College football, the South vs. the North

Today in college football it is fairly claimed that the Southern teams, the SEC and the ACC, have moved to dominance over teams from conferences outside of the South.

Yes, it is a little confusing as the ACC contains northern teams, but FSU and Clemson have won the titles during the last 10 to 15 years. In fact, in the last 10 years only Ohio State has brought the championship out of the South.

But in the years between 1917 and 1925, other than Georgia Tech, the dominant powers were all north of the Mason Dixon line. Michigan, California, Harvard and Notre Dame ruled the gridiron and thought very little of the teams in the South.

During this period, college football had progressed to be much more organized as teams had well-paid coaches and built stadiums to hold up to 30,000 spectators. Also, technology moved ahead which made travel over further distances much easier. All this drove what would be a period of what was known as “Intersection Strife.”

The teams in the South had something to prove and so they began to schedule and play the teams outside of their conference. In October of 1921, the University of Georgia traveled to Harvard for a match. It was assumed that Harvard would make short work of the team from Georgia, but when the final whistle blew, the score was a Harvard win but it was 10-7. The effort gave Georgia the confidence to schedule a game in the North every year going forward.

Georgia Tech had traveled several times to play Pittsburgh, but in 1921, they made the trip North to play Rutgers. Rutgers was not well known, but since it was not Southern, it was assumed that they should be able to win. Heisman was no longer coaching Tech, and he had turned the reins over to one of his assistants, William Alexander. Coach Alex, behind the running of his star halfback, “Red” Barron, thoroughly destroyed the knights 48-14. Several weeks later the Jackets would travel to play Penn State but wound up on the losing end 28-7.

The scheduling of these games between Southern and Northern teams continued for the next several years. If the Southern team won or came close, the Northern press would give the other team the credit for playing but would downplay the significance in a belittling fashion. The teams from the South would take these as a learning opportunity to gain more knowledge and to see the traditions of other schools outside of their region. What these games did show was that the Northern schools had the advantage as they had much larger enrollments and fielded teams with many more reserve players that in time would wear down the smaller Southern schools.

Going back to today, there is often the complaint that the SEC does not travel and play teams from other conferences such as the Big 10 and looking at the schedules this is fairly true. This year opening weekend Georgia plays Oregon in Atlanta. Alabama plays Utah State at Bryant-Denny, and Florida plays Utah at Gainesville.

But as the clamor for an expanded playoff grows, the need for teams to stretch their schedules may just supply us with those games that many want to see. Maybe a rebirth of “Intersection Strife.”

Richard Proctor, born in Newnan, recently moved back from Denver, Colorado, and is an avid college football fan as well as a published author. He’s the son of Dr. Ernest Proctor PAPP Clinic.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.