The football legacy of the Georgia Bulldogs began in 1892. The University of Georgia (UGA) started its football program 130 years ago in Athens, Georgia. Today, the team is known for its success, having won national championships, Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships, and bowl games.
Dr. Charles Herty, a chemistry professor and former Johns Hopkins football player, pioneered the UGA football team. On Jan. 25, 1892, UGA played its first intercollegiate football game against Mercer University. UGA beat Mercer 50-0. The South’s most legendary football rivalry began one month later when the Bulldogs faced off against Auburn University. Auburn defeated UGA 10-0.
The Georgia Bulldogs had 14 different coaches from 1892 to 1909. During the 17-year span, they had a .477 winning percentage. In 1896, Georgia had its first undefeated season, winning the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) championship.
Building a Legacy
From 1910 to 1963, Georgia had fewer coaches (7) and a greater win percentage (.622). In 1910, Georgia played its first future All-American, College Football Hall of Fame running back Bob McWhorter. During that season, the team moved from Herty Field to Sanford Field, where wooden stands were built. Quarterback George “Kid” Woodruff was named captain in 1911. He later led the Bulldogs to their first national championship win in 1927 as head coach. The 1927 team, known as the “dream and wonder team” had a season record of 9-1 and claimed the national championship title through a national poll.
In 1920, coach Herman Stegeman led the Bulldogs through an undefeated season, and the team was named co-champion of the SIAA alongside Georgia Tech. In 1921, the Bulldogs’ line, including Joe Bennett, Bum Day, Artie Pew, Owen Reynolds, and Puss Whelchel, did not allow any scoring through its line. In 1922, UGA joined the Southern Conference.
One of the most memorable games of the time period was the UGA upset against Yale University on Oct. 12, 1929. The Bulldogs won 15-0. All 15 points were scored by Vernon “Catfish” Smith, a three-sport athlete at UGA.
Wally Butts began his longstanding coaching career with the Bulldogs in 1939. During Butts’ tenure as coach, the Bulldogs were selected through six polls as the 1942 Division-1A national champions. Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich was a team standout on the 1942 squad.
Hunger To Win
After the 1942 championship, many players left to serve in World War II. Several players returned to win another national championship in 1946. Butts led the team to four SEC championships: 1942, 1946, 1948, and 1959. As head coach, Butts had a .615 winning record. He coached the team through 1960, afterward becoming the UGA athletic director until 1963. In 1997, Butts was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
1964 began another longstanding coaching era when former Auburn University assistant coach Vince Dooley accepted the head coach position at UGA. In 1967, UGA won the Cotton Bowl, making the program the third in all college history to win all four major bowls: Rose, Cotton, Sugar, and Orange. During Dooley’s tenure from 1964 to 1988, he led the program to six SEC championships and coached 40 All-American players. Under Dooley, the Bulldogs won their first undisputed national championship in 1980.
After disappointing seasons from 1989 to 1995, Jim Doonan joined the Bulldogs as head coach in 1996. Doonan was the first UGA coach to lead the Bulldogs to four consecutive bowl championship wins: the 1998 Outback Bowl, the 1998 Peach Bowl, the 2000 Outback Bowl, and 2000 Oahu Bowl. Doonan was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Winning in the 21st Century
After serving as the offensive coordinator of the Florida State Seminoles, Mark Richt joined the Bulldogs as head coach in 2001. Richt led the team to success, garnering two SEC Championship wins, six SEC Eastern Division titles, and nine bowl wins. Richt served as head coach through 2015, leaving with an impressive .737 winning percentage. Richt was fired in 2015 after losing to key opponents: the University of Tennessee, the University of Alabama, and the University of Florida.
UGA alumnus Kirby Smart joined as head coach in 2015. During Smart’s second season, UGA won the SEC Championship game over Auburn, along with the Rose Bowl over Oklahoma. The Bulldogs faced off against the University of Alabama in the national championship but lost in overtime. On Jan. 10, 2022, Smart led the Bulldogs to their third College Football Playoff National Championship. UGA got revenge for their 2017 loss, defeating the University of Alabama 33-18.
The win was much anticipated after a 40-year streak without a national championship. Smart continues to coach the team today.
The Bulldogs in Action
Watch the Bulldogs in action at Sanford Stadium. The location of the renowned stadium is referred to as “between the hedges,” a marker for the shrubbery that surrounds it. Sanford Stadium is the 10th-largest stadium in the NCAA, with a capacity of 96,742. Keep an eye out for Uga, the live bulldog mascot.
Consensus National Champions
The NCAA does not sanction a yearly championship event. National champions are selected by various organizations that vote for the best college team. The championship team is declared by individuals and organizations, known as “selectors.” The list below outlines either unanimous or consensus championship wins.
- 2021 (14-1): In 2021, the Bulldogs lost only one game, achieving one of their best seasons since going undefeated in 1980. Kirby Smart led the Bulldogs to defeat the University of Michigan at the Orange Bowl, where they won 34-11. The team continued onto the College Football Playoff National Championship, where they defeated the University of Alabama 33-18.
- 1980 (12-0-0): One of the most well-known UGA coaches, Vince Dooley led the Bulldogs through an undefeated 12-0 season. The Bulldogs defeated the University of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl 17-10. UGA was declared national champions by almost every poll.
- 1942 (11-1-0): UGA was voted national champions by the following selectors: Berryman, DeVold, Houlgate System, Litkenhous, Poling System, and Williamson System.
Polled National Championships
The list below outlines votes for the UGA Bulldogs by various selectors. They did not win unanimously. National championships were established by the votes of various selector groups made up of football coaches and analysts.
- 1968 (8-1-2): Litkenhous. Team led by Vince Dooley.
- 1966 (10-1-0): Massey Ratings. Team led by Vince Dooley.
- 1946 (11-0-0): Williamson System. Team led by Wally Butts.
- 1927 (9-1-0): Boand System and Poling System. Team led by George “Kid” Woodruff.
Sports fanatics know that the Bulldogs are no strangers to conference championship wins. UGA won the championship for their conference in all of the following years:
Heisman Trophy Winners
The Bulldogs have seen two Heisman Trophy winners emerge from their program.
- Herschel Walker (1982): Walker played for UGA from 1980 to 1982. He won the Heisman Trophy after his third season at UGA. Walker rushed 335 times for 1,752 yards and 17 touchdowns. He continued his career in the United States Football League and National Football League, playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants.
- Frank Sinkwich (1942): Sinkwich played for UGA from 1940 to 1942. He won the Heisman Trophy after his senior season at Georgia. Sinkwich rushed 175 times for 795 yards and 30 touchdowns. Sinkwich went on to be a first-round pick for the National Football League’s Detroit Lions.
Head Coach History and Record
The Bulldogs have a legendary coaching history.
- Dr. Charles Herty, 1982: 2-1-1-0
- Ernest Brown, 1883: 5-2-2-1
- Robert Winston, 189: 6-5-1-0
- Glenn “Pop” Warner, 1895-1896: 11-7-4-0
- Charles McCarthy, 1897-1898: 9-6-3-0
- Gordon Saussy, 1899: 6-2-3-1
- E.E. Jones, 1900: 6-2-4-0
- Billy Reynolds, 1901-1902: 15-5-7-3
- M.M. Dickinson, 1903,1905: 13-4-9-0
- Charles A. Barnard, 1904: 6-1-5-0
- W.S. Whitney, 1906-1907: 15-6-7-2
- Branch Bocok, 1908: 8-5-2-1
- J. Coutler and Frank Dobson, 1909: 7-1-4-2
- W.A. Cunningham, 1910-1919: 70-43-18-9
- H.J. Stegeman, 1920-1922: 29-20-6-3
- George “Kid” Woodruff, 1923-1927: 47-30-16-1
- Harry Mehre, 1928-1937: 99-59-34-6
- Joel Hunt, 1938: 10-5-4-1
- Wally Butts, 1939-1960: 235-140-86-9
- Johnny Griffith, 1961-1963: 30-10-16-4
- Vince Dooley, 1964-1988: 288-201-77-10
- Ray Goff, 1989-1995: 81-46-34-1
- Jim Donnan, 1996-2000: 59-40-19-0
- Mark Richt, 2001-2015: 196-145-51-0
- Bryan McClendon, 2015-2016: 1-1-0-0
- Kirby Smart, 2016-Present: 56-44-12-0
Going into week 15 of the 2022 football season, the Bulldogs are ranked first according to ESPN. Returning players like Brock Bowers and Jalen Carter are expected to lead the team in the upcoming season. Cheer on the Bulldogs with officially licensed sports apparel, sports collectibles, and memorabilia.