This is college football rivalry game week, although the landscape has changed in recent years with all the conference realignment.
For years I’ve been fortunate enough to play in a few famous rivalry games that happen every fall calendar: Oklahoma-Nebraska That’s Gone, Minnesota-Iowa, Army-Navy, Texas-Texas A&M, Clemson-South Carolina, Harvard-Yale and of course Georgia-Georgia Tech.
To make it to the above games, the schedule had to occur on a date other than the Saturday after Thanksgiving when the Bulldogs played the Yellow Jackets.
Never made it to the Iron Bowl in Birmingham, which some years was played on the Friday after the bank holiday. This was a missed opportunity. I suspect the Texas-Texas A&M game will make a comeback when the Longhorns join the Southeastern Conference in a couple of years. Such comebacks elsewhere are, for the most part, very unlikely.
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The chance of Missouri-Kansas returning to the annual game schedule is slim. The same applies to Oklahoma and Nebraska.
I’ve enjoyed the rivalry games at other campuses, which have created a feel-good factor because I’m all for tradition. Driving from Omaha to Lincoln, Nebraska was fascinating; to see the prairie, the corn fields and the windmills.
There’s nothing quite like driving the “T” to a Harvard-Yale game in Cambridge. The history of this rivalry is nothing short of inspiring. Arriving in Boston on Thursday and enjoying the best of Bean Town — the bars, restaurants and history — followed by a stroll around campus on the eve of the game, I felt patriotic.
Seeing Minnesota and Iowa play resulted when the late Hayden Fry was coach of the Hawkeye’s. He arranged for me to go on a pheasant hunt with his gear manager, who generously outfitted me in the traditional Hawkeyes colors – gold and black. It kept me warm, but I felt out of place.
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The intensity of the Texas-Texas A&M game in Austin was made even more impactful when I was able to spend time with Darrell Royal, longtime coach of the Longhorns, the day before the game.
I’ve watched every Georgia-Georgia Tech game since 1956, when the drought was about to end. That frustrating phase ended when I arrived on campus.
Breaking the streak at Grant Field in 1957 will always remain a memorable flashback for me. I had met some of the Bulldog players, including Theron Sapp, the game’s unforgettable hero. He scored the only touchdown of the day. Speaking of storming the field, no constituency was ever more moved that day than Georgia fans. A red sea ran the length of the field.
No one knew Georgia would dominate the old series that day like it had never been dominated before. There were two seven year streaks spawned by the men in red and black. Vince Dooley had a 19-6 record while at Georgia, which balanced the series as Tech played as an independent before joining the Atlantic Coast Conference. Mark Richt’s 13-2 record is the best percentage of any coach to have coached ten seasons or more on the series.
When Tech withdrew from the conference in 1964, the rivalry lost some of its edge, but it’s still an important game on the schedule. I had some older friends who would rather beat the Jackets than any team on the schedule.
Since Vince Dooley arrived in Athens, Tech’s longest winning streak has been three games and the Bulldogs have a sensational 44-14 lead in the streak.
Somewhere, my friend “Kid” Terrell is smiling.