This is the week for rivalry games in college football, although the landscape has changed in recent years with all the conference realignment that has taken place.
For years, I had the good fortune to attend a few celebrated rivalry games that were annual fixtures on the fall calendar: Oklahoma-Nebraska which no longer exists, Minnesota-Iowa, Army-Navy, Texas-Texas A&M, Clemson-South Carolina, Harvard-Yale, and of course, Georgia-Georgia Tech.
To make it to the aforementioned games, the schedule had to take place on a date other than Saturday after Thanksgiving when the Bulldogs played the Yellow Jackets.
Never did make it to the Iron Bowl in Birmingham, which in some years was played on Friday after the holiday. That was a missed opportunity. My guess is that the Texas-Texas A&M game will make a comeback when the Aggies join the Southeastern Conference in a couple of years. Such comebacks elsewhere are very unlikely for the most part.
There is little chance that Missouri-Kansas will return to the annual schedule. Same with Oklahoma and Nebraska.
I enjoyed the rivalry games at other campuses which brought about a feel-good situation because I am all for tradition. It was intriguing to drive from Omaha to Lincoln, Nebraska; to see the prairie, the cornfields, and the windmills.
There is nothing quite like taking the “T” over to Cambridge for a Harvard-Yale game. The history of this rivalry is downright inspiring. Arriving in Boston on Thursday and enjoying the best of Bean Town—the bars, restaurants and history—followed by a walk through the campus on the eve of the game made me feel patriotic.
Seeing Minnesota and Iowa play resulted when the late Hayden Fry was coach of the Hawkeye’s. He arranged for me to go pheasant hunting with his equipment manager who generously outfitted me in the Hawkeyes traditional colors—gold and black. That kept me warm, but I felt out of place.
The intensity of the Texas-Texas A&M game in Austin was made more impactful when I was able to spend time the day before the game with Darrell Royal, the longtime coach of the Longhorns.
I have seen every Georgia-Georgia Tech game since 1956 as the drought was about to be broken. That frustrating streak was coming to an end as I was arriving on campus.
The breaking of the streak on Grant Field in 1957 will always be a memorable flashback for me. I had gotten to know several of the Bulldog players including Theron Sapp, the unforgettable hero of the game. He scored the only touchdown of the day. Talk about storming the field, no constituency has ever been so moved like Georgia fans that day. A sea of red formed the entire length of the field.
Little did anyone know that that day forward, Georgia would dominate the ancient series like it has never been dominated before. There have two seven-year streaks brought about by the men in Red and Black. Vince Dooley had a 19-6 record in his time at Georgia which brought balance to the series as Tech was playing as an Independent before joining the Atlantic Coast Conference. Mark Richt’s record of 13-2 is the best, percentagewise, of any coach who has coached in the series, ten seasons or more.
When Tech resigned from the conference in 1964, the rivalry lost some of its edge, but it still is an important game on the schedule. I have had some older friends who would rather beat the Jackets than any team on the schedule.
Since Vince Dooley arrived in Athens, the longest win streak for Tech has been two games, and the Bulldogs hold a sensational lead in the series, 44-14.
Somewhere, my friend “Kid” Terrell is smiling.