Atlanta Magazine - August 2010 - Football - Prank'd
 
August 2010

Prank'd

By Michelle Hiskey

Tech started it.

In 1893 Georgia Tech, then known as the Blacksmiths, first kicked off against the University of Georgia, then the Wildcats, and any civility went flying. After winning 28–6, Tech left Athens’s Herty Field in a hail of rocks tossed at its train car. Georgia fans still—117 years later—insist Tech cheated when its Army officer coach put himself in the lineup and pressed the team trainer’s brother to referee. “Bitter. It’s been bitter ever since then,” says Dan Magill, a UGA historian.

The state’s dense, downtown, industrial campus and its sprawling, agriculture-based flagship university are separated by a mere seventy miles, easily traversed by a fan with a bone to pick. Whether downright funny or outright mean, the hijinks proved and fueled the historic “good old-fashioned hate” between the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs. One 1919 insult provoked so much hostility that the rivalry was postponed for six years.

When the two clash in Athens on November 27 for the 105th time, Georgia goes in boasting 60 victories to Georgia Tech’s 39 (with 5 ties along the way). The lopsided record, the engineers’ tolerance for big risks, the hate for UGA woven into its fight song lyrics (“If I had a son . . . he would yell, ‘To hell with Georgia!’ like his daddy used to do”)—all that has given Tech added reason for more recent shenanigans.

“Pranks were our diversion from the game,” says Rich Scheff of Dunwoody, a 1984 Tech graduate and football statistician. As a baritone in Tech’s marching band, he tossed dog treats on the Sanford Stadium sidelines and helped sprinkle winter rye on a Georgia practice field during a pregame formation. Once rooted, the seed was supposed to spell out “GT.”

But who sticks around to watch grass grow? “Unfortunately, we never got to see whether they tore it out or resodded,” says Scheff. The best pranks are in the moment, seen by thousands, talked about forever, embellished over time, and stretched into legends that inspire even more mischief to follow.


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The Great Insult in Athens
May 1919
In a show of support for soldiers in World War I, Georgia canceled football. Tech didn’t and won its conference crown and the national championship in 1917. Two years later, miffed UGA seniors outfitted a plywood tank at their annual parade. Its banner read, “Georgia in France 1917–18.” Lagging behind was a Model A Ford with the sign: “Tech in Atlanta 1917–18.”
Tech’s athletic director said if Georgia’s seniors didn’t apologize, “athletic relations between the two schools would be severed forever.”
The teams didn’t play each other again until 1925.

The Great Cow Fight in Atlanta
December 6, 1930
Tech freshmen led a milk cow onto muddy Grant Field in Atlanta before the game, with a sign: “This ain’t no bull. We are going to beat Georgia.” The cow got loose, further enraging the Georgia students. The bovine slid in the mud, but Tech freshmen wrangled it and led it off the field.
At halftime, students rioted on the field, stopped when the second half began, and resumed rioting after the game. Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill saw so many black eyes “that one kept thinking of black-eyed peas.”
UGA won 13–0.

Victory Bell Silenced
December 1, 1945
UGA rings its chapel bell after every victory. Sure that UGA would beat their team, Tech students welded the clapper to the bell’s inside so the bell could not be rung that year.
When the 700-pound bronze bell, cast in 1835, was refurbished two years ago, specialists “removed years of accumulated rust and grime,” according to UGA’s website. No word of adhesives, only “remnants of paint reputedly used by Georgia Tech students to paint slogans on the bell in the 1920s.”
UGA won 33–0.
Tech’s Model Plane Destroyed
Sometime in the early to mid 1950s
As if years of dominating UGA weren’t enough, Georgia Tech showed off its aeronautical know-how by flying a remote-controlled airplane around Sanford Stadium. Its dips and dives astounded the crowd, but its pesky brilliance pushed one Bulldogs fan over the edge. After the small craft’s perfect landing, the man rushed the field “and stomped that little plane to pieces,” recalls Magill.
Georgia Tech won the series from 1950–1956.
Eat More Hedges
December 1, 1984
After upsetting UGA, Tech’s players tore into the storied privet hedges that surround the field in Sanford Stadium. Quarterback John Dewberry, now a developer in Atlanta, and two teammates chomped on a branch.
Former UGA coach Vince Dooley still mourns the botanical violence: “Those hedges are hallowed. It’s not such a great plant, and it will grow back, but it’s symbolic and something we have a lot of respect for.”
Tech won 35–18.
The Tarp Incident
November 28, 1992
To celebrate 100 years of football, Georgia had a special logo painted in the middle of Sanford Stadium. Before the game, Georgia Tech painted a big “GT” on a tarp, which went over the UGA logo at halftime. When Tech’s band started up, the boos grew so loud that the musicians could not hear the notes played. The crowd didn’t stop until Tech rolled up its logo and the Redcoat Marching Band took the field.
The nine-minute video is posted on YouTube. Comment from a Tech trumpeter: “We lost the game, but we won halftime!”
UGA won 31–17.