How is that you say? Tennessee obviously has some military traditions. Their football team was once commanded by a General. The dragoon uniform worn by Tennessee regulars during the Mexican War is the current uniform worn by the color guard at UT Knoxville athletic events.
But how in the world does Georgia fit in to this equation?
A good many folks know how the University of Tennessee got its name “The Volunteers”. The way the state and campus has a-typically responded to our countries call to arms. Since the Revolutionary War, Tennesseans have been quick to volunteer for military duty. That reputation was solidified during the Mexican War when Gov. Aaron Brown issued a call in May 1846 requesting 2,800 volunteers for military service and 30,000 responded.
The famous Tennessee coach Robert Neyland served in the United States Army, reaching the rank of Brigadier General. He served in France in World War I and in the Panama Canal Zone. During that first nine year stint with the Vols, Neyland had five undefeated seasons, all within a six year period (1927, 1928, 1929, 1931, and 1932). The Vols reeled off undefeated streaks of 33 and 28 straight games. Upon returning to Tennessee from the Panama Canal Zone he retired from the military in favor of coaching.
Want a bit of Trivia? Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee is not only named for “The General”, but was designed by him. His plans included all expansions that have brought the stadium to its modern size with an over 100,000 seat capacity.
Georgia is no slouch in the military department. During the colonization of America, the state itself was designed to be a military buffer between the colonies and Spanish held Florida.
Ironically it is not Tennessee where Georgia gets it’s military influx from, but due to events with it’s most hated enemy it’s Clean Old Fashion Hate Rival: Georgia Tech.
During World War I Georgia shut down it’s football program due to World War I and a lack of available male student body to participate (they had answered the call to war). UGA mocked Tech’s continuation of football during the United States’ involvement in the war.
At the time, Tech was a military training ground and had a complete assembly of male students. Many schools, such as UGA, had lost all of their able-bodied male students to the war effort forcing them to temporarily suspend football during the war. In fact, UGA did not play a game from 1917–1918. When UGA renewed its program in 1919, the student body staged a parade, which mocked Tech’s continuation of football during times of war. The parade featured a tank shaped float emblazoned with the words “UGA IN ARGONNE” followed by a yellow-clad donkey and a sign that read “TECH IN ATLANTA.” This act would lead directly to Tech cutting athletic ties with UGA and canceling several of UGA’s home football games at Grant Field (UGA commonly used Grant Field as its home field then). Tech and UGA would not compete in athletics until the 1921 Southern Conference basketball tournament so angry were the two organizations.
(A Lot folks don’t know that the state actually banned football from being played in around 1897 I think, due to a Fullback named Richard Vonalbade (“Von”) Gammon who played at University of Georgia. He died from injuries he received on the football field.)
Both schools have storied reputations during the Civil War era. Both were practically destroyed and both survived.
While their military history may not be as rich or as deep as say, The Army- Navy Game, it’s no less a part of what makes this game very special.