Over the years, I have often thought about the many husband-wife teams that have served UGA well.
That begs a disclaimer in that clearing the nepotism hurdle was not that difficult. So long as the husband in those good old days of good old boys was not his spouse’s direct supervisor, there were no issues and no controversies.
There was some grumbling when Vince Dooley, in 1964 as the new head coach of the Bulldogs, hired his brother Bill as his offensive coordinator. Vince was Bill’s direct supervisor, but after further review, it was decided that since the UGA Athletic Association did not receive state funds and had to be self-supporting that an exception could be made for the Dooley brothers.
Across all campuses, I suspect, spouses of university employees are gainfully employed so long as they are not in the same department. For example, the wife of a dean of Pharmacy could teach in the Math Department.
There are many couples whom are devout supporters of the University where nepotism concerns never come up. A case in point would be Sonny and Cecelia Seiler who managed UGA’s famous mascot since the mid-’50s. They were never employees, but the greatest of volunteers.
You have heard of great tailbacks who were known as “Mr. Inside,” and “Mr. outside,” which was the way it was with Frank Sinkwich and Charley Trippi at Georgia in the early ’40s. Same with Doc Blanchard (fullback) and Glenn Davis (left halfback) in the T-Formation at Army, also in the ’40s.
Sonny took the mascots onto the field and into the locker rooms. He and Uga met the press and were in the photo ops while Cecilia was the unsung hero of the beloved Bulldogs. She was the one who bathed them, fed them, baby sat them, and made sure they were up to date with their meds —among a plethora of other needs and responsibilities.
She was patient and generous with the neighborhood kids who gloried in taking the Uga’s on walks. t was the same at the Georgia Center, Uga’s home away from home. Many a doting grade school kid hoping to enroll at UGA someday, would walk the Uga’s among the giant pecan trees that line the Georgia Center complex on Lumpkin Street.
It was Cecilia who knitted Uga’s first shirts and sweaters, making them look regal in their “G” clothing. And the Uga’s knew who she was and that she was their best friend. Soon Uga was a big time star.
When Clint Eastwood, who produced the movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” met Uga for the first time, he told the Georgia mascot, “I’m going to make you a star.” Cecelia smiled and said, “Oh Mr. Eastwood, he is already a star.”
Sonny and Cecilia were happy to complement each other along with able assistance from Swann, Charles, Bess and Sara. Everybody pitched in. After all the Uga’s were the family pet.
In his book, “Damn Good Dawg,” with Kent Hannon, Sonny underscored the importance of the family’s role and reminded all writers, reporters and broadcasters that managing and maintaining the Uga’s was a family affair. He never failed to point out the importance of the role that Cecilia played in the lives of the mascots.
I got to know the Seilers when I arrived in Athens and was introduced to them by Dan Magill who played an important role in the Uga tradition. It was Dan who knew about Uga I, although he had not yet been given that designation.
Sonny worked part time in the ticket office while studying for a law degree and recommended to Coach Butts that he make the young bulldog Cecelia had received as wedding gift the team mascot. This was in 1956 after the Seiler’s had taken their young puppy to a Georgia home game where he was a big hit with the students.
Overnight Uga, so named by a friend of Sonny’s, became a gameday favorite of the students and fans. Before long, Uga was leading the team on the field and newspaper journalists, both in Athens and Atlanta, and on the road were writing stories and sidebars about the popular Georgia mascot.
The stories of the Uga’s will be told and retold with the passing of time and whenever the history of the Georgia mascot is chronicled, the genesis of the charming narrative will stand the test of time.
A handsome young lawyer-to-be and his beautiful coed wife created a dynasty that not only excites the Georgia alumni and fan base, but has emotionally touched college football fans across the country.
It couldn’t have happened without a team effort, the team of Sonny and Cecilia Seiler. May they rest in peace!!!