A NAIL-BITING DAY IN ATHENS
There is a limp in the walk of Johnny Griffith, coach of the University of Georgia football team, and his daughter, Susan, has taken to calling him " Chester" to give the limp some class. In facial conformation, however, Griffith is more a lumpy-nosed Richard Burton type. The lump is permanent. The limp is temporary. An earnest Bulldog guard pulled out of the line to lead a sweep during fall practice at Tallulah Falls two weeks ago and ran down the first man in his way. The man was Coach Griffith. "I jumped up quick and told him Good Job and not to let anybody stand in his way again," said Griffith. "I didn't want him to think I was hurt." Griffith's knee will be operated on when the season is over.
The season began for Griffith in Athens Ga. last week. Some quick thinkers in Athens, known around Publicist Dan Magill's office as the "Op'puhsition Pahty," would have you believe it also ended then for Griffith, because he has started each of his three seasons as Georgia head coach in an equivalent manner: losing to Alabama by wide margins. This time it was 32-7. The hurt for Johnny was on the scoreboard, which he could not jump up to hide. But the persistence of his Bulldogs—they led once and were not out of the running until the fourth quarter—would have been gratifying had it not been that the game had taken on all the wholesome, festive, collegiate qualities of a day at divorce court.
Not fully knowing what to expect, except that whatever it was it had to be dramatic, since this is the game that started the trouble a year ago, 44,000 people jammed Sanford Stadium, unanimous in their conviction that if one found it impossible to say anything good about Johnny Griffith, then by all means say something bad. Not necessarily in order of importance, one could also say something bad about Bear Bryant, the Alabama coach, or Wally Butts, or Dr. O.C. Aderhold, the Georgia president, or the Georgia athletic board, the State Board of Regents or the governor of the state.
Trying to separate the facts from the factions in Athens is like trying to fish the walnuts from the Waldorf salad; but among those who are trying to bring reason and harmony back to the campus, the libel trial of ex-Coach and ex-Athletic Director Wally Butts vs. The Saturday Evening Post is something to be talked about—but not much. Those in town who are stout Butts defenders and who feel he was treated shoddily by the athletic board and the university president, and without due loyalty by Griffith, speak out openly, asking, please, that they not be quoted. The ardor of the "Op'puhsition Pahty," convinced that The Post was no more irresponsible than some of the home folks, has nevertheless diminished since the first days after the trial and Butts's $3,060,000 victory.
At that time, Cliff Kimsey Jr., a Cornelia, Ga. banker and former Georgia quarterback, asked for the resignation of athletic board members who testified against Butts. Dr. Aderhold's resignation was demanded by an influential alumnus from Columbus, Ga., and one former student threw prestige to the winds and sent back his diploma. But within days the tide of opinion-by-mail turned sharply in the university's favor. "It takes a mind with a lot of narrow in it to fault Dr. Aderhold," said one graduate, "when enrollment is at an alltime high and all round the campus great new buildings are going up, including a $4� million Coliseum for the Georgia basketball team that hasn't had a winning season in 12 years."
Most typical of the sympathetic middle is Bob Poss, ex-Bulldog lineman, who is the spitting image of the young Orson Welles and thanks you kindly when you recognize it. Poss owns a thriving barbecue stand on the edge of Athens and wholesales Georgia hash and Brunswick stew around the South. "He's also in charge of our obsessions," said a friend. "He sells the Cokes and hot dogs at the stadium."
Poss says the only thing he is obsessed with is the good of the University of Georgia. "People don't understand how I can be for both sides," he says, "but I'm for Johnny, and I'm for Wally, no matter who eats my stew—both sides do anyway. I think Johnny made a big mistake when he didn't throw those notes away the minute he saw 'em [the notes George Burnett took on an alleged telephone conversation between Butts and Bryant before the 1962 game, which was won by Alabama, 35-0], but it's all over now. I'm for forgetting it and beating Alabama; I'm for Wally; I'm for Johnny; I'm for the Red and Black."
Almost the entire legal cast was at the game. Butts arrived in Athens from Miami, where he said he and his wife, Winnie, had been "hiding out" for a week on Lindsey Hopkins' yacht. (While a Post appeal is pending, Butts's interest on the $3,060,000 accrues at $587 a day.) He had caught two bonefish, but had been unsuccessful at acquiring a tan. "I got pretty red is all," he said. Harry Mehre, a former Georgia coach who is now a columnist for The Atlanta Journal, spent two hours with Butts on Friday and was chagrined that "he just wasn't the old Wally I knew. The strain of this thing shows heavily on him."
Butts's arrival caused no great commotion at the game. He sat on the south side in seats donated by the university. "Very nice of them," he said. He pulled for Georgia, he said, but tried to be reasonably quiet about it, being in dignified company. "I still caught myself cheering and whoopin' every now and then." He said he was impressed with Georgia's effort, that it was a "team that will improve and win a few—but you understand I'm not trying to put anybody on the spot."