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The Record of Wrongs: Tennessee Volunteers

Over at Rocky Top Talk, SB Nation’s Tennessee Volunteers weblog, our good friend Joel offers a regular feature called "The Record of Wrongs." This week, naturally, his target is the Georgia Bulldogs, upon whom he heaps a myriad of animadversions. I, for one, am having none of it.

It’s not that I bear the Big Orange any special ill will; I don’t. Because the Vols are a division rival from a storied program, I consider it important for the ‘Dawgs to beat Tennessee on a regular basis, of course, but I have nothing personal against the team’s fans, players, or coaches not named "Lane." In my experience, the Volunteers have the most cordial fan base among our annual rivals, although your mileage may vary.

Nevertheless, any litany of alleged affronts offered by the Red and Black against the Big Orange inevitably will be woefully inadequate, because the scales of injustice already were tipped entirely towards Knoxville and not at all towards Athens. In evidence thereof, I present the testimony of Dr. John F. Stegeman, from two separate passages of his seminal work, The Ghosts of Herty Field: Early Days on a Southern Gridiron. Take it away, Doc:

[Georgia] had a field day against Tech in Athens, winning 33 to 0, before entraining for a game with Tennessee. When the players arrived in Knoxville on Friday evening, they were shown to their rooms in one of the dormitories, and for the remainder of the night were "serenaded" by the Tennessee college boys. The next day, no transportation being available, the team set out to the field on foot, arriving an hour late for the opening kickoff.

The referee, one Mr. Pierce, happened also to be the Tennessee coach, a combination that did not inspire the Georgia boys’ confidence in his decisions. With thirteen minutes to play, and Tennessee leading by a touchdown, Georgia began a drive toward the Tennessee goal. Just how dark it was at the time became a matter of dispute. According to the Georgia version, just as the advance was gaining momentum at the Tennessee twenty, referee Pierce suddenly became concerned over the lengthening shadows and called the game on account of darkness.

"It was the culmination of a gigantic swindle," wrote a Banner reporter. "The whole student body are indignant over the treatment accorded Georgia’s team . . . and the Tennesseans’ ungentlemanly conduct. No self-respecting body of men should consent to engage in athletic sports with such barbarians. . . ."

That bit of Volunteer skullduggery from the 1899 clash, however, serves as a mere prelude to a later indignity in the 1908 meeting between the two teams, as chronicled by Dr. Stegeman:

According to the papers, Georgia once drove to the Tennessee one-yard line, only to lose the ball. Professor Sanford often told the story of that Georgia march and its sudden ending. Except for a handful of students who made the trip, he was perhaps the only Georgia rooter and, as the team fought its way downfield, he walked down the sideline surrounded by a hostile Tennessee crowd. As Georgia neared the goal-line a back swept around end only to be tackled a yard short of goal, practically at Sanford’s feet. The players unpiled and the spectators swarmed around. When Georgia’s quarterback, Johnny Northcutt, got to his feet, he found himself face-to-face with a grizzled mountaineer in a green frock coat and four-gallon hat. Sanford, who was close by, was sure the man was full of sour mash. With one hand the Tennessean fingered a .38 pistol and, with the other, he pointed to the goal-line. "The first man that crosses that line," he drawled, "will get a bullet in his carcass."

On the next play, much to Sanford’s relief, Georgia fumbled and Tennessee recovered.

While I would never wish to appear disrespectful to the sainted Steadman Vincent Sanford, I am compelled to note, in all candor, that I believe he added the first four letters to the final word of that quotation after the fact.

In any event, remember those two tales the next time the Tennessee faithful try telling you that we are the ones who need to atone for our wrongdoing in the series.

Go ‘Dawgs!