It is the most wonderful time of the year here in Athens, and we're not talking about Christmas. We're talking about football season! As a current Bulldog, I am proud to say the entire campus, town, and state is filled with excitement as we gear up for home football game weekends. Just the thought of being able to yell, "It's a Saturday in Athens" puts me in a better mood. No football game weekend is complete without taking part in the age-old traditions of the Bulldog Nation that we have come to love, cherish, and embrace. And this season our traditions are more alive than ever after back-to-back national championships!
Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium: Home of the Dawgs
When you think of UGA football, the beautiful Sanford Stadium likely comes to mind. Built in 1929, Sanford Stadium is entering its 94th season as the home of our beloved Georgia Bulldogs; if only that grass and those hedges could talk! It is currently the 10th largest college football stadium in the country, being able to fit 92,746 rowdy Bulldog fans! On the home opener of 2019 the field was named and dedicated to legendary coach and athletic director Vince Dooley.
BETWEEN THE HEDGES
The most treasured component of Sanford Stadium may be more well-known than the stadium itself. The iconic emerald green hedges that encircle the field of play are nationally recognized and identify the home of the Bulldogs. The phrase "Between the Hedges" was coined in the early 1930s when the vegetation was planted around the field merely hours before the first game. Standing 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide, this UGA staple serves as a beautiful landmark protecting our most sacred space. "[The hedges] are something magical," says the legendary coach Vince Dooley, "one of the greatest traditions of college football." A tradition that, more than 90 years later, is still growing, both figuratively and literally.
CALLING THE DAWGS AND REDCOAT BAND CHANT
GOOOOOOOOO DAWGS, SIC ‘EM, WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF!
Calling the Dawgs is something every Georgia fan loves to do. This chant is always yelled during kickoffs. Here's how: Yell “Go” holding the “o,” then yell “Dawgs” and chant “Sic ‘em! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!” Throw your arm up in a fist and wave it around!
The Redcoat Band Chant is another favorite: "What's that coming down the tracks," -- alluding to the railroad tracks that can be seen from the stadium -- and ending with an emphatic "GO DAWGS, WOOF WOOF WOOF!" This historic chant never fails to enthuse Dawg fans, regardless of when and where it takes place. We love being able to share our school spirit with any dawg, anywhere and everywhere, giving this battle cry complete validation!
Hey, what's that coming
down the track
A huge machine
that's red & black
Ain't nothin finer in the land
Than the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band
I am about to enter my last football season as a UGA student and this tradition never fails to give me chills. Let's set the stage: it is minutes before kickoff and the entire Redcoat Band is on the field, with the exception of one, a solo trumpet player in the upper South Deck. The whole stadium is silent as he belts out the first few notes of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, a sacred tune played before each home football game since 1987. Within seconds of the trumpeter starting, the entire student section points towards the upper South Deck, acknowledging the depth of what is happening. At the end of the solo, the stadium is brought to life by a highlight reel narrated by the late Larry Munson celebrating past and present Georgia football. While the quintessential stragglers who enter the game 15 minutes into the first quarter may overlook this tradition, the call to attention by the trumpeter and Larry Munson is something that die-hard fans always look forward to.
"Glory, glory to old Georgia!" is also played by the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band and chanted by the fans when the players take the field and when touchdowns are scored.
Fourth Quarter Lights
A more recent tradition, fans turn on their phone flashlights at the start of the fourth quarter. Holding their phones in one hand and waving four fingers of the other hand, the fans are unified around preserving a lead or willing the Dawgs to a comeback win.
Since the 1950s, our beloved Uga has established himself as one of the most well-known mascots in college football, including being named the greatest college football mascot of all time by Sports Illustrated in 2019. UGA X, also known as Que, served as a beloved Bulldog Mascot from 2015 to 2023. He left behind a record-breaking legacy by being the winningest bulldog in GA history, with a 91-18 record including back-to-back national championships! He has been replaced by Boom, a 10-month old English Bulldog who will reign as Uga XI.
Uga will always have a special place in our hearts and on the field in his air-conditioned dog house, cheering on his fellow dawgs while curled up on his infamous bag of ice!
More Gameday Traditions
On game days, the party starts hours before kickoff with over 100,000 tailgaters set up throughout campus. With most of them setting up shop as early as 7 a.m., these fans sure do know how to celebrate their love for the Dawgs. Not only do hundreds of tailgates fill campus, but the entire downtown scene is full of Dawg fans making the most of the bars, amazing restaurants and quirky shops that make Athens a unique experience. Check out our tips and tricks for finding the best tailgating spots.
Another tradition that fans take part in is the Dawg Walk, which takes place two hours and 15 minutes before every home game. Thousands of people line the main entrance to Sanford Stadium, located by the Tate Center Parking lot, to welcome the players and coaches as they make their way to warm-ups. With cheering fans and tunes of the Georgia Redcoat Band filling the air, the Dawg Walk is always a great destination for families because of the kid-friendly environment and up-close contact with the players.
The Chapel Bell, located on the beautiful Historic North Campus, has a longstanding tradition here at UGA. Its particular purpose has evolved over the years, originally used as a way to indicate the beginning and ending of classes and later used as a World War II air raid signal. Since the early 1980s, however, the bell has signified football victories. After the Dawgs win in Sanford Stadium, fans rush to have a chance to ring the bell in a joint celebration of the triumph, lasting until the late hours of the night!
Constructed in the late 1850s, the most recognized symbol of the University of Georgia stands watch over North Campus. The three pillars of the black iron arch symbolize justice, moderation, and wisdom, just like the three pillars on the Georgia state seal. For many, if not all, of the students here at UGA, the arch signifies a rite of passage only granted after you have been handed your diploma at commencement. With a fear of never graduating, the faithful undergrads keep their vow of not walking under the arch by going out of their way to step around it, evident by the worn-down steps around the edge of the structure. Meanwhile, those who have finished their degrees at the University smile as they walk under the arch with the utmost pride.
After reminiscing on our most sacred traditions here at UGA, it is easy to recognize the admiration we have for our school and our team. There is simply nothing like Saturday in Athens. The campus buzzes with past, present, and future Dawgs. Fans clothed in red and black flood the streets. The game, the rivalry, the revelry, and the rich traditions all combine to form emotions that are indescribable. Athens on a Saturday becomes a little piece of the best part of life. Larry Munson summed up our slice of heaven best when he said, "There is no tradition more worthy of envy, no institution worthy of such loyalty, as the University of Georgia." Regardless of the outcome of the game, there is one thing I know for certain- you'll always be coming back for more! Go Dawgs!
To plan your football weekend in Athens, check out our Football Guide with last-minute hotel room availability, where to park & tailgate, and plenty of other things to do while you are in Athens.
This post, originally published in 2015, has been updated and re-published by Isabella Hernandez in 2023.