Bobby Dodd

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Bobby Dodd
Bobby Dodd 1962.png
Dodd from the 1963 Blueprint
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1908-11-11)November 11, 1908
Galax, Virginia
Died June 21, 1988(1988-06-21) (aged 79)
Atlanta, Georgia
Playing career
1928–1930 Tennessee
Position(s) Quarterback, Tailback, Punter[1]
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1931–1944
1945–1966
Georgia Tech (assistant)
Georgia Tech
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1950–1976 Georgia Tech
Head coaching record
Overall 165–64–8
Bowls 9–4
Statistics
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
1 National (1952)
2 SEC (1951–1952)
Awards
2x SEC Coach of the Year (1951–1952)
Helms Hall of Fame[2]
University of Tennessee Hall of Fame[2]
Georgia Sports Hall of Fame[2][3]
American Football Writers Association Citation of Honor[2]
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1993 (profile)

Robert Lee Dodd (November 11, 1908 – June 21, 1988) was an American college football coach at Georgia Tech. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as a player and coach,[4] something that only three people have accomplished.[2]

After playing quarterback at the University of Tennessee, he served as an assistant coach under Bill Alexander at Georgia Tech beginning in December 1930. Alexander made the hire while Dodd was still a student at Tennessee. Dodd succeeded Alexander in 1945 as the third head coach at the Institute. He retired from coaching after the 1966 season, compiling a 165–64–8 record. He also served as Athletic Director from 1950 until 1976. All together, Dodd served Georgia Tech 57 years in various capacities.[5] Bobby Dodd died in June 1988 at the age of 79 in Atlanta, Georgia.[6][7]

Early life[edit]

Robert Lee "Bobby" Dodd was born in 1908 in Galax, Virginia. He was named after another famous Virginian, Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Dodd was the youngest of Edwin and Susan Dodd's four children. In the fall of 1921, the Dodd family relocated to Kingsport, Tennessee. When Dodd was twelve years old and weighed only 100 pounds, he made the seventh-grade team of Kingsport's first organized football program. However, the happiness of Bobby Dodd's early life came to a sad end in 1924 when his father committed suicide due to business failure and financial troubles. The family was forced to move, but was held together by the perseverance of Dodd's mother. During the next three seasons, the Kingsport Indians football team at Dobyns Bennett High School was very successful gaining two state titles. They were helped by Dodd, who moved from receiver to quarterback and kicker positions. In 1926, Bobby Dodd graduated high school and was admitted to the University of Tennessee with a football scholarship.[1][8][9][10]

Player[edit]

Bobby Dodd played quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers football team from 1928 to 1930, playing under legendary coach Robert Neyland. Dodd wanted to play for Georgia Tech but was not offered a scholarship. Ironically, he would later go on to coach the Yellow Jackets.[11] In the games that Dodd started at UT, the Vols held a record of 27–1–2.[12]

Dodd was a difference in one famous game. During his sophomore year, in his first game of The Third Saturday in October rivalry against Alabama played in Tuscaloosa, "Dodd threw a touchdown pass in that game to tie Alabama, 13–13. Then he punted out of bounds inside the Alabama 1-yard line and Tennessee got a safety on the next play to win, 15–13".[11][13]

Another instance in Dodd's career foreshadowed the creativity he would use in his coaching career.

"Against Florida in 1930 he got his teammates in a huddle and told them about a play he had used in high school. When the ball was snapped, it was placed on the ground unattended. The players ran in one direction. Then the center returned, picked up the ball, and waltzed to the winning touchdown."[4]

This play would later come to be popularly known as the "fumblerooski", after Nebraska famously used it in the 1984 Orange Bowl versus Miami.[14][15] Tennessee fans even developed a catch phrase for Dodd during his time there: "In Dodd we trust".[4]

Bobby Dodd University of Tennessee football card

During his time at UT, Dodd twice earned All-Southern team honors. Dodd led Tennessee to back-to-back unbeaten seasons with identical 9-0-1 records his sophomore and junior years. During Dodd's era, the Vols went 33 games without a loss until an 18-6 setback against Alabama in 1930, which ranks as the longest unbeaten streak in UT history. After the loss, Dodd and his teammates helped kick off a 28-game unbeaten streak that ranks as the second longest.

In his senior year "The Dodger" again showed his versatility in a 13-0 win against Vanderbilt. Dodd finished with 14 punts for a 42-yard average, had nine carries for 39 yards, was 7-of-12 passing for 159 yards and two touchdowns and intercepted two passes. During that game, Dodd gained 212 all-purpose yards, collecting all but 14 of Tennessee's team total of 226. The Vols finished the 1930 season with 9-1 record, and Dodd earned multiple honors for his dominance on the gridiron.[16]

Dodd was named to Grantland Rice's All American team in 1930, making him the 2nd granted that honor at Tennessee (following Gene McEver). In 1959, Dodd was named to the University of Tennessee's Hall of Fame and to the College Football Hall of Fame as a player.[4][17][18] He was elected in the same year as teammate Herman Hickman. Dodd also won varsity letters in baseball, basketball, and track during his time at Tennessee.[19]

Coach[edit]

Bobby Dodd, c. 1943

After being recognized as 1928 national champions, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team struggled during the next two season. Georgia Tech football coach William Alexander began looking for a new assistant. During 1930 football season, Alexander sent his line coach, Mac Tharpe, to scout future opponent North Carolina, playing Tennessee in Knoxville. Tharpe's car broke down and by the time he reached Knoxville, the game was over. Tharpe asked Tennessee head coach Bob Neyland for information, who suggested that he talk to Dodd. When Tharpe returned to Atlanta he told Alexander: "Dodd's analysis of Carolina is better than any scouting report that I could have made." Alexander was also impressed by reports of Dodd's performance during games.[20] Dodd joined Alexander's staff as an assistant coach on December 28, 1930. Dodd served as an assistant coach at Tech for 14 years, even though he received many offers for head coaching positions from other schools during that time frame. Dodd lionized Coach Alexander which was later reflected in his coaching style. "He taught me to treat athletes as men, not boys - to never use their failings as an alibi for a loss," Dodd said.[21]

Dodd took over the Georgia Tech football program in 1945 following Coach Alexander's retirement as head football coach.[1][22] Dodd's coaching philosophy revolved around player treatment and character development.[23] He did not believe in intense physical practices but rather precise and well executed practices. Dodd's philosophy translated to winning; he set the record for career wins at Tech at 165 career coaching wins, including a 31-game unbeaten streak from 1951–1953.[23] He also managed to capture two Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships (1951 and 1952) and the 1952 National Title, which concluded a perfect 12–0 season and Sugar Bowl conquest of Ole Miss.[23] Under Dodd's leadership, Tech played in 13 major bowl games, winning 9, including six in a row from 1952 to 1956.[12] Bobby Dodd compiled a 165–64–8 record as head coach at Georgia Tech.[24][25]

Football was Dodd's lifelong passion, but at Tech he was just as obsessed with the notion that his players should get an education as he was with teaching them how to play football. Other coaches and sportswriters of his era were united in their puzzlement that anyone could coach with such a light hand and still win so many games. However, Coach Dodd knew that his "Books First" reputation caused parents to favor Georgia Tech over his competition. Georgia Tech often played teams that were physically superior but Bobby Dodd would still find a way win. The experts called it "Dodd's luck," but his success actually came from an understanding of motivational psychology, football strategy, and innovative game-planning.[21][26][27][28]

Georgia Tech football was Atlanta's one major sports franchise during this time frame. To hold a ticket to watch the Yellow Jackets play was highly valued and was difficult to obtain. During the games, Bobby Dodd sat in a folding chair at a card table on the side line, rarely standing or showing interest in the game. Dodd took his seat and left the pacing to his assistants. When a crisis arose, Dodd would decide which plays to be run and the designated players to run them. Dodd sometimes made unusual substitutions, as on a Saturday in Athens when Georgia Tech was about to be upset. Dodd sent in a small halfback who had been frequently injured during his career, who then broke to the right faking a run, stopped, threw a pass for a touchdown and returned to the bench. What Dodd brought to Grant Field was a kind of unbruising football other coaches couldn't understand: runty halfbacks; lightweight linemen; rarely a classic quarterback. Once free substitution became possible, no one made more use of it than Dodd.[29][30][31]

Georgia Tech had an intense rivalry with University of Alabama which ended during Bobby Dodd's tenure as head football coach. Until that time, the matchup between the Crimson Tide and the Yellow Jackets was a fall football classic. The two teams have met on the gridiron a total of 52 times with Georgia Tech coming away victorious in 21 of those matchups with 3 additional tied games. Bobby Dodd's football teams won 7 out of 17 games played against the University of Alabama. The contests were annual events until Georgia Tech withdrew from the SEC.[32][33][34]

Plaque for 1952 GT Football National Championship
Dodd in 1952

Dodd considered two of his biggest victories at Tech came against Alabama, including a 7-3 victory in 1952 and a 7-6 victory in 1962. The former victory secured a perfect season for Georgia Tech which led to a national title. The latter victory came against a top ranked Alabama team and cost the Crimson Tide another national title.[35][36][37]

Dodd also understood the deep-seated rivalry with the University of Georgia. His teams won 8 games in a row over the Bulldogs from 1949–1956 outscoring the Bulldogs 176–39 during the winning streak.[38] This 8–game winning streak is still the longest winning streak for either side in the series.[38] Dodd would finish his career with a 12–10 record against the Bulldogs.[38][39]

By the end of his coaching career, Dodd had built a reputation not only as a good coach, but also as a lucky one.[40] University of Georgia's longtime football coach Wallace Butts once said "If Bobby Dodd were trapped in the center of an H-Bomb explosion, he'd walk away with his pockets full of marketable uranium."[35] However, the following describes Dodd's perspective regarding his luck:

Lucky. Bet your life I am lucky. I'm lucky and so are my teams. It's a habit. You know, if you think you're lucky you are.

—Bobby Dodd[35]

In 1967, Dodd stepped down as head football coach due to health concerns, and he was succeeded by assistant Bud Carson.[41] Dodd simply retained his athletic director position, which he had acquired in 1950 from William Alexander.[42][43][44] Dodd retired as athletic director in 1976 and was followed in the position by Doug Weaver. Dodd continued to serve during his retirement years as an Alumni Association consultant and as a fundraiser for Georgia Tech.[45][46] In 1983, he expressed interest in running a United States Football League team if Atlanta were awarded one, but the league folded before Atlanta received a team.[24]

Integration[edit]

During Bobby Dodd's tenure, Georgia Tech played against several integrated football teams while the South was resisting integration. Georgia Tech played against Notre Dame in 1953 with Wayne Edmonds starting at offensive tackle and defensive end for the Irish. Edmonds was the first black player to win a monogram at Notre Dame.[47] Georgia Tech lost to Notre Dame by score 27-14.[48]

Bobby Grier at the controversial 1956 Sugar Bowl

Georgia Tech also participated in the first integrated bowl game in the Deep South.[49] The 1956 Sugar Bowl featured the 7th ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and the 11th ranked Pitt Panthers. There was controversy over whether Bobby Grier from Pitt should be allowed to play because he was black, and whether Georgia Tech should even play at all due to Georgia governor Marvin Griffin's opposition to integration.[50] Ultimately, Bobby Grier played making this the first integrated Sugar Bowl and is regarded as the first integrated bowl game in the Deep South.[51] Georgia Tech won the 1956 Sugar Bowl by score 7-0.[52][53]

Bobby Dodd oversaw the integration of Georgia Tech football team as Athletic Director. Eddie McAshan was the first African American football player to start for Georgia Tech.[54] Bud Carson started McAshan in 1970 at quarterback as a sophomore and McAshan would go on to set several career records for Georgia Tech (which have since been broken by Shawn Jones and Joe Hamilton). McAshan's first career start was on September 12, 1970 against South Carolina.[55] His start marked the first time that an African American had ever started at quarterback for a major Southeastern university and McAshan did not disappoint. He rallied Tech with a fourth quarter deficit, defeating the Gamecocks 23-20 with two late touchdown drives.[55] McAshan threw for 32 touchdowns during his college football career, and Georgia Tech had 22-13-1 record during that time frame.[56]

Georgia Tech's withdrawal from SEC[edit]

Feud with Bear Bryant[edit]

Dodd's tenure included Georgia Tech's withdrawal from the Southeastern Conference (SEC).[23] The initial spark for Dodd's withdrawal was a historic feud with Alabama Crimson Tide Coach Bear Bryant.[57] The feud began when Tech was playing the Tide at Legion Field in Birmingham in 1961. After a Tech punt, Alabama fair-caught the ball. Chick Graning of Tech was playing coverage and relaxed after the signal for the fair catch. Darwin Holt of Alabama continued play and smashed his elbow into Graning's face causing severe fracturing in his face, a broken nose, and blood-filled sinuses. Graning was knocked unconscious and suffered a severe concussion, the result of which left him unable to play football ever again.[58] Dodd sent Bryant a letter asking Bryant to suspend Holt after game film indicated Holt had intentionally injured Graning.[57][59] Bryant never suspended Holt.[60][61] The lack of discipline infuriated Dodd and sparked Dodd's interest in withdrawing from the SEC.[62] Georgia Tech lost that game 10-0 and Alabama went on to win its first Associated Press National Championship.[63][64]

Over-recruitment[edit]

Another issue of concern for Dodd was Alabama's and other SEC schools' over-recruitment of players.[57] Universities would recruit more players than available space on their rosters. During the summer the teams in question would cut the players well after signing day. This practice prevented the cut players from being able to play for other colleges during the following football season. Dodd appealed the SEC administration to punish the "tryout camps" of his fellow SEC members but the SEC did not. Finally, Dodd withdrew Georgia Tech from the SEC after 1963 football season.[57] Tech would remain an independent like Notre Dame and Penn State (at the time) during the final three years of Dodd's coaching tenure.

Dodd insisted the only reason he left the SEC was due to the 140 Rule, which allowed colleges to over recruit. The 140 rule stated a college program could only have 140 football and basketball players on scholarship at any one time, but the teams were still allowed to sign up to 45 players a year. Therefore if a school recruited its full allotment of players each year it would exceed the 140 maximum even with normal attrition. Dodd would sign about 30-32 football players a year to meet the guidelines, but the other schools in the SEC were offering 45 scholarships a year. Players not good enough to fall under the 140 Rule had their scholarships withdrawn before the end of each year by the other schools. Dodd insisted the recruiting of athletes by this method amounted to nothing more than a tryout for a scholarship. Dodd would not allow any of the football players choosing Tech to be dismissed from Tech, because they were not the best players. Dodd said, "it is not the recruits fault for not making the squad, it was the coaches fault for misjudging their talents". If a recruit came to Tech, he would stay on a football scholarship until he graduated.[65][66][67]

Dodd wanted the SEC to limit the amount of scholarships to about 32 per year, which would keep the other schools from offering 45 scholarships, picking the best, and withdrawing scholarships from the rest. A vote was to be taken by the presidents of the colleges on the issue, and Dodd made it clear that Tech would have to leave the SEC unless the rule was changed. The presidents were split six for Dodd’s position and six against. Bear had promised Dodd he would get his president to vote for Dodd’s position, which would have changed the rule. When the meeting was held on January 24, 1964, the Alabama president voted against Dodd’s position and the 140 Rule was upheld. Tech’s president immediately walked to the podium and announced Tech was withdrawing from the SEC.[62][65][68]

Legacy and awards[edit]

Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field

While Bobby Dodd was a determined competitor, he cared deeply for those who played for him. Unlike some other coaches, he did not believe in winning at any costs; he truly believed that the most important aspect of college football was the college football player.[23][69] As a testament to the character of Bobby Dodd, each year a Division I college coach whose team excels on the field, in the classroom, and in the community is awarded the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award, presented by the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation.[70]

Many coaches have been influenced by Dodd's style and approach to the game, including Vince Dooley, University of Georgia's longtime football coach, who was the first recipient of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award.[70][71][72] In addition, several assistant coaches for Bobby Dodd went on to have successful careers as head football coach for other colleges, including Frank Broyles with University of Arkansas and Ray Graves with University of Florida.[73][74][75] Broyles led the Razorbacks to 14-7 victory over the Yellow Jackets in the 1960 Gator Bowl, which was the first bowl game Georgia Tech had lost with Bobby Dodd as head coach.[76]

Picture of Bobby Dodd statue on GT Campus
Picture of Plaque under Bobby Dodd statue on GT Campus
Dodd's Boys plaque located next to Bobby Dodd's statue

Dodd was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1959 and as a coach in 1993.[4] He was voted Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches in 1951, and “National Coach of the Year” by the New York Daily News poll in 1952. After retiring, he was awarded a special “Citation of Honor” by the Football Writers Association of America for his accomplishments and contributions to football. Dodd also developed 22 recognized All-America football players as head football coach.[77]

Georgia Tech named its stadium Bobby Dodd Stadium in honor of the legendary coach in April 1988, two months before he died.[12][78][79] In 1989 part of Third Street located next to Bobby Dodd Stadium was rechristened Bobby Dodd Way.[77][80] On Friday September 14, 2012, Georgia Tech provided another honor for the former coach by unveiling the Bobby Dodd statue in Callaway Plaza on the Georgia Tech campus, which was funded by former players for Coach Dodd.[81][82] In attendance for the unveiling included members of the 1952 National Championship squad, the President of the Institute, Bud Peterson, athletic director, current head football coach, Paul Johnson, and Bobby Dodd's son and daughter.[83][84]

Coach Dodd has also received honors not related to football. The Bobby Dodd Institute is an organization that helps people with disabilities; it is named in honor of Coach Dodd for his assistance to the disabled.[85]

External images
Pictures of Bobby Dodd with:
Mack Tharpe
William Alexander
GT Football Team 1938
Ray Graves and Frank Broyles
Guard Franklin Brooks
Wife & Children 1952
GT Football team 1962
GT Football team 1966
Bill Curry 1976

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Southeastern Conference) (1945–1963)
1945 Georgia Tech 4–6 2–2 T–5th
1946 Georgia Tech 9–2 4–2 4th W Oil 11
1947 Georgia Tech 10–1 4–1 2nd W Orange 10
1948 Georgia Tech 7–3 4–3 5th
1949 Georgia Tech 7–3 5–2 4th
1950 Georgia Tech 5–6 4–2 5th
1951 Georgia Tech 11–0–1 7–0 T–1st W Orange 5 5
1952 Georgia Tech 12–0 7–0 1st W Sugar 2 2
1953 Georgia Tech 9–2–1 4–1–1 T–2nd W Sugar 9 8
1954 Georgia Tech 8–3 6–2 2nd W Cotton 11
1955 Georgia Tech 9–1–1 4–1–1 2nd W Sugar 7 7
1956 Georgia Tech 10–1 7–1 2nd W Gator 4 4
1957 Georgia Tech 4–4–2 3–4–1 8th
1958 Georgia Tech 5–4–1 2–3–1 8th
1959 Georgia Tech 6–5 3–3 7th L Gator
1960 Georgia Tech 5–5 4–4 7th
1961 Georgia Tech 7–4 4–3 T–4th L Gator 13 13
1962 Georgia Tech 7–3–1 5–2 4th L Bluebonnet 11
1963 Georgia Tech 7–3 4–3 6th
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Independent) (1964–1966)
1964 Georgia Tech 7–3
1965 Georgia Tech 7–3–1 W Gator
1966 Georgia Tech 9–2 L Orange 8 8
Georgia Tech: 165–64–8 76–39–4
Total: 165–64–8
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
#Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

Family and personal life[edit]

Bobby Dodd Jr football card

Dodd married Alice Davis in 1933, and they had two children, Linda Dodd Thompson and Robert Lee Dodd Jr.,[1][86] who played quarterback for the University of Florida during 1960 and 1961 football seasons.[87] Dodd Jr. had wanted to play for Georgia Tech, but Dodd thought it would be best if he played for another college.[88] On October 1, 1960, Dodd Jr. contributed to Florida's 18-17 upset win over the Yellow Jackets at Florida Field with Ray Graves, Dodd's former assistant, as the Gator's head coach.[89][90]

Alice Davis was a younger sister to Wink Davis, who played half back on Georgia Tech football team. Dodd met Alice in 1931 through Ed Hamm, who was the track coach at that time. They went on a few double dates together and then Bobby started dating Alice.[91] They postponed their wedding until after the 1933 football season since Dodd was coaching his future brother-in-law.[8]

Bobby Dodd and Bear Bryant ended their feud in 1975 after Bill Curry helped negotiate a peace settlement between the two old football coaches. As a result, Georgia Tech and Alabama resumed their series during 1979 through 1984 football seasons.[36][92]

Dodd stayed in touch with many of his former football players over the years, and he was like a father to them up until his death.[35] "The record I am most proud of," he said, "is from all those years of coaching I probably don't have five former players who are bitter at me or Georgia Tech. That means more than the number of games we won."[66]

Alice Dodd was named honorary alumnus of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association in 1967. After her husband's death in 1988, she continued to attend Homecoming functions and special events, such as the 1991 Florida Citrus Bowl which led to Georgia Tech winning its fourth National Championship.[93]

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