The mother of all “what if” lists

Friend of the blog and UGA Athletics History Specialist Jason Hasty was inspired by this week’s Playpen to email his list of Georgia “what ifs” that I had to share with you, with his permission.  It’s remarkable.

– What if Georgia beats Virginia in Charlottesville in 1920? Georgia was without several talented players because Virginia had a rule disallowing the participation of freshmen, so we played a strong UVA team to a 0-0 tie. A win would have meant our second ever undefeated season and a probable trip to the Rose Bowl to take on Ohio State.  With even one field goal that day, could our unbeaten, untied, undisputed national championship team have happened sixty years earlier than it historically did?  
The other ‘what if’ from that game is that it marked the change from the ‘Wildcats’ mascot to the ‘Bulldogs’. If we had beaten Virginia and gone on to win a title, could the ‘Wildcats’ have stuck? Could that 0-0 tie have prevented us from being the Georgia Wildcats to this day?
– What if ‘Von’ Gammon had not been killed during the Georgia-Virginia game in 1897? The ’97 team brought back most of the undefeated 1896 team and added ‘Tich’ Tichoner, who had starred at quarterback for Auburn in the previous two seasons. We opened up ’97 with strong wins over Clemson and Tech and were favored going up against a Viriginia team that was one of the strongest in the South at that time. Had Gammon not been killed, would a win over Virginia solidified Georgia’s status as one of the premier Southern powers? Would it have prevented Georgia football’s 12-year long slide into irrelevancy on campus that was only ended with the arrival of Alex Cunningham and Bob McWhorter?  With a powerful Georgia program ruling the South, would Alabama have arisen as the premier program that it became?  It should also be mentioned that quarterback was Gammon’s natural position. With Tichoner on the team, Gammon slid over to fullback, which flipped over to a linebacker spot on defense. It was in that position that he went in to tackle the UVA ball carrier and met his untimely end.
– If Steadman Sanford had not taken over the direction of Georgia athletics and put us on the path to rebuilding our programs and modernizing our facilities, what would all of Georgia sports look like today? Would be be closer to the mid-tier programs than the top? 
– What if the Georgia-Georgia Tech game not been played on a muddy (suspiciously muddy, some at the time said) Grant Field on December 3, 1927? Georgia had the more talented team, but was lighter and faster than Tech so our backs got bogged down in the mud. A Georgia win on a drier field would have sent us to the Rose Bowl instead of a much weaker Pitt team. Could we have won our first national title with a win over Stanford and our old coach Pop Warner? 
This loss also gave urgency to building a modern football facility to replace old Sanford Field. What would our stadium situation be today if we had waited even a couple of years to finance and build a bigger facility? Would we have then had to wait through the Depression and then WWII to build a new stadium? Would a stadium built in the late ’40s or ’50s be where Sanford Stadium is today or would it be on the outskirts of Athens? What would our gameday experience be like today if Grant Field had been a little less muddy in December 1927? 
– What if our program not broken up for World War II? Charley Trippi starring for a team seasoned during ’42 and led by Wally Butts at his coaching peak could have solidified a dynasty during the 1940s. Could they have added another SEC — or even national — title? Could Trippi have won the Heisman?
– What if the media had not been locked into naming the winner of the 1946 Notre Dame-Army game national champion? An error filled and ugly 0-0 tie broke the narrative that those were the two best teams in the country, and the end of the year saw Georgia, which had played a very tough schedule, standing as the only unbeaten, untied team in the country and Charley Trippi as the best individual player in college football.  If the media were more open to naming a team other than Notre Dame or Army national champions, and especially if the AP poll had been issued after the bowl games were played instead of after the last week of the regular season, could ’46 have been our first national championship won on the field instead of claimed retroactively?  And, again, could Trippi have won the Heisman he deserved so richly for his outstanding season (and overall career)?
– What if Dan Magill had decided to stick with journalism in Atlanta and not come back to Athens in 1949? There are very few irreplaceable people in the history of any institution, but one could argue that Magill was, for many years, irreplaceable here. Georgia’s status as a historical tennis power and the spiritual home of college tennis wouldn’t have happened, for sure.  
Along that line, what if we had not hired Auburn basketball coach Joel Eaves as Athletic Director and charged him with bringing the program back to solvency and relevancy?  Eaves might be one of the most underrated figures in the history of our program and the choice to bring him in stabilized our program in a way that it hadn’t been for over a decade. The most obvious point is that without Eaves here, Coach Dooley would certainly have gone to work for Frank Broyles at Arkansas instead of coming here in 1964. 
– A one point loss to Miami in 1966 denied Coach Dooley his first undefeated season. A win over Miami would have left two undefeated teams in the SEC at the end of the regular season, Georgia and Alabama. Presuming that we weren’t matched up in the Sugar Bowl and that we both won our bowl games (as we both did, historically), could Georgia and Alabama have split a national title instead of seeing Michigan State and Notre Dame split the title after their 10-10 tie?  A national title for Dooley in his third season would have put him firmly in the top echelon of young coaches during the 1960s. Presuming that 1980 played out as it did historically, what would our perception of the program be now with that shared national title alongside the claimed ’42 title and the undisputed 1980 title?
– Much like the loss to Miami in ’66, what if Georgia had beaten Pat Sullivan and Auburn in ’71? A win over Auburn would have left Georgia and Alabama as unbeaten co-SEC champions. Would Georgia have played Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl for the national title? Even with a loss to Nebraska, how would that have changed the national perception of Georgia after a couple of middling years?  Would that momentum propelled us to a stronger program during the ’70s?  

Answers to these are welcomed in the comments section. It’s a pretty amazing history our program has.


Filed under Georgia Football

22 responses to “The mother of all “what if” lists

  1. mp

    I am not a huge fan of “claiming” national championships (Alabama or UCF) that aren’t backed by some poll or legitimate org, but that 1946 team definitely should claim one.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I saw this the other day and forgot to reply. Maybe not significant ones, but I wonder what happens if Brice Hunter doesn’t drop a pass in Neyland , what if Spurrier doesn’t call a time out in a wet WLOCP. What if Georgia beats Florida in 92? Does Goff stay through the 90s and Spurrier flames out? The whole SEC could’ve looked different in the 90s with a few Georgia wins, and who knows what Florida would look like today. No Zooker, probably no Urban. Who knows.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Faltering Memory

    Coach Eaves certainly deserves more acclaim than he is accorded.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      Totally agree. He was AD when I matriculated, and like you would expect I did not know him from Adam’s house cat as a student. But, over time, after reading various books by folks like Loran Smith I have come to realize his importance.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. MagnusDawgus

    Eh, no one was going to beat Nebraska in 1971, so our loss to Auburn was irrelevant. Alabama destroyed Auburn two weeks later in a battle of unbeatens, and then Bama went on to get destroyed by Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

    What if a couple of our athletic board members had managed to keep their big mouths shut and we had hired an ascendant Dick Sheridan instead of Ray Goff?


  5. Down Island Way

    “What if” our beloved Lawrence Harry Munson had continued with Vandy sports or even those Atlanta Braves….we as fans of UGA sports are VERY fortunate to have had that voice, that love for “GETTING THE PICTURE”….on a Saturday afternoon in God’s country…

    Liked by 7 people

  6. Muttley

    Until divisional play, Auburn was the fulcrum of the Bulldog universe. Two losses to them and one tie, off the top of my head, cost Dooley at least three more SECCs. In years in which he beat Auburn, his chances of an SECC slightly more than doubled, I think. I don’ believe any other opponent had as great a statistical effect.

    Auburn has also beaten three of our SEC champs, including the last two- ’42, ’05, and ’17 *

    Florida has beaten two, both of Richt’s- ’02, ’05
    South Carolina (’59) and Ole Miss (’76) have beaten one each
    Tennessee tied one- ’68
    tech- HELL no.

    Auburn: fulcrum of our universe.

    Yeah, I know.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. SoCalDawg

    Kudos Mr. Hasty – that is a fantastic list! I learned so much. Thanks for posting, Senator.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Muttley

    More pretty obvious what-ifs:
    Herschel’s coin toss
    Dooley to Oklahoma (or much later, to Auburn)
    Erk back as HC
    What if Pop Warner had stayed on?
    Most of those were probably covered in the other thread.
    Donnan once stated that if he’d known his job depended on it, he’d have pulled the redshirt off David Greene for the 2000 tech game. What if Greene had saved him? JD and QC in 2001, baby…(and nope, DJ is QB at FSU in 2004).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Muttley

    RE: the building of Sanford in 1929: little known aspect of that, according to something I’ve read, is that the loan came due in the fifties, causing financial problems and slashes to the program (including scholarships) that helped make the fifties a lost decade. The already reduced team was whored out as a road opponent with no return games and once or twice even played games as an opening act for Bobby Dodd’s GT at Grant Field.

    In 1957 Georgia played only two home games, and when Theron Sapp crossed the goal line at Grant Field to break the drought, I believe- look this up and check me- it was the first time we had scored against Florida, Auburn, or tech in three years.


    • Tony BarnFart

      I feel like we paid off the bonds for Sanford way before the fifties. I think i read that in the Red&Black archives.

      I do think he’s probably right that any delay in building the stadium from its original 10/29 date may have pushed it out another 10yrs+ that might have put it into an era of putting stadiums in “fairgrounds” type settings, or other exurban outskirts where crowd flow logistics and accommodation was seemingly the paramount concern.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Muttley

        My information on the financial problems in the fifties is from “Fumble”, the book on the Butts-Bryant scandal, but it’s been a long time since I read it. Excellent book, but painful read.

        Of course Auburn sat out the Depression without a stadium and no one would travel to play them. Their tech game was always in Atlanta (as ours had been pre-’29), they played us in Columbus, (didn’t play Bama in those days). I think they played only a handful of home games in the thirties, Clemson was in kind of the same boat and those two visited each other.

        Yeah, we would have been a little brother program for a long time without Sanford.


    • Derek

      We scored but lost in each game in ‘55.

      We were shut out vs. each of the 3 in ‘56 and UF and AU in ‘57 before beating Tech 7-0. So five straight games vs. the three without a score. But not 8.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Muttley

        Yeah, I should have said in TWO seasons- my aging brain was thinking since ’55… ’55-’56’57…

        Still, we sucked.


  10. Teacher Martin

    What if Bob Taylor had not broken his leg in the FSU game?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. poetdawg

    Much as I hate notre dame neither the Dawgs or bama were as good in ‘66. The week after the tie with michigan state (who had 4 first round draft picks by the way) I saw them demolish USC (who finished #18 in ‘66) 51-0 in LA. notre dame played their 2nd string quarterback that day. notre dame had 3 first rounders that year.

    To quote Dreamer Tatum, “What could have happened, did.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. spur21

    A very big “what if” compliments of wiki.
    Death versus Virginia
    On October 30, 1897, UGA played the University of Virginia in Atlanta, Georgia.[1] The two teams the year before were the two most vocal claimants to a Southern football title.[2] Early in the second half, Von Gammon was on defense, and dove into the mass around Virginia’s right tackle. Once the pile-up cleared, he lay there motionless. Two doctors in the stands came to his aid and determined he had a severe concussion. He was on his feet in a few minutes, however, and was being taken off the field by Coach McCarthy, when captain and later judge William B. Kent, not realizing how badly he was hurt, said to him:

    “Von, you are not going to give up, are you?”

    “No, Bill,” he replied, “I’ve got too much Georgia grit for that.”

    Those were the last words he ever spoke. Upon reaching the sideline, he lapsed into unconsciousness.[3] They rushed him to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Gammon died in the early morning hours of October 31, 1897. His funeral was held at First Presbyterian Church in Rome, Georgia. News spread of Von Gammon’s death and the people were devastated as were the Virginia players.[4]

    The Georgia Legislature was in session at the time and public opinion caused them to pass a bill to ban the sport of football in the state of Georgia.[5] The bill would have ended the football programs of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Mercer. The bill only needed the signature of Governor William Yates Atkinson to become a law. Rosalind Burns Gammon wrote a letter to her representative, which later was in the hands of the governor. She was saddened by her son’s death, but did not want the sport outlawed. She mentioned in her letter how his two friends were killed in rock climbing and skating accidents, and how those sports were not banned. Gov. Atkinson vetoed the bill on December 7, 1897.[6] His mother is known as the woman who saved college football in Georgia. In 1921, the University of Virginia team presented a plaque to the University of Georgia in honor of Von Gammon and his mother. Less than 3 years after Von’s death, his brother Will died when he fell under a train following a baseball game in Cartersville, Georgia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Muttley

      I remember hearing that either in ’98 or 2000, Virginia players, having heard about this, chanted “Von Gammon, Von Gammon” at ours in the tunnel before a bowl game.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I was at that 1971 Auburn game, and there’s no way we beat those guys. Sullivan and Beasley were too good.

    Beginning in the 40s’s (which I DON’T remember) at least thru the 60’s, there was a significant media bias against southern teams. This bias cost Alabama in 1966, and might’ve cost us in ’46.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. ugafidelis

    This is so far my favorite post you’ve ever done. Thanks sir.

    Liked by 1 person