Georgia Tech- October 30, 1920
It was a mistake to schedule Georgia Tech after the Harvard game, and the Centre staff knew it. However, when the 1920 schedule was made, Centre found itself in a bind. The "understanding" with Harvard was that the Colonels would arrive in the East undefeated. Therefore, the first three games had to be against opponents which would best guarantee no blemishes on the Colonels' record. Certainly, Morris Harvey, Howard and Transylvania fit that particular bill, as they were crushed by a combined score of 241-0.
DePauw had been so accommodating about relocating the 1919 game to Louisville that the return engagement in Indianapolis simply couldn't be avoided. It was DePauw's call, and it set the date for November 6. The arrangement with Kentucky was such that the Wildcats could name the Saturday when they were hosting the game, as they were in 1920. So, there was no way to get out of the November 13 date, since that was when Kentucky wanted the game played.
The city of Louisville had to be included on the schedule. Centre was determined to cement its great relationship with the citizens of the major metropolitan area in the state, and the best date for the Louisvillians and Virginia Tech was November 20. And, the traditional Thanksgiving game with Georgetown was just that-traditional-and a Thanksgiving game had to be played on, of course, Thanksgiving.
So, the only date open for Georgia Tech was the Saturday after the Harvard game, a most unfortunate development indeed. Another unfortunate but unavoidable fact was that the game was to be played in Atlanta. Centre had been gone for over 4 days on the Harvard venture, and nearly 60 hours had been spent on the train. Now the team faced another journey, even though this time, instead of over 1000 miles, the destination was only a little over 400 miles by rail from Danville.
But the really unfortunate fact, added to all of the other unfortunates, was that the Centre College Colonels were a hurting bunch of guys. The Harvard game had taken its toll, big time.
The team was so beaten up that Uncle Charlie decided not to even hold a practice on Monday, October 25. Instead, Coach Moran, Dudley, the official trainer, and team manager Thad McDonnell, had a "sick and injured" day in order to evaluate each of those who had participated in the Harvard game.
George Chinn presumably had a shoulder separation. When Uncle Charlie, a very astute diagnostician regarding sports injuries, palpated the area on the outside, top part of Chinn's shoulder, the freshman end grimaced. When Chinn tried to raise his arm out away from his body, he couldn't even begin to move it without considerable pain.
Chinn was out. There was no way he could play in the Tech game, even though he protested the decision.
Red Weaver was next. Red had chronic problems with his knees, dating back to his playing days at Fort Worth's North Side High. Uncle Charlie had rigged up wraps which helped, but now the All-American center's knees needed time, not just supporting. Both were swollen, and he walked with difficulty. Running and cutting was out of the question.
Red was out, and was told not to even come to practice during the week.
Again, the decision was met with a protest, but Weaver knew he couldn't be effective on the field.
As devastating as the loss of the two starters would be, their not being able to play was nowhere near as big a blow to Centre as was the prospect of facing future opponents without the services of Red Roberts.
Red had twisted his knee during the second quarter of the Harvard game. By Monday, the swelling was so severe that he could hardly bend it, and he walked stiffly, only able to get around by using a cane.
In 1977, Reggie Jackson, upon signing on with the New York Yankees, famously and correctly, if somewhat immodestly, stated that his abilities made him "the straw that stirs the drink."
Decades earlier, Bo fit that category, though he was far too modest to utter such.
If Bo was the straw, Red Roberts was the drink itself. Much credit for the Colonels' success went to Bo, justifiably so. But the "man behind the man," actually, more correctly, the man in front of the man, leading interference, opening holes, brushing aside the opposition so the shining star, Bo McMillin, could dazzle with his brilliance, was Red Roberts.
Now, there was simply no way Red could be a factor against an excellent Georgia Tech team. Uncle Charlie told him he could make the trip, but to not even think about playing.
Several other Colonels had lumps, bumps and bruises. But after examining each, Moran declared them fit enough to play.
On Tuesday, October 26, Centre had a light workout. During the afternoon, a local men's clothing store, Bruce-Martin and Company, presented Red Roberts with a new suit, fulfilling a pledge made prior to the trip to Boston that the first player to score for Centre would receive an outfit of his choice. Also, the Piggly Wiggly at Third and Main presented $10.00 certificates for groceries to Red and Lefty Whitnell for their scores.
Awards for Red Roberts and Lefty Whitnell
Uncle Charlie planned to start two Owensboro natives, Tom Bartlett at end, in place of Chinn, and Hump Tanner at fullback, in place of Roberts. Terry Snowday, also from Owensboro, would give the city from Western Kentucky three starters.
Filing in for Red Weaver was a Texan from Dallas, Harry "Shanks" Lipscomb, who was 5' 11" and weighed 155 lbs.
The upcoming foe, Georgia Tech, was playing excellent football.
Georgia Tech- 1920
The program had been under the direction of John Heisman ( for whom college football's most prestigious honor, the Heisman Memorial Trophy, or Cup, is named) from 1904 until the year preceding the Tech-Centre game. From 1904 through 1919, Heisman's teams had a record of 102-29-7. During a run from 1914-18, the Yellow Jackets had an undefeated streak which reached 32 ( there were 2 ties) before it was broken on November 23, 1918, against Pittsburgh.
Heisman left Georgia Tech after the 1919 season because he and his wife had divorced and he wanted to spare her the embarrassment of living in the same town. He finished his career at Pennsylvania, Washington and Jefferson, and finally, Rice, retiring from coaching after the 1927 season.
John Heisman for whom college football's most prestigious honor is named
John Heisman's assistant for seven years had been William Alexander, a 1912 Tech graduate, and Alexander took over the program in 1920. Alexander was the Tech coach from 1920-44, and during 25 seasons, his record was 134-95-15. One of Alexander's assistants, Bobby Dodd, became head coach in 1945 and in 22 years at the helm, compiled a record of 165-64-8. Therefore, Georgia Tech had only three coaches from 1904 through 1966, quite a remarkable record for consistency and continuity.
Georgia Tech was 4-1 when Centre traveled to Atlanta. The record was marred only by a tough loss at Pittsburgh, 10-3, to a "Pop" Warner coached Panther team which finished the 1920 season, 6-0-2.
Georgia Tech 66 Wake Forest 0
Georgia Tech 66 Oglethorpe 0
Georgia Tech 66 Davidson 0
Georgia Tech 44 Vanderbilt 0
Georgia Tech 3 Pittsburgh 10
The Centre entourage boarded an overnight Southern Railroad train for the ride down to Atlanta at 11:00 PM on Thursday night.
Bruce Dudley, one of the premiere sports reporters of the era who was with the Louisville "Herald," came down to join the team and report on the upcoming game. His coverage later greatly influenced the public's perception back in Kentucky about what transpired in Atlanta.
Those who couldn't accompany the team on the trip knew that they could follow the game back in Danville as the "Messenger" had announced that it was going to "broadcast" the game by wire and invited the public to "Come, Boost Centre."
Fans could follow the game at the office of the "Messenger"
The team and fans slept all night as their Pullman was pulled south down through Central Kentucky on to and through Chattanooga, where it traveled across the Tennessee-Georgia state line, and arrived at the ornate Atlanta terminal somewhat after noon on Friday.
As was becoming the norm, the Colonels were met by a large crowd of supporters, photographers and reporters. The next morning's Atlanta "Constitution" published a 6 inch-high photograph which was spread across all the columns under the caption, "The Praying Colonels Come to Town."
Headquarters for the team was the Kimball House Hotel.
Colonels and fans' headquarters in Atlanta
After checking in, the players were transported in cars owned by local fans to the campus of Marist College on Ivy Street where they held a two-hour practice, watched by a large crowd which not only included Centre alumni and supporters, but spectators from Atlanta and Fulton County.
Centre had brought pride to the South by its play at Harvard. The Georgians wanted to see the Colonels up close, and even though most of the hundreds who watched the team go through its drills at Marist had tickets for the next day's game, they wanted to see the team in a more intimate setting.
The local papers reported on the injuries suffered during the Harvard game. With two All-Americans and the stoutest end, Chinn, severely crippled, the "dope" about which team would be favored was up in the air.
Article appearing on Friday, October 29, 1920
The uncertainty was explored by a local pundit.
THE QUESTION OF THE HOUR
( OR, THE ADVICE OF THE OUIJA BOARD
TO TECH & CENTRE FANS )
Which will it be
Centre or Tech?
You tell 'em brother
My mind is a wreck.
I've gone 'round the circle
And all the way back.
I've worked it by algebra
But the dope's as elusive
As any greased pig.
I've even asked the Ouija
Which team is the best?
But the board said, "You've given me
Too hard of a test."
The spirits that guide me
And by whom I swear,
Are quite flabbergasted
And up in the air.
You ask me, my young friend
Just what you should do-
I find by my magic
Just one tip for you-
Go out to the ball game
And have a fine time.
But take my advice, kid,
And don't bet a dime.
Centre wasn't the only team that was afflicted by injuries. Tech had taken some hard hits during the Pittsburgh game and actually was planning to start a halfback named Frank Ferst at quarterback since the first and second stringers, Jack McDonald and Bill Gaiver, weren't able to play.
Depth was where the Yellow Jackets had the advantage. Coach Alexander was often able to substitute a whole eleven at a time, a luxury certainly foreign to Uncle Charlie.
It is important to understand just how vital Red Weaver was to the Colonels' single wing offense. So many of the plays depended on pinpoint passing back from the center, and perfect timing. Red was a master. "Shanks" Lipscomb was put into the starting lineup on short notice, and the abbreviated time for practice prior to the Tech game gave him little chance to prepare for the contest. Weaver's absence would be felt, big time.
The Saturday afternoon game was to take place at Grant Field on the Georgia Tech campus a few blocks west of Peachtree Street. The stadium was built by student volunteers during the summer of 1913, funded by a grant of $15,000 from the High Inman Grant family. The original capacity in the concrete part of Grant Field was 5,600. Wooden bleachers added later stretched the seating to 14,000 plus, and with standing room spectators added in, it was felt that there would be 20,000 at the game, the greatest crowd ever to watch a football game in the South. Such was the interest that Centre had garnered in its meteoric rise to the upper echelons of college football.
Fans came up to the game from New Orleans. The Southern Railroad ran a special train which carried 400 people the 150 miles from Birmingham to attend. Cars were added to regularly scheduled trains to accommodate fans from Mobile and Montgomery. Georgians from Macon, Augusta and Decatur flocked to Grant Field. Greenville, South Carolina was represented by a crowd of 100. Groups came from Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis.
Game time was 2:00. The gates were opened at 12:30. The predicted 20,000 in attendance was later revised upwards to closer to 25,000 by reporters covering the game.
Bruce Dudley had written just before the game that Centre expected a hard game due to having several stars out with injuries.
Bruce Dudley had accompanied the team to Atlanta
Packed Grant Field, Atlanta, October 30, 1920, with Tech players running out on the field
Referee Mike Thompson flipped the coin at midfield, Bo won the toss, and Centre chose to receive.
It was the high point of the Colonels' afternoon.
The Atlanta "Journal" featured the Centre-Tech game in its Sunday morning, October 31 paper. Besides "Yellow Jackets," Tech was often called the "Golden Tornado."
TORNADO DOWNS GALLANT CENTRE 24-0
FLAG OF TECH FLOATS FROM HIGHEST PINNACLE
The flag of Tech now floats from the highest pinnacle it has ever known. The Golden Tornado of 1920 placed it there yesterday.
A bombshell exploded above the Mason and Dixon Line when the wires carried the news to the North that Georgia Tech had triumphed over Centre College by a margin of seven points more than the great Harvard team, and held the Kentuckians scoreless for the first time in four years.
The game was very controversial.
Bruce Dudley wrote that Georgia Tech was the dirtiest playing team that he had ever witnessed. Dudley was incensed at what he had observed. He had been in attendance at the Harvard game and contrasted the sportsmanship shown that prior week with what he had seen take place on Grant Field.
Dudley wrote that, Centre despises alibis, as do all lovers of clean sport, but the mess that I saw during the game besmirched the name of the country's greatest college sport.
Dudley told about an incident soon after the opening kickoff. On the first series of plays, Bo was tackled, and as he lay on the ground, with the ball blown dead, and all but Bo back on their feet, "Red" Barron stepped over and deliberately kicked Bo in the head.
This startling violation so incensed the Centre men that for a few minutes, they threatened to call off the game rather than engage in a free-for-all fight. Bo was so stunned that for the first time in his football career, he had to be helped to his feet. His head was bathed while half a dozen Colonels rushed over to the sidelines and demonstrated to Coach Moran how McMillin had been fouled.
Tech was penalized half the distance to the goal for unnecessary roughness. Dudley recounted multiple other instances of "brutality" by the Georgia Tech players.
Centre simply wasn't used to, or had ever engaged in, such play. Uncle Charlie had stated repeatedly to his team and to the press, "We play hard. We play to win. But we play fair, and we play as gentlemen."
Dudley's report, wired back to Louisville, continued.
Sully Montgomery was kicked two or three times on his forehead and beneath both eyes. A kick by Bill Fincher cut a gash in his face and Dr. May had to sew it up with several stitches.
Tech's Bill Fincher not only kicked the football
Tom Moran, Bartlett, Tanner, Lipscomb, James and Snowday were each kicked in the face. Every Colonel who played was fouled at least once.
After the game, Bo was asked if he felt that Centre would have been able to beat Tech if they'd have played the Atlantans before the Harvard game, before having suffered so many injuries and his team had been at full strength.
Bo answered, "After seeing the type of football Tech plays, I doubt it. I don't see how any team in the world could hope to beat Tech at Grant Field if Tech used the kind of tactics that they used today."
One point of contention was about the noise coming from the stands when Centre was on offense. Uncle Charlie was particularly incensed in his post-game comments in the dressing room.
"We're not going to squeal one bit. We came down here to play football, but everything but football unfolded. This is the first town where the coach and captain of the team and college officials would permit its student body and band to unite in screams to prevent the visiting team from hearing its signals. When Tech had the ball, you could hear a pin drop. When Centre had the ball, the noise was so deafening that our center couldn't hear the signals."
Moran continued, "Bo went to the Tech captain, "Buck" Flowers, three times and requested that he, in the interest of fair sport, stop the band and shouting, but the tumult seemed to increase with each request."
Tech captain, "Buck" Flowers
"Last week when we played Harvard and they had the ball at a critical time, three fourths of the crowd of over 45,000 were hollering, 'Hold them, Centre!' and Bo held up his arms requesting silence, and every voice was hushed. Unsuccessful efforts to have this courtesy shown today resulted in several fumbles and missed signals."
Harry "Shanks" Lipscomb didn't have the experience of Red Weaver. He was game, but the noise and his having been put into an unfamiliar position on such short notice certainly played a role in Centre's relative inability to get its offense in gear.
Uncle Charlie and Bo both stated that they'd like to have another shot at Georgia Tech, but never again in Atlanta.
"I know my boys will never be content until another date is arranged, but you can tell the world that the game will not be played in Atlanta. Our college would never consent. We'd play on any neutral field, Louisville, Nashville, or anywhere. But we'll not come back to Atlanta."
Centre was good to its word. The Centre College Colonels and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets never met on the gridiron again. Instead, Centre shifted to Birmingham the next 4 years, playing Auburn 3 times and Alabama once.
Bruce Dudley had the final observation. He admitted that Centre probably wouldn't have won the game even if Tech had played fairly. The Colonels were too tired and battered after two successive road trips and the toughness of the Harvard squad.
But Tech sacrificed honor in winning. Centre refused to lose both honor and the game, so all that Centre lost was the game.
A poem was published in the Danville "Messenger" on Monday, November 1. There was additional resentment that Tech hadn't offered to let the Colonels practice on Grant Field after the team's arrival in Atlanta, necessitating the workout at Marist College.
WHEN CENTRE PLAYED TECH
Did Georgia Tech meet Centre's men,
Offer the field for practice?
Then their hospitality extend?
Oh! No! Not Tech!
And when our signals Bo would call,
And then upon the drums they'd fall,
But for their own? No noise at all,
To favor Tech.
Our Centre men were wounded more
Than in the Harvard game, just o're.
Such dirty sport we do deplore,
And scorn this Tech!
For Bo was kicked upon the head,
Completely dazed, by his men led;
And they too, kicked on mouth, 'tis said!
Oh ! Brutal play by Tech !
What of this foe, so like a Hun?
Where is the glory tho' they won?
For much disgraceful work was done
That day, by Tech!
All glory be to Harvard's name!
All shame to Tech's! May critics blame
Your play that day- who wants your fame?