Virtually every school in college football strives to be the “gold standard” for excellence, but the Georgia Bulldogs are actually fine with settling for silver. In 1939, the Dawgs began wearing pearly-gray uniform pants, and three years later, won their first national championship. The bold fashion choice proved to be good luck, and since then, the hue most associated with second place has colored the way supporters see their team. For UGA fans, silver means tradition, gutsy performances and decades of winning.
While the university has captured more than 40 national championships in sports such as gymnastics, swimming, and tennis, it’s the exploits on the gridiron that are most celebrated in Athens. The roots of the school’s infatuation with the pigskin can be traced all the way back to the 1890s, when a young Glenn “Pop” Warner was given his first head coaching job. The future College Football Hall of Famer would guide the Bulldogs for only two seasons, but he still managed to make a lasting impression. In 1896, he led UGA to their first-ever undefeated season, and thus, a storied history was born.
Coach Wally Butts put the Dawgs in the now-classic “Silver Britches,” yet it was Vince Dooley who placed the school on the radar of fans across the country. Over the course of his 25-year coaching career at UGA, Dooley oversaw 20 bowl appearances, six SEC titles, and a national championship. He’s also the man who called for the redesign on the university’s logo. In 1963, his first season in Athens, Dooley suggested the team wear red helmets with a fierce, forward-facing “G,” and a prototype was drawn up. More than 50 years later, the look remains one of the most recognizable across the entire college football landscape.
Of all the teams to represent the Red and Black in its 120-plus years, the Dooley-led squads from 1980 to ‘83 are still the top Dawgs. Spurred on by three-time All-American Herschel Walker, the program won 43 games over a four-year span, and competed on the national stage in three Sugar Bowls and the Cotton Bowl. Their supreme achievement wasn’t just the 1980 national championship win, but the fact they contended for the title in each of the three seasons afterward. In that time, Walker galloped his way to the Heisman Trophy, while Dooley nabbed Football Writers Association of America Coach of the Year honors in ‘80, and in ‘82, was named Chevrolet Coach of the Year.
At Sanford Stadium, a secluded trumpet player heralds the beginning of each football contest by belting out the school rallying cry, “Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation.” From there, the Dawgs and the 92,000 fans in attendance take care of the rest. Opponents find themselves not just in for a fight but also trapped “between the hedges,” as the field is literally surrounded by a ring of privet bushes. While SEC foes may find it suffocating, folks in Athens wouldn’t trade their spirited atmosphere for anything in the world (well, except for maybe another NCAA crown).