The University of Georgia (UGA), and The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), are separated by 70 miles of interstate. They were founded 100 years apart. Georgia has many rivals, including potential students and fans as well as government grants and academic recognition. Georgia Tech is an engineering university and UGA is a liberal-arts research university. This rivalry is most evident on the gridiron.
These two schools don’t like each other. This probably happened right after the Civil War, when it was decided to create a new school for technology. Patrick Mell, then president of UGA, tried to convince legislators that Georgia’s main campus should house the new school. Despite his efforts, The Georgia Institute of Technology was founded in Atlanta in 1885.
The first hostilities broke out in 1891, just a few years after the announcement of the school’s colors. UGA’s school magazine stated that the school colors were gold, black, and crimson. Georgia’s football coach thought that gold was too similar to yellow and that it represented cowardice. Tech’s student body elected white and gold to be the school colors that year. Tech used gold on their uniforms in their first football match against Auburn. Some felt this was a disrespectful gesture to Georgia. After Tech beat Georgia in their first ever football match, two years later, gold was permanently removed from Georgia’s school colors.
The first game was played in Athens on November 4, 1893. Georgia Tech, then called the Blacksmiths, won with a score of 28 to 6. It was the 4 touchdowns that started the rivalry. Leonard Wood, a 33-year-old US Army Physician, was officially registered as an Georgia Tech student just a few days prior to the game. He was a full-time student and therefore eligible to play. Georgian fans were upset by this fact as they hurled rocks and debris at Tech players during and after the match. An Athens sports journalist wrote in the Atlanta Journal that Tech’s football team was nothing but a group of Atlanta residents with some students.
It was the birth of a rivalry.
Over the next few years, Georgia Tech’s football team would be in decline for several years. They hired a Clemson coach to replace them. John Heisman, Georgia Tech’s baseball and football coach, was paid $2250 and 30% of the attendance fees in 1904. NOTE: Heisman became a member of the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan after he retired from football coaching in 1927. The club’s award for the best college football player was changed to the Heisman Trophy after Heisman’s death in 1936. Heisman turned Tech’s football program around, going 8-1-1 his first year. Georgia alumni had their recruiting strategies investigated by the SIAA (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) in 1908. Tech was able to prove that the accusations were false and the SIAA later ruled in Tech’s favor. Heisman led Tech’s Golden Tornado, as it was called, to three undefeated seasons. This included a 32-game winning streak and a 23-to-6 victory over Georgia. Heisman led Tech to the most successful football game with a 222-0 win over a completely outmanned Cumberland State in 1916. .
UGA’s football program was disbanded in 1917 with the advent of WWI. Many of the university’s able-bodied students were recruited for the war effort. Tech kept its male students because Atlanta was an important military training ground. It continued its football program through the war. UGA’s 1919 revival of its football program saw them proudly proclaim “UGA in Argonne” and “TECH In Atlanta” on parade floats. Tech cut all athletic ties to UGA and cancelled several Georgia home games at Atlanta’s Grant Field. (UGA used Grant Field as their homefield). Regular season competition would not resume until 1925 by mutual agreement.
Georgia Tech and Georgia would be 2 of the 13 original members of the SEC in 1932. UGA is still a member of the SEC. Tech would eventually leave the SEC after Bobby Dodd, Tech’s coach, began a feud against Alabama’s Bear Bryant in 1964. This was the result of a cheap shot taken by an Alabama player which ended the Tech player’s career and Bryant refusing to discipline him. Tech’s exit from the SEC was also due to concerns about scholarship allocations, questionable recruitment tactics, and student athlete treatment. Dodd, however, understood the importance rivalries and led the Yellow Jackets’ 8 consecutive wins (1946-1954) and beat Georgia 176-39 in those games. This is the longest streak by either team in the rivalry.
Tech attempted to re-enter SEC several years later but was rejected by Georgia. Tech created the Metro Conference for all intercollegiate sports, except football, as there was no league in which it could compete. Tech, like Notre Dame would continue competing as an independent college for 15 years before joining the ACC, which it continues to complete today.
Both institutions are not content with merely hating each other on football fields. They have also modified their fight songs to reflect the rivalry. Tech’s Ramblin Wreck song includes the line “To hell with Georgia” and the lyrics “Up With the White and Gold”. “Down with the Red and Black”, and then “Drop the Battle Axe onto Georgia’s Head” are the next two lines. Technically, the Georgia fight song “Glory Glory”, has remained the same since its publication in 1909. Officially, it ends with G-E–O-R–G-I–A. However, the student body has changed the ending lyrics to “and to hell with Georgia Tech!”