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A Brief History Lesson About University of Georgia Athletics and Goats

Because of the non-existence of opponents in the area, no matches were arranged by Georgia for the fall of 1891, but Mercer College agreed to organize a team to meet the University after Christmas. The game, the first intercollegiate football contest in the deep South, was set for Saturday afternoon, January 30, 1892, at the campus field in Athens.

"The Mercer boys came in at twelve o’clock [on the day of the game]," reported the Athens Banner in its edition of February 2, "and brought with them two cars full of students and citizens of Macon, Madison, and other places along the line of the Macon and Northern. They were taken in charge by the University boys and entertained at their different homes. The Macon colors, black and yellow, were seen on nearly 200 breasts. . . . It was a fine delegation of young men and young ladies and a nicer crowd never came on a visit to Athens.

"The University campus was decorated with black and crimson and on the field one goal was decorated with university colors, the other with Mercer colors. Long before three o’clock the crowd began to assemble and the yells of the two colleges were alternately raised with a vim by the boys. The university goat was driven across the field by the boys and raised quite a ripple of laughter. At three o’clock there were over one thousand people on the grounds, and the presence of so many ladies from the city, the Lucy Cobb and the Home School, added inspiration to the occasion." . . .

As twilight began to fall, some of the spectators left the field, trailing over to the Broad Street Dispensary to make liquid purchases before the shop closed, by state law, at sundown. The game ended with the final score 50 to 0, but tackle Halsey recalled that Georgia actually added two more touchdowns. "The official scorer had made two trips across to the dispensary during the game," he said, "and missed out on ten points."

"Enthusiasm was supreme," read the Banner report. "When the game ended the boys were riding around on a sea of shoulders. Even the goat was ridden." . . .

Dr. Herty, of Georgia, and George Petrie, of Auburn[,] . . . had been graduate students together at Johns Hopkins and had learned the game [of football] simultaneously. Petrie, like Herty at Georgia, was the trainer of Auburn’s first team and agreed to a meeting between the colleges at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.

"All the college boys, the town girls, numbers of the Athens gentlemen and ladies and a number of Lucy Cobb girls will form a party," wrote the Journal correspondent. "They will leave here for Atlanta with the fixed purpose of ‘hollering’ for the university boys. . . . Bob Gantt with his mascot goat will be along. This goat, draped in college colors . . . has been a requisite part of the paraphernalia of the football team. . . .

Among the college boys was the "lung brigade", which, said the Banner, "is composed of a special number of students whose lungs particularly fit them for the honor of leading the yelling for our boys. Headed by this aggregation the University boys make with their yells a music unheard since the old Confederate yell died in our land." All told there were 210 football fans and one goat on board the train. . . .

The Journal prepared for its first football extra, and a direct telegraph line was strung up from the Piedmont Park grandstand to the downtown office. Veteran operator W. H. Richardson was at the key and, as three reporters handed him messages, he transmitted them at the rate of forty words per minute to the downtown receiver, George D. Bishop. As Bishop decoded, he typed out the messages and runners hurried them to the press room[:] . . .

"3:20: The grandstand has been nearly filled. Fully five thousand people are on the grounds. A line of carriages, some one hundred in all, are lined up opposite the field.

"3:25: The toss is made and Auburn wins and takes the ball.

"3:27: Bob Gantt and his goat [with a ‘G’ blanket on his back and wearing a hat with red and black ribbons] have just appeared . . . enthusiastically applauded."

John F. Stegeman, The Ghosts of Herty Field (with emphasis added)

I’ll see y’all at the First Annual Dawg Sports Sacrificial Goat Roast on Saturday.

Go ‘Dawgs!