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Burdell’s Bracket Winner: Bobby Dodd

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In lieu of a profile, here’s the complete Rearview set on Bobby Dodd.

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If I’m not mistaken, that’s the Naval Armory to the left of the East Stands in that picture...
Georgia Tech Archives/Georgia Tech Photography Collection (https://history.library.gatech.edu/items/show/6116)

If this had been anyone but Bobby Dodd, I would’ve written a completely new profile. However, seeing as we’ve had quite a number of features written on his life in this space over the past two years, it might make the most sense, and be the most thorough, just to dive back in by putting all of those in one space.

First, we have the life and times of Bobby Dodd from his birth until he succeeded his mentor, Coach William Alexander, as the head football coach at Georgia Tech. After being a high school multi-sport star, he would struggle to find a school he could get into after having been an academic potato for his four-to-six years of tearing up the hills of eastern Tennessee and western Virginia on the gridiron. He would wind up in Knoxville after trying his hand in Atlanta, Nashville, Athens, and others. After college, he became an assistant at Tennessee before Mac Tharpe stumbled upon him looking for a scouting report for the Vols’ previous opponent, the North Carolina Tar Heels, after he failed to make the game due to transportation issues. Tharpe got a new assistant football coach out of the trip, and Bobby Dodd would split time between the gridiron and the diamond, as he spent a long spell as the Jackets’ varsity baseball coach, too:

Once he became the captain of the ship, he spent many years at Tech (attached columns: to 1947, to 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, early 1960s) leading it to the heights of the team’s golden age.

Ultimately, perhaps his most lasting legacy is tied with a rivalry not just between the football teams from the University of Alabama and Georgia Tech, but a cultural rivalry between the city of Atlanta and the hinterlands, the haves and have-nots of the SEC, and a personal friendship-turned-blood feud between Dodd and Bear Bryant, two figures widely believed to be some of the best coaches to ever lead a team onto the field. It’s commonly portrayed that a single dirty hit by the Crimson Tide’s Darwin Holt on Tech’s affable Chick Granning or the 140 Rule, respectively, the death blow to Tech’s continued membership in the SEC, but really, whichever incident you so choose as the instigator is more accurately the straw that broke the camel’s back. The ongoing Saturday Evening Post libel lawsuit, the integration of the institutions, the “elitism” of the city dwellers, and the desire to set their own, more athlete-friendly policies all drove Dodd and then-president Edwin Harrison to leave the conference Tech helped found three decades prior:

Upon leaving the SEC, Dodd would coach three more seasons as an Independent before retiring and passing the baton on to Bud Carson. In his retirement from coaching, he was regarded as one of the greatest sideline coaches of all time, a fierce proponent of education, having never formally graduated from Tennessee, success despite not grinding his players to dust, as was common then, hating spring practice, preferring volleyball instead, and of being an advocate for his players morally, promoting their careers off the field and in the realm of, for example, marriage. He would stay on as the athletic director until he passed into the mandatory retirement age, though he still stayed involved with Tech long after leaving the GTAA, joining, well, the other GTAA (the Alumni Association) as essentially living, breathing clout.

In the end, the football stadium surrounding Grant Field was named in his honor in the year of his death, 1988.

A special thanks to Dress Her in White and Gold, Engineering the New South, and the Georgia Tech Archives for the background information and images used in writing this column.


Thanks for voting this year! If you have any other fun ideas for future brackets or something of the sort, let us know below!