SI Vault
Don Parker
October 21, 1957
When Coach Bobby Dodd sends his Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets against Auburn Saturday, the Southeastern Conference title may hang on the outcome. But to the relaxed Dodd, it will still be a game for fun
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October 21, 1957

A Low-pressure Engineer

When Coach Bobby Dodd sends his Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets against Auburn Saturday, the Southeastern Conference title may hang on the outcome. But to the relaxed Dodd, it will still be a game for fun

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Dodd screwed up his deeply lined face and chewed thoughtfully on an unlit cigar. "You know, if the football people don't start cleaning on their own, they're going to be in trouble," he went on. "College presidents and alumni, people like that aren't going to stand for any more scandals. Why I was shocked myself this morning just going over the NCAA list of schools on probation for illegal practices. There must be at least 10. [Of the 10 schools on NCAA probation, eight are there for illegal recruiting.] Down here in the Southeastern Conference we have a recruiting deadline. We can't sign a boy to a scholarship until midnight, December 7. You know what some of the coaches do to get a kid? They'll take them off to the mountains on a fishing trip and hide them out for a few days before the deadline. Then they sign them right at midnight and the fishing trip is over. It almost amounts to kidnapping. We've never done that here at Tech. In fact, it has been rare that we've signed anybody right on the deadline. I think I signed one boy at midnight this year and that was because he asked me to. He said it would save him from being pestered all night by other schools.

"Some schools go all over the country to get players. Here at Tech, we try to get the local boy. I believe if you have local boys you will have a better team. Me, for instance, I can talk to a boy from this area in my language and he'll understand me. We have something in common. A kid from up North—well, it's just not the same. I can take a boy from the Southeast and fire him up so he'll play 110% of what he's capable. Now I don't know why it should be that way, but it is.

"Another funny thing. Generally, a southern boy hasn't got the physical size that kids from Pennsylvania or Texas or the Midwest have. But they've got this unbelievable spirit and willingness. I think you get a bunch together from the same region and they're going to play better together because they have this common background—a common understanding—that makes for better teamwork. Anyhow, we try to get the local boy.

"We rely on Tech's scholastic and football records as the persuader. And, of course, public relations. A coach, he's got to be a public relations man, a salesman. You have a product to sell—in this case, Georgia Tech—and you go out and sell it the best way you know how. Technical education is a big help. We turn out engineers. Everyone wants to hire engineers. The kids, they get jobs a year before they get out of school and they make good money. And you've got to realize that our football tradition helps, too. We've been in six bowls the last six years. Won every one of them. Been in eight bowls since I became head coach 12 years ago. I think kids like a winner."


Bobby's liking to be a winner developed after he went from Kingsport High to the University of Tennessee, where General Robert Neyland, then the dean of southern football, was glad to have him. With Dodd, a slight 155-pounder, as quarterback, Tennessee was undefeated in 1928 and 1929, although tied each season by Kentucky, and in 1930 they lost only to Alabama. Bobby was chosen as All-America in 1930. The next season he went to Tech as assistant to Coach Alexander.

From Neyland, Dodd learned precision. "The General," said Bobby, "was the greatest planner I ever met in football. I remember in 1929 he wanted to put in a trick play for the Vanderbilt game. I was to fake a handoff, back into the line with the ball hidden in my lap and then, just as soon as I saw daylight, turn and run fast as I could. I argued with the General about how far I could run without being caught. I said 50 yards. He said 20. During the game I didn't call the play until we were right on Vandy's 20. It worked and I got loose. They tackled me right on the goal line. The General had it figured to the yard, and just sort of winked at me after the game was over."

Always one step ahead of his opposition as a strategist, Dodd believes that the multiple offense soon will replace the T as the standard college offense. "Multiple offense is the coming thing," he said. "We're beginning to use unbalanced lines left and right with flankers and split ends. Sort of like the pro offense. Of course, you can never get as wide-open as the pros with college rules. The pros, they can play platoon football. They can afford to have the guy who can throw the running pass but can't tackle. They can have the end with the great hands who couldn't bust up a sweep if it came right at him. In college where you have to have boys who can play both ways—offense and defense—and be good at both, well, you can't develop the degree of skill that is absolutely necessary for a wide-open game. But I do think that the T or split-T as a basic college formation is a thing of the past. I think you'll find more and more college teams turning to some form of multiple next year," he said.

" Vanderbilt, now. Vanderbilt runs something they call the variegated T," he went on. "It's just their own name for it. We run practically the same thing but we call it the multiple T. I think Vandy and Tech are the only two teams playing out of a multiple in the South this year, but next year you'll see a lot more of the same thing. The T and the split-T have been defensed almost to the saturation point, so you've got to change your offense to keep the defense guessing. The multiple T accomplished this."

Dodd, in other words, tends to regard football strategy in terms of the well-known military axiom that the balance of power continually swings from offense to defense and then back again. As one of the most distinguished football strategists, he illustrated this with his own experience at Tech. "Anything new, like the belly series we started a few years ago, turns into a monster on you after a while," he pointed out. "And one day we'll come up against a team that will have developed a defense for the multiple and they'll probably rack us up. But we'll still be ahead of the game because the next week we'll be able to look at the movies of the game, see how we were defensed and we'll have the answer right quick without having to waste all that time experimenting on how to stop the multiple. You let the other team do the work for you and you always stay ahead of them."

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