love for a program.

      My eighth grade son(who is now hopelessly head over heels in love with Georgia football) is getting this DVD set for Christmas and I cannot wait to watch it with him.

  6. Mayor of Dawgtown

    It seems that UGA is just plain unlucky. When ever the Dawgs have a really good season and win the SEC Championship they finish after the bowls are over 3rd in the nation, 2nd in the nation etc. but never get to play in the BCSNCG. Rivals that we beat with regularity (e.g. Auburn, UT) have one good season and they win the SEC and the BCSNCG. It is easy to forget that CMR has a winning record against Bama and LSU in his tenure at UGA yet both have won BCSNCs during that period and UGA has not. At least part of it is the refs who have been calling games one-sided against Georgia for years. It makes me want to scream.

  7. smblues

    I think this is going to be a great replacement for the old 1980 VHS that I wore out long ago.

  8. Keese

    Special time, yes. But it’s been 30 freakin years. Let’s win another one please!

  9. Great points in the first two paragraphs, except for the detail that UGA is the 2nd most profitable athletic department in the country.

    That kind of money and support should yield more than 1 title every 40 years.