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T-Book Tutorings: Rat Caps and Drownproofings

This week's T-Book Tutorials involve some student participation. I give you RAT Caps and Drownproofing.

Often referred to as Drowning 101 by Tech students, Drownproofing was the infamous class taught by swimming coach Fred "Crankshaft" Lanoue starting in 1940. The water survival techniques taught by Lanoue allowed potential drowning victims to float and bob naturally in water for hours, even when injured. Students were required to float and swim with wrists and ankles bound, bob fully clothed for one hour, and use only their teeth to retrieve rings from the bottom of the pool. The class became a graduation requirement for all male students and remained so until 1988,when it was removed from the curriculum due to restructuring of the physical education department. The class reached national prominence in the late 1950’s when it was included in the U.S. Navy’s survival training and featured in the June 1960 Reader’s Digest article titled "Nobody Needs to Drown."

Drownproofing completed. Photo courtesey of


RAT caps first appeared at Georgia Tech in 1915. Freshmen were required to wear the caps everyday until the semester ended or Tech beat UGA in the Thanksgiving weekend football game. RAT originally stood for "Recruit at Tech" during the time when the military had a large presence on Tech’s campus; however, now many people describe freshmen as RATS or "Recently Acquired Tech Students." In the past, freshmen caught outside without a RAT cap were subjected to various forms of punishment including the "T-cut," where the student’s hair was shaved into the shape of a "T." Enforced by the Ramblin’ Reck Club and other upperclassmen, all RAT’s were once subject to the RAT rules listed below:

RAT caps must be decorated in the following manner: In the center of the upturned brim, the acronym, "RAT," should be written in large, bold letters. Directly above this should be the st
udent’s first and last name, while their hometown and state should be written below the three letters. To the left should be the student’s major, and to the right, their expected year of graduation. On the back panel of the cap, the words, "To HELL with georgia," should be proudly displayed. The phrase should be displayed with one word on each line. The words "To" and "with" should be written the smallest, and "HELL" should be larger than "georgia." The word "georgia" should be in all lowercase letters because we choose not to recognize U(sic)GA as an institution of higher education. A circle around the top button of the cap denotes the student is in the Co-op program. Throughout the season, football scores should be added to the cap with all wins displayed right side up and any losses written upside down. Our team should be represented by the word, "TECH," and should always be written above the opponent as read. The front panel of the cap should be saved for the score of the "georgia" game. All markings on the cap should be done with a black permanent marker.

Anti-hazing policies led to the end of any RAT rules, but freshman still receive a RAT cap at convocation out of respect for tradition. Donning the RAT cap is now completely voluntary, but freshmen are encouraged to show their Tech spirit by sporting their caps at home football games. The marching band is at the forefront of maintaining this tradition. No matter how often one decides to wear their RAT cap, a properly decorated cap serves as an excellent souvenir and reminder of freshman year.

"T-Book Tutorings" is brought to you in anticipation of the 2009-2010 T-Book, the ultimate guide to the history and traditions of Georgia Tech. The book is published by the Ramblin' Reck Club.

Anybody still have their Rat Cap? I still have mine. Crazy stories about Drownproofing are more than welcome.