Separated by 70 miles of interstate between Atlanta and Athens Georgia, and founded 100 years apart, the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and the University of Georgia (UGA) have been rivals since 1893 in more than just soccer. Competing for everything in the state of Georgia, from students and potential fans to government grants and academic recognition (Georgia Tech is an engineering research university, while UGA is a liberal arts research university). However, it is on the playing field where this rivalry excels.
The dislike these two schools have for each other probably started right after the Civil War, when it was decided that a new tech school should be founded. Then UGA President Patrick Mell tried to convince lawmakers that the new school should be located on Georgia’s main campus in Athens. Despite his efforts, the Georgia Institute of Technology was established near the Atlanta city limits in 1885.
It did not take long for the first hostilities to begin only a few years later, in 1891, especially the colors of the school. The UGA school magazine stated that the school colors were gold, black and crimson. The Georgia soccer coach felt that gold was too close to yellow, which he felt symbolized by cowardice. That same year, however, the Tech student body voted white and gold as the official school colors. In their first soccer game against Auburn, Tech would wear gold on their soccer uniforms, some felt like a slap in the face from Georgia. Two years later, after Tech defeated Georgia in their first soccer game, the gold disappeared forever from the Georgia school colors.
That first fateful game took place in Athens on November 4, 1893 with Georgia Tech, then known as the Blacksmiths, winning by a score of 28 – 6. But it was who scored those 4 touchdowns that sparked the rivalry. Leonard Wood was a 33-year-old US Army medic who officially registered as a Georgia Tech student just days before the game. However, being a full-time student, he was eligible to play. This fact upset Georgia fans as during and after the game they threw rocks and debris at all Tech players. The next day, an article in the Atlanta Journal, written by a sports journalist from Athens, mocked that the Tech football team was nothing more than a collection of Atlanta residents with some students included.
A rivalry was born.
For the next several years, Georgia Tech’s soccer program would perform very poorly. As a result, they decided to hire a new coach from another rival school, Clemson. In 1904, John Heisman received $ 2,250 and 30% of the attendance dues to be the Georgia Tech football and baseball coach. (NOTE: After retiring as a football coach in 1927, he became part of the Downtown Athletic Club from Manhattan in 1935. After his death in 1936, the club’s trophy for best college footballer was renamed the Heisman Trophy). Heisman immediately changed Tech’s soccer program to 8-1-1 in his freshman year. In 1908, the SIAA (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) was investigating Tech’s recruiting tactics for Georgia students. The allegations were unsubstantiated and the SIAA later ruled in Tech’s favor. In his 16 seasons at Georgia Tech, Heisman led the Golden Tornado (as Tech was known) to three undefeated seasons, including a 32-game winning streak and a major 23-6 win over Georgia. Heisman also led Tech to the highest-scoring soccer game ever played with a 222-0 victory over a totally outclassed Cumberland State in 1916 (too bad it wasn’t Georgia!).
In 1917, with the onset of World War I, the UGA dissolved its soccer program as many of its capable students were drafted into the war. Since Atlanta was a military training ground at the time, Tech retained its male students and continued its soccer program throughout the war. When UGA revived their soccer program in 1919, they proudly proclaimed “UGA in Argonne” and “TECH in Atlanta” on the parade floats. As a result, Tech severed all athletic ties with UGA, including canceling several Georgia home games at Grant Field in Atlanta (UGA commonly used Grant Field as their home field). It would not be until 1925, by mutual agreement, that the regular season competition would resume.
In 1932, Georgia and Georgia Tech would become 2 of the original 13 members of the SEC, of which UGA is still a member. Tech, however, would leave the SEC in 1964 after coach Bobby Dodd started a feud with Alabama’s Bear Bryant (the result of a low shot from an Alabama player that ended a Tech player’s career and the denial Bryant to discipline the athlete). There were also concerns about scholarship assignments, questionable recruiting tactics, and the treatment of student athletes that led to Tech’s departure from the SEC. However, Dodd understood the importance of a rivalry and would lead the Yellow Jackets to 8 consecutive victories (1946 – 1954) and beat Georgia 176 – 39 in those games. This remains the longest streak of both teams in the rivalry.
Several years later, Tech would attempt to re-enter the SEC, but its application was denied, in large part due to opposition from Georgia. Without a league to compete in, Tech would found the Metro Conference, for all of its intercollegiate sports except soccer. Like Notre Dame, Tech would compete independently for the next 15 years, until it finally joined the ACC in 1979, the conference in which it is still completed today.
Not content to simply dislike each other on the soccer field, both institutions have also adapted their fight songs to rivalry. Tech’s song Ramblin Wreck contains the line “To Hell with Georgia”, and “Up With the White and Gold” is immediately followed by the lyrics “Down with the Red and Black” and then “Drop the Battle Ax on Georgia’s Head” . Georgia’s wrestling song, “Glory Glory,” which has technically remained unchanged since it was first published in 1909, officially ends with GEORGIA. However, the student body has changed the closing letter to “and to hell with Georgia Tech!”