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Rearview Mirror: Book Learning, But Interactive This Time

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Let’s review historical books (but also give gift ideas).

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Hey! Old books!
Georgia Tech Archives/Georgia Tech Photograph Collection (http://history.library.gatech.edu/items/show/1437)

Well it’s past Thanksgiving here on North Avenue, which means the start of the finals season. But that also means it’s the start of the holiday season, which is much, much more exciting. I could phone in a history column about the depression years of Tech sports or what happened after the Board of Regents wrenched away 20% of the student body population in one fell swoop - which, I learned since publishing, is proportionally far greater than if Scheller College of Business were to vanish today. Instead, allow me to set the holiday season mood with a book review. Use it to inform your purchases at your own risk.


Welcome back to Rearview Mirror! In honor of me having no time to properly outline a history column thanks to finals season, I decided to bust out a feature that I’ve been waiting for for a long time - sharing where I get all my information from! It’s the perfect time of year, too. With the holidays rolling around, it’s the perfect time to do it. So let me fill you in on all the books we here at Rearview Mirror use week-in and week-out. Plus some bonus ones, for fun.

This list is broken down into two main groups. The ones explicitly about Georgia Tech and the ones about college football in general. I’ll let you figure out which ones contribute on a weekly basis. Hyperlinks to find these books on the internet can be found in the titles.


Georgia Tech History Books

Comprehensive Historical Resources

Dress Her in White and Gold

Robert B. Wallace, 1963

This is the best comprehensive secondary source for the history of our fine Institute. The author, Wallace, was commissioned by the school or the Georgia Tech Foundation, I don’t recall which, to write the book in order to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the school’s opening. Since the very beginning, Tech has celebrated the anniversary tied to opening its doors, not the chartering, by the way. Anyways, Dress Her in White and Gold is written by a man with an obvious love for the school and is engaging and thorough, if dated both in publishing year and some of the takes of the author. It paints Tech in a nice light and regular readers will surely recognize it as the single most important guiding resource for this column. A great read, and a book and author we owe a lot to for putting together such fine work.
Grade: A

Engineering the New South

Robert C. McMath, et al, 1985

It is notable that this book is published in 1985, rather than the traditional 1988, as it is a work of several Tech history professors on the occasion of Tech’s centennial. It is even more thorough than Wallace’s book, going into granular detail on politics, academia, and research. There isn’t nearly enough to satisfy my thirst for athletics history, but there are enough interesting details that make it worth it. It is more even-handed than Wallace, written by historians, after all, but a longer, denser read that leaves one less full of a rah-rah Tech spirit and more ambivalent. Though it is worthwhile for some of its fascinating insight, like the divide between the philosophical ideology of Tech and the school in Athens.
Grade: B+

The Story of Georgia Tech

M. L. Brittain, 1946

Fair warning: I haven’t read this one yet. However, Wallace and McMath draw heavily on it to influence their own work, so it’s safe to say that it’s a good source. I’d imagine the former president of the Institute would know a thing or two about it. If you want to start from the source, the man himself, there’s no better way to do it. Only downside - and it’s not insignificant - is that this book is over seven decades old now, meaning it was written closer to the founding of the school than today.
Grade: B-

Football and Fandom

Tales from the Georgia Tech Sideline

Kim King and Jack Wilkinson, 2014

Fair warning number two: I was waiting to write this feature until after I finished this book. I haven’t yet finished it. Oh well. That said, so far it’s an entertaining read. You might notice Wilkinson’s name up and down this list, and that’s because he was a great writer. His work with King has proven insightful, but as a big comprehensive history guy, I’m slightly biased against it. But it’s been a nice, brighter read, especially compared to some of the previous denser histories.
Grade: B+

100 Things Yellow Jackets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die

Adam Van Brimmer, 2011

I was going to be harsher on this, but I laid off when I remember how far I’ve come. I can’t very well put the various editions of the T-Book on this list since they’re not really readily avaliable outside of convocation, but this is kind of the T-Book, but for non-first week freshmen. It was the first Tech book I read cover to cover, and for it, I’m thankful to have been introduced a little to some of Tech’s fine traditions, history, and especially the colorful personalities that have defined what it means to be a Yellow Jacket for so long. Van Brimmer has a couple gems scattered in there that are really hard to find information for all in one place, so that’s a nice touch, too. For a Yellow Jacket fan just starting out, this is the place to do it, or if you’re looking to have a handy resource to flip to when you need a question answered fast and easily.
Grade: B-

Heisman’s First Trophy

Sam Hatcher, 2016

There are several books about the Cumberland game out there. Personally, I strive to one day get my hands on a copy of You Dropped It, You Pick It Up by Jim Paul, most notably used as the key source in the episode of Pretty Good about the 222-0 beatdown by Jon Bois, SB Nation’s Creative Director. Unfortunately, those run over $300 on Amazon nowadays. As for the book at hand, this is probably my least favorite book on the list, though it is also the most affordable book on the topic. The bias of the author was apparent in the book, which isn’t necessarily bad in the sense that he seemingly exudes passion for Cumberland, which I thoroughly respect, but led to some insinuations that just leave the reader scratching their head.
Grade: D

Focused on the Top

Jack Wilkinson, 1991

1990 National Champions. A one stop shop. Wilkinson does a great job, as always.
Grade: B

Iconic Personalities

Dodd’s Luck

Robert Dodd and Jack Wilkinson, 1988

It’s hard to put into words how much I value this book. As someone who has no historic ties to Tech before I showed up here for school and the legends we’ve had like this, it was awesome to be able to step into the shoes of a great coach, which is really the defining trait of what Dodd and Wilkinson were able to convey in the fascinating story of Bobby Dodd. The multi-work star in Wilkinson complements the tales of a man who has truly seen much of the world of football and, indeed, a different time - you can tell Wilkinson put his heart and soul into getting to know what made one of Tech’s most enduring icons tick. This book makes it that much easier to appreciate why they went and named the stadium after him, as if it weren’t already.
Grade: A

Griffin, You Are a Great Disappointment to Me

Dean George C. Griffin, 1971

The best book about Georgia Tech or anyone associated with it. This isn’t just a book, it’s the memoirs of George C. Griffin - civil engineer, football letterwinner who scored twice against Cumberland, soldier, mathematics professor, assistant football coach, head tennis coach, head track coach, head cross country coach, a midwife of the Freshman Cake Race, placement officer, alumni ambassador, financial resource, recruiter, Dean of Men, head of health and safety, director of the YMCA that was forerunner to the Student Center, industrial management master - you name it, and Griffin not only saw it, but probably did it. The title comes from a Heisman quote, if that’s not reason enough to buy it, and that anecdote is found within the book. He was an eyewitness to Tech stretching from the days of Heisman and Cumberland to the 1990 Final Four run, to put it in perspective. This book is the rambling but thoughtful recollections of a man who saw pretty much everything, and is unceasingly easy to get deeply hooked in. Quite simply, it is a must read.
Grade: A+

Cracking the Solid South

Lee C. Dunn, 2016

This book is a well-researched and informative biography of the Macon industrialist who was the original driver behind the initiative to build a state school for technical education. Though I left it craving more details about the part of his life directly tying into Tech history, it was certainly a well-done book, despite the Tech fan in me just wanting several hundred pages of Tech history. John Hanson was indeed an indeed a fascinating man who is often lost in the annals of history of the Institute, and this book is a fitting tribute to on of its greatest visionaries.
Grade: B-

The Man Who Loved Georgia Tech

Susan S. Robert, 2017

I bought this book wholly impulsively when I noticed it was prominently displayed on the front table at Burdell’s in the Tech Student Center. When I later got to Tech Square, I noticed it filling a window of the Barnes and Noble at Fifth and Spring. Yet I can’t find a way to link to it on Amazon, despite the great promotion it has from the powers that be here on campus. Anyways, that’s a long way of saying it’s a lot like the book about Hanson, but with more Tech. While Hanson thought up Tech, Chip Roberts lived for Tech. He was a good man, as it takes more than a smile and a nod to get the Alumni House - interestingly, the former home of the Tech YMCA, come to think of it - named after you. Though I did always wonder why they gave his correspondence to Emory’s library instead of Tech, I eventually realized that was a silly question considering both pool their resources. All in all, it was an interesting perspective on an interesting man one otherwise wouldn’t think or know much about.
Grade: B

Jackrabbit

Bill Chastain, 2012

Haven’t read it, but it’s next on my pile. It’s the story of the only player ever to have his number retired in the lengthy and illustrious history of the game on the Flats. Truly a remarkable talent cut short, and I’m so eager to get some knowledge about an absolute Tech cornerstone.
Grade: N/A


Recommended College Football Books

Personal Recommendations

What If?

Matt Brown, 2017

Perhaps the only book I have ever preordered, this is the singular topic investigated by SB Nation’s own Matt Brown interests me more than anything: alternative sports histories. Don’t go looking for my absent-minded imagining of a hypothetical mid-90s peak-Pat Fitzgerald, Rose Bowl Northwestern team squaring off against the Chicago Maroons on rivalry weekend, you won’t find it. This book has a fascinating premise that doesn’t disappoint, though there were a few chapters that ended with me asking, to no one in particular, “What comes next, Matt Brown?” in exasperation. I wanted more. And I think every reader of this column would appreciate the intricacies of this extensive thought exercise and every reader of this blog would appreciate the chapter about this very Institute.
Grade: A-

The System

Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, 2014

It was one of the most in-depth pieces of sports journalism I’ve ever read, and something that made me think. That said, it was also kind of thick, and if you’re looking for a light leisure read, this isn’t for you. However, they do a great job of asking some great questions about football and the way the system is set up today. If a heavier, current events book is your taste, you’ve come to the right place.
Grade: B

The 50 Best* College Football Teams of All Time

Bill Connelly, 2017

One of the fifty best books on this list! That would be faint praise for this well thought out, well organized trip through more than a century of college football history, though. It makes you think. It makes you learn. It’s not history for homers, no, it’s a look into some of the most iconic and defining teams in the span of the sport. A must read for great perspective on the colorful, idiosyncratic sport we love.
Grade: A-

From the Rumble Seat Staff Picks

Death to the BCS

Dan Wetzel, et al, 2011

Pretty self explanatory, I think.

Scoreboard, Baby

Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry, 2010

The story of the 2000 Washington Huskies. The summary on Amazon says it all: “The statement of a judge, sentencing one player to thirty days in jail, says it all: ‘to be served after football season.’”

On Rocky Top

Clay Travis, 2010

The story of the end days of of Coach Fulmer’s career in 2008, closing a storied chapter in the history of Tennessee football.

Dixieland Delight

Clay Travis, 2007

A season in the life of the Southeastern Conference. Someone on staff is a big Clay Travis fan, apparently.

The Score Takes Care of Itself

Bill Walsh, et all, 2010

A philosophical look into the mind of an iconic coach.

4th and Goal Every Day

Phil Savage, et al, 2017

Alabama and the juggernaut of efficiency and perfection.

Essential Smart Football

Chris B. Brown, 2012

Strategy! Information! Learning! Woo!

The Perfect Pass

S. C. Gwynne, 2017

How Hal Mumme and Mike Leach changed football. They talk about this thing called a “forward pass” with which I am unfamiliar. Welcome to the Air Raid. Described as Moneyball-esque.

It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium

John Ed Bradley, 2007

It’s the love of the game. And it’s tremendous.

Football Study Hall

Bill Connelly, et al, 2013

Another by SB Nation’s own Bill Connelly. This one includes more numbers, I presume, but in all seriousness, it is definitely an insightful look at some of the game’s fascinating detail.


If you have any events or ideas you would like to see investigated, leave a comment below and I will be sure to look into adding it to the schedule, as the column is only planned out through this very column. What is old is new again, or at least liable to be featured in the future. Thank you for reading the latest edition of From the Rumble Seat’s Rearview Mirror.