The best wide receiver to play at Georgia Tech? Calvin Johnson, without argument. The best defensive end to play at Georgia Tech? Pat Swilling, without argument. The best Safety to play at Georgia Tech? Randy Rhino, without argument. But when asked who was the best to coach at Georgia Tech, a debate starts.
Some fans will answer Bill Curry, for reviving a long dead football program. Some fans will answer Bobby Ross, for winning Tech’s most recent national championship in 1990. Some fans will open up the history books and answer John Heisman, for establishing a dominant football program and being a pioneer of college football itself. However, many fans will answer with the man whose name is on the stadium, the man who led Georgia Tech to a 31 game unbeaten streak from 1951 to 1953 and a national championship in 1952, the man who was a thorn in the side of the legendary coach Bear Bryant, the man who brought “The Drought” (Georgia Tech’s 8 game winning streak over their hated instate rivals) on Georgia, the man who is one of only three to be inducted into the college football hall of fame as a player and a coach, Robert Lee Dodd, better known as Bobby Dodd.
Bobby Dodd first gained national recognition at Tennessee, where he played quarterback and punter under the great Robert Neyland. His talents led the Volunteers to a 27-1-2 record in games that he started. But Dodd was much more than a mindless jock. He was known for his creativity on the grid iron, and legend has it that he pioneered the use of the famous “fumblerooskie” play that would later become an iconic trick play in college football.
Dodd was also a great analyst. When a Georgia Tech scout traveled to Knoxville to watch the Volunteers play the Tarheels, the scout unfortunately missed the game. He was referred to Dodd for a report on North Carolina, and the scout was amazed by what he heard from Dodd. One thing led to another, and the kid got an assistant job under the Hall of Fame Georgia Tech Coach, William Alexander.
When Alexander retired and Dodd was handed the reigns of the football program, the dominance that was established by John Heisman and continued by William Alexander was perfected by Bobby Dodd. He coached the Yellow Jackets from 1945 to 1966, compiling a 165–64–8 record, the 1952 National Championship, 1951 and 1952 SEC Championships, and 9 major bowl victories.
His unique coaching style is often accredited to his success. Dodd was not one to scream frantically at his players or assistant coaches on the sideline, he would instead occupy his space quietly, never breaking his confident and collected state. Also, Dodd was noted for his classroom first approach to coaching. He understood that his players were not just senseless warriors on the grid iron, they were young men with a future that required an education. This philosophy would separate him from the “win at all costs” coaches, making him a symbol of a mentor and father figure for young athletes. In fact, the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award has been given out since 1980 to coaches who demonstrate quality on and off of the football field.
Coaches after Dodd continued his legacy. Ray Graves, a former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator under Dodd, would have a hall of fame career at Florida. Frank Broyles, a former Georgia Tech offensive coordinator under Dodd and another hall of fame coach, would elevate Arkansas, winning the 1962 National Championship and 7 SWC Championships. Vince Dooley, Georgia’s legendary coach, would draw much inspiration from Dodd and apply Dodd’s principles in his own coaching philosophy, even though he never coached with Dodd. Dooley was the recipient of the first Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award in 1980, leading his Bulldogs to the 1980 National Championship in a fashion that Dodd would be proud of.
Most people reading this never saw any of the teams that Dodd coached, but most have at least heard of them. The amazing goal line stands, the quick substitutions in between plays, the feud with Bryant, the intangible luck that Dodd always seemed to have, are all legends in the Flats. Bobby Dodd was truly one of the best to ever coach, and he sure as hell deserves a stadium named after him.