Why Did Georgia Tech Leave the SEC?

The fascinating history between Georgia Tech and the SEC is pretty well documented, but perhaps a lot of college football fans, especially those outside of the southern states or those under the age of 40, have forgotten the whole story behind GT and the SEC.  Georgia Tech was a founding member of the SEC and remained in the conference for 69 years until differences between Georgia Tech and the SEC could not be resolved. 

More on GT's relationship with the SEC:

More on Georgia Tech's history as a football program:

We felt in order for this site to have any credibility we needed to go back in time and establish an understanding of oversigning and its historical meaning; we needed to find its roots.   Thus far, all roads lead to the southeastern portion of the country - but don't worry, we're not done looking.  So before you jump to any conclusions regarding this site, we ask that you take a moment to realize that we do our homework on this topic, we're not just making things up as we go along. 

And for those of you who think that oversigning is just some new made up term for something that just started since the 85 scholarship limit, you would be wrong.  Oversigning is an issue that is as old as the SEC conference and played a major role in Georgia Tech's decision in 1963 to withdraw from the conference. 

"Another issue of concern for Dodd was Alabama's and other SEC schools' over-recruitment of players.[11] Universities would recruit more players than they had roster space for.  During the summer practice sessions, the teams in question would cut the players well after signing day thus preventing the cut players from finding new colleges to play for.  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 in 1963.[11] Tech would remain an independent like Notre Dame and Penn State (at the time) during the final four years of Dodd's coaching tenure."

We're considering a new annual award to the coach who runs off the fewest number of players to make room for new recruits, a sort of anti-Saban Cup award; we'll call it The Dodd Cup award.   On a serious note, Georgia Tech fans should feel honored and proud to have a man like Dodd as a part of their rich history.  We're big GT & Bobby Dodd fans here at oversigning.com.  Bobby Dodd & GT were fighting the war on oversigning way before we were in diapers. 

More on Bobby Dodd:

Many will say that GT left the SEC because of the riff(s) between GT head coach Bobby Dodd and Alabama head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, but in the book "Dodd's Luck," Bobby Dodd claims it was the 140 rule.   See this excerpt below:

"Bobby Dodd insisted there was no other reason he left the SEC, other than the 140 Rule. The 140 Rule stated a college program could only have 140 football and basketball players on scholarship at any one time. The teams were allowed to sign up to 45 players a year, but could not exceed the 140 Rule.

Dodd would not allow any of the football players choosing Tech to be dismissed from Tech, because they were not good 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.

Dodd would sign about 30-32 players a year to meet the guidelines, but the other schools in the SEC were offering 45 scholarships a year. Those players, not good enough to fall under the 140 Rule, had their scholarships withdrawn and sent packing before the end of each year. Dodd insisted, the recruiting of athletes by this method amounted to nothing more than a tryout for a scholarship.

Dodd thought it unfair and would not withdraw scholarships from his players. He wanted the SEC to limit the amount of scholarships to about 32 per year. This would keep the other schools from offering 45 scholarships, picking the best, and sending the rest packing.

A vote was to be taken by the presidents of the colleges on the issue, and Dodd made it clear, Tech would have to leave the SEC unless the rule was changed. Dodd said he would live with 10, 20, 30, 40, or even 50 recruits per year as long as he did not have to chase any of his players off.

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, Bryant did not show up and 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. Bryant never told Dodd why he reneged on his promise."

History goes on to show that Bryant and the Alabama football program went on to have one of the greatest runs in college football history.  From 1963 until Bryant's retirement Alabama won192 games, with 11 ten win season, 12 SEC championships, and 5 National Championships.  It would have been interesting to see how things would have panned out had the SEC voted in favor of reform on oversigning and GT stayed in the SEC.  Alabama and GT never played again and probably never will didn't play again until 1978 and only played 6 times (1978-1984).

Dodd also indicated that the stiffer academic requirements played a role in Georgia Tech's departure from the SEC.

"I just could not compete with those damn state universities. And Auburn is just as easily a state university. They could take these same boys we couldn't take, who wanted to come and play for me. And it just broke me down. I couldn't beat'em. You can just outcoach'em some of the time, brother. Better football players will beat you."

Link to a condensed version of Dodd's book: http://www.stingtalk.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-4395.html

It's hard to believe that 47 years after Georgia Tech left the SEC because of oversigning and discarding players that it is still an issue and the SEC still leads the country in the number of players signed. 

Of course now the rule is 85/25, back then the rule was 140/45.  Does anyone else get the feeling that no matter what the numbers are they will always be pushed to the limit in the SEC?  We're just shocked that Vanderbilt (which has normal recruiting numbers) hasn't pulled a GT and withdrawn from the conference.  When you think about it, is there another school in the country that is more out of place in their conference than Vanderbilt?

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Comments (30) Trackbacks (3)
  1. I am not going to get into the obvious slanted discussion of the overall site. I am simply going to point out a factual error. Alabama and GaTech played quite a few times after GT left the SEC. I attended one of those games at Grant Field in ’82. They played every year from ’79-’84.

  2. these people who made this site are bitter that the sec is doing so good in college football. To discredit the sec is the only reason this site exist. Even by their on data it shows the sec is not the only conference doing this, in fact only a hand full of teams in the sec is doing it. Yet this site speaks nothing of other schools in other conferences doing the same thing. Get over it. In the South college football is king.

    • “…bitter that the sec is doing so good in college football…” i believe you the proper word is “well”. the SEC is doing so ‘well’ in college football. dumb redneck.

    • Ok I can’t change the world, but every time you want to say I’m doin’ good – it I’m doing well.learn it – live it.

  3. What a sycophantic coward’s rant against the mighty SEC from the weak Big 10.

    • Vol Man – what a ridiculous comment to make. If the show were on the other foot and any of the other conferences were repeating as BCS National Champions year after year and it came to be known that the winning schools had on average an additional recruiting class worth of talent on their squad….you can darn well believe the SEC faithful would be crying foul. Furthermore when you think of the difference that one player can make (take Cam Newton for example) and now your team has 6, 10, maybe even 13 players that can make a difference. In my opinion the SEC should never lose a BCS championship as long as oversigning is allowed to continue. Bottom line…fair is fair!

  4. But look at the difference in the MAGNITUDE of the issue then compared to now….

    Sign the max of 25/year now and in 4 years (with 0 attrition) you’re over the 85 limit by 15. Sign the max for 4 years under the 140/45 and you’d be over by 40!

    Dodd wanted the 140 limit lifted becuase Tech, Tulane (also still in the SEC) and Vandy were the only programs not willing to abuse the system by over-signing and “cutting” several players every summer. This limited Dodd to signing, on average, 30-33 boys per class….and they also had to be 30-33 that could handle Tech’s academics, so it was a double-whammy Dodd was up against.

    Some will argue that, without the limit, Dodd could’ve had 200+ on scholarship (Tech was making tons of money from football in the 50′s) while other programs couldn’t afford that many….but he was also willing to keep a limit on the total players if the limit on the number signed PER YEAR was lowered so other teams wouldn’t be able to continue running players off.

  5. Regardless of your view on the topic, it’s interesting to hear discussion on it, both attacks and defenses of the practice in the articles and the comments. Here in Tennessee, this very topic has become a hot button issue on sports radio, getting a mention at least once an hour. It’s starting to get a lot of attention from the NCAA as well, it appears.

    As an impartial observer, it’s very interesting. Thanks to both the website owners and its readers/commenters for a detailed and mostly thoughtful/civil point/counterpoint.

  6. Thanks for this article. As a GT fan I wouldn’t trade my school for any other in the country. Even in 2010 they still do things the right way. GT football players have a higher average SAT score than any team in the nation:


    But they still manage to win. 13 straight bowl games, and a BCS apperance last year. And I can sleep at night knowing we aren’t ruining kids lives, or running a penal colony in the form of a football team to do it.

    • except when your coach comes in and tells players on scholarship that their position doesnt exist anymore, so they should look elsewhere and leave.

      • No player was forced to leave when Paul Johnson came in. The only player told to look elsewhere said “I want to play TE in college.” Keeping him at Tech in an offense that doesn’t have TEs is better? How so Tre? A few others left, but they did so of thier own accord, no one was forced to leave.

    • Still get owned by the Dawgs too!

      • I’d point out how idiotic this comment is in this context (and it is extremely funny!!), but I’ve learned to never argue with an idiot. #1, they bring you down to their level. #2, they beat you with experience. Heck, large chunks of southerners think that secession was a good idea, too!

  7. You shouldn’t limit the motivation of others to what you can understand. As an Alabama fan, of course you think Dodd’s motivation was to avoid a loss in a game. The fact that people actually act with integrity is probably beyond your comprehension.

  8. Vandy will stay as long as the Money continues to roll with the TIDE.

  9. My daughter was recruited by Alabama for Cross Country and Track. She was offered 75% of a full ride and signed Nov 9, 2005. She went there the next year and continually placed in the top 5 of her team and was often in the top 3. At the end of her second year, her coach called her into his office and cut her scholarship…but wanted her to stay on the team. She couldn’t afford to do that and got a job as an assistant coach at Tuscaloosa Academy. She then watched new girls come in to run for the Tide under scholarship. She never understood why they did it, but I always knew. They want to get kids in and ingrained into the system, then give that money to get more kids in. My wonderful daughter graduated in 2009 and got to see the mighty Tide’s great Championship Season. We are great Alabama fans, but believe me that I have “a name” of someone who was hurt badly by “the system”.

    • Thank you for sharing.

    • This actually illustrates a great point. This website would have you believe that somone who loses his/her athletic scholarship is effectively kicked out of school; deprived of receiving an education. Not true. While I understand your hard feelings about the way your daughter was treated, I applaud her for getting a job, staying in school, and earning a degree. This is the path taken by the typical college student. No, it’s not easy; I know from personal experience. Even after losing an athletic (or academic) scholarship, the opportunity for earning a degree is still there for those who value it.

    • I ran track on a scholarship and was fully aware it was term to term. The non football/basketball sports don’t generate enough revenue to support a team full of full rides. This is part of what drives the competition and keeps kids from getting lazy in part. Scholly splitting is no hidden secret in the non fb/bb sports. Top 5 and top 3 on the team equals walk-on in these sports. It isn’t because the coaches are trying to trick kids. It is what they have to work with. My daughter is being recuited in shooting disciplines and the coaches have all been very forthcoming on how the system works.

      In terms of football, don’t think that these kids don’t know what Greyshirting is also. The kids/parents are hedging bets against there egos that they will overcome the obstacles of injuries, grades, talent, work ethic and be the preferred walk-on that gets a scholly when it opens up in the spring.

      If they don’t understand, they should be asking, and looking for a situation appropriate to their needs.

      The SEC is really probably over doing it, but the kids on the lower rungs of the recruiting latter are aware of greyshirt/walk-on possibilities and can sign elsewhere come signing day. It is there choice.

      • This is likely school by school as well. One of my best friends when I attended Georgia Tech suffered a leg injury her senior year and wasn’t able to compete the entire year. Georgia Tech still honored her scholarship.

  10. Actually Josh has this right. While many believed that incident you speak off was a major contributor, Dodd always said it wasn’t. Hence the quote above “Bobby Dodd insisted there was no other reason he left the SEC, other than the 140 Rule.” He was insisting because people speculated this event was part the reason. This particular issue will be debated forever, but since there will unlikely be any evidence coming to light debunking what Dodd said, we have to trust he wasn’t lying.

  11. At one point in the article, it is stated that “no other reason he left the SEC, other than the 140 Rule”. Then a couple paragraphs later, it stated “stiffer academic requirements played a role in Georgia Tech’s departure from the SEC”. So the article contains a lie by Dodd. The 140 Rule wasnt the only reason if the latter had any role at all. So there really could be any number of “reasons” that Tech left the SEC.

  12. I wonder how many “victories” has the SEC enjoyed over the B1G since 1956 as a result of this advantage? I think it would be very interesting to see score results after reductions in scoring were made as a result of oversigned “impact players” who replaced orginal LOI signees. I’d like to take in account the impacton over other BCS conferences, but to lesser extents it seems that the Big12, ACC, and Pac 10(12) also dabble in oversigning. I enjoy college football as much as the next guy, and my team has done extremly well over the years. I now don’t even feel bad about recent NC losses (by my team), understanding how the game has been plaved. The SEC does seem to be willing to win at any cost over the years. LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD!

  13. One Correction… Georgia Tech wasn’t in the SEC for 69 years. It was either 30 or 31 years. I enjoyed the article.

  14. You believe everything that Bobby Dodd put in his book? What ever happened to doing research before writing an article? Georgia Tech had well over 140 players on scholarship and didn’t want the 140 rule. Tech was one of the big money teams at the time and could afford to have a ton of scholarships. Most of the rest of the SEC couldn’t afford to have as many scholarships as Tech. Tech was feuding with Bama, Auburn and Florida when they left the SEC. The two Mississippi schools hated Tech because GT treated them like they were white trash and refused to play them in football. Bobby Dodd was one of the most arrogant men to ever walk a football sideline. Go back and look at the 1963 newspaper articles where Bobby Dodd proclaimed that he was going to make Georgia Tech the “Notre Dame of the South” with a great independent schedule.

    • Bobby Dodd was a decent man who knew the most important part of college football was “the boy who plays it“. He was far from arrogant. He had the decency to stand up for student athletes when many coaches cared more about their career and prestige. No sir, Bobby Dodd was not arrogant. Furthermore, Tech did not have an advantage, as you claim, from being a so called “money team”. Then, as is the case now, Georgia Tech had a disadvantage being able to get the blue chip recruits on a regular basis. This was due to our academic requirements. And Tech STILL was one of the most successful teams in the SEC when we left. GO JACKETS AND GO BOBBY DODD!

    • “Mississippi schools hated Tech because GT treated them like they were white trash and refused to play them in football”. You can add GT’s treatment of Auburn in with that statement. GT and Auburn played every year from 1902 till 1959 in Atlanta with the exception of the 1904 game game being played in Auburn. In 1960 GT agreed to a home and away series with Auburn, but they agreed to travel to Birmingham to play Auburn. In 1970, GT would travel to Auburn for the first true Auburn home game in the series sine 1904, almost 70 years.

      GT was far from being the “Ethics” standard bearer for fair play in the old Southern Conference/SEC.

  15. It would require much more effort than I am willing to put forth to give a raging rat’s backside about oversigning. Both players (ie. player, families, high school coaches, “friends”, etc.) and the coaches are preying on and using each other to get what they want. There are no innocents in this mess.

  16. The book that ought to be written about all this would tell of the triangular relationship among Bobby Dodd, Furman Bisher, and Bear Bryant.

    I confess to being in error — I have always thought that Dodd (and Bisher) were upset because until Bryant came onto the scene in 1958, Dodd had been winning big. The condensation of Dodd’s book here shows that for about four years before this, Dodd and Georgia Tech had come down from the heights and were experiencing mediocre annual records.

    It seems to me that the crux of the Dodd-Bisher-Bryant story is that reality set in by the mid-fifties. The country and its college football grew up when it was discovered that if you brought in the great player who was a mediocre student, you could beat the team whose academic standards were too high to recruit the mediocre student.

    If you compare the decisions made by Georgia Tech, Tulane, and Vanderbilt, you find that Tech ultimately decided to join the ACC and still compete for a national championship; Tulane settled into joining a lesser conference and decided that it cannot compete for a national championship; Vanderbilt remained in the Southeastern Conference but also decided it could not compete for a national championship.

    Proponents of Georgia Tech, aware that on occasion they can indeed compete for a national championship, seem to be looking back longingly for the good ol’ days, when Bobby Dodd did not have to face a realist named Bear Bryant, and when academic excellence — and segregation — insured that a large proportion of great football players in the South would never play against Georgia Tech, or for them.

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