The Bobby Dodd Story

The Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award

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The Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award was established in 1976 to honor the Division I college football coach whose programs represent quality on and off the field. The Bobby Dodd Award honors the coach of a team who enjoys a successful season on the gridiron while stressing the importance of academic excellence and sense of duty to return something back to the community, as Coach Dodd did during his 22 seasons as the head football coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

The presentation is unique to that of other college coach’s awards in that the winner is honored on his own campus, surrounded by his colleagues, friends and the students.

Also distinct from other awards, the winning coach is presented with an award certificate, a granite trophy replica of Coach Bobby Dodd, and a scholarship check in the amount of $10,000 for the university. Patrons of the foundation are, The Coca-Cola Company, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, George W. Mathews Jr., Georgia Power Company, and SunTrust Bank.

A selection committee of college football experts names the recipient of the award each year based on criteria which goes beyond mere talent and winning. Although a winning record is necessary for selection qualification, the recipient must excel in other areas. The award certificate that is presented to the winner states: ”In recognition of a higher and more noble aspect of college coaching…a style that emphasizes something more than winning the game…a belief that the game of football should be kept in perspective with college life in general.“  

The Bobby Dodd Way

Dodd, Bobby Ga Tech009Legendary former Georgia Tech football coach Bobby Dodd never saw the point in having a whole lot of rules. He was a firm believer that the more you had, meant the more rules that would eventually be broken. Dodd believed that keeping things simple was better, that instilling a sense of right and wrong in his players and letting them know early on what was expected of them was the best way to go. He was a football coach too, so, naturally, winning mattered. But Dodd was always more adamant that there was a right way to go about it, that scholarship, character, leadership and integrity help more long-term importance to a young person than the outcome of any game.

“He always told us to prepare yourself to take your place in society,” said George Morris, the captain of Tech’s 1952 national championship team and former president of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation. “After football is over, take a place in society and make a positive contribution.” That was Dodd’s mantra for all of his 22 years at The Flats, the cumulative result being a mix of academic and athletic successes that has since been the model for others to follow. Dodd reassured parents, telling them, “We’re not miracle workers, but if you send us a good boy to Georgia Tech, we’ll send you a good boy home.”

Dodd won 165 games and a national championship, earning himself a place in coaching lore for his excellence. His successes off the field with his players were equally as deep and far reaching, one reason why Peach Bowl, Inc. and the Bobby Dodd Foundation have teamed up to present the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award.

This year’s winner will be announced during halftime of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which will be seen nationally on ESPN.

“We feel the tie-in with Peach Bowl, Inc. and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will tremendously heighten the awareness of the award and refresh the memory of Coach Dodd and the standards he set for young athletes,” said Morris.

Dodd, a former All-American quarterback at Tennessee, became Tech’s head coach in 1944 after serving as an assistant under William Alexander, and ushered in what Jackets’ fans consider the ’golden age‘ of the school’s football program. His sterling .713 winning percentage and 165-64-8 record over the 22 years speaks volumes as Dodd guided Tech to a 31- game winning streak from 1951- 53, including a perfect 12-0 mark and a national title in 1952. He helped 21 Yellow Jackets earn All-America honors, and went 9-4 in bowl games, winning eight in a row.

Dodd was always considered one of his day’s top game-day minds, a brilliant tactician who wasn’t afraid to try something that had never been done before. It was he who first employed the famous ’Kingsport play‘ against Tennessee. The play involved sending two players from the sidelines into the huddle, with three coming out. The third player, however, never actually left the field and stood along the edge with his toes pointed towards the sidelines so the Volunteers would think he wasn’t in the game. The play caught the unsuspecting UT by complete surprise and led to a Jacket’s touchdown and ultimately a victory.

’He had a knack and the ability to call the right plays at the right time,‘ said Kim King, the quarterback for Dodd’s 1966 team. ’He was just ahead of his time. He was just a brilliant football coach.‘

But it was how Dodd accomplished all that he did over his career that might be his greatest legacy. His teams were consistently among the least penalized in the South. Pressure was no problem, either. Dodd was intense and focused, but always at the right moment. King, former colorman on the Yellow Jackets’ radio broadcasts recalled one such time. ’We were undefeated (9-0) and about to play the last game of the year against the University of Georgia,‘ he said. ’The Bulldogs were 8-1, having only lost to Miami by one point, 7-6. The game was in Athens, and on the morning of the game, we were anxious to get over there and concerned we wouldn’t get there in time. Around 10:30, we started to get worried. But, shortly thereafter, Coach Dodd emerged from the Athletic Association with Hugh Hardison, a Georgia State Patrolman. We loaded the buses and sped over to Athens in about an hour’s time. As we were unloading, I noticed Coach Dodd got back into the patrol car and he and Hugh took off. We didn’t see Coach Dodd until the warm-ups, 45 or so minutes later.‘ Years later, King would finally ask Dodd where he’d gone and he was startled by the answer he received. ’There’s the greatest little hot dog stand in Athens up by the airport,‘ Dodd told him. ’And I had Hugh run me up there and I ate two hotdogs before that game.‘ ’He was the same man when we won as when we lost. I think that showed a lot of character,‘ said Morris.

Education always ranked as perhaps Dodd’s highest priority. Unlike most coaches in that era who would run players off when their eligibility expired, he would gladly retain players on scholarship as long as they continued to make progress toward their degree. It wasn’t uncommon for a number of players to have lab conflicts with practices. ’At any given practice, we could have up to a dozen players arrive late to practice after attending their labs,‘ said King. But Dodd knew of Tech’s unique academic demands and was okay with the excused absences and late arrivals. Working toward obtaining a degree, he felt, was more important than any practice.

As long as that player remained dedicated, and gave his best in the classroom, he would remain on scholarship. But Dodd had little patience for those who couldn’t do the things he asked of them — like obeying the few rules he insisted upon and playing hard at all times — and made no exceptions. He once dismissed three players from his 1954 team, one of whom was three yards shy of the school’s career rushing record with several games left to play. He once dismissed another player for kicking an opposing player in the head. Winning was the goal, but doing it the right way was more important.

Former Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles played for Dodd at Georgia Tech and later began his own coaching career under him. He remains grateful for everything Dodd taught him, both on and off the field. ’Many times in life,‘ Broyles once wrote in a tribute to Dodd, ’I’ve said publicly and privately how grateful I am to Bobby Dodd or the type of person he was and the influence that he had on my life. His leadership and concern for his players and coaches gave me a direction for my life that has consumed my thinking, my action and, in fact, my entire career.‘ ’I speak with pride when I tell people I played for and coached for Bobby Dodd because his name and his reputation have a special significance to people who have enjoyed college sports.‘

Dodd stepped down from coaching following the 1966 season, but continued his 57-year association with Tech until his death at age 79 on June 21, 1988. In December 1993, he was posthumously inducted into the National College Football Hall of Fame, becoming just the third person to be honored as both a player and a coach. ’He was the kind of guy who inspired young people,‘ King recalled of his former coach. ’He was like a second father to us all, someone we all respected, loved, and never wanted to disappoint.‘