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?

Filed under: ACC, History, SEC 30 Comments