YARBROUGH COLUMN: Happy birthday to this special ‘seminary of learning’

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, January 17, 2023

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The year was 1785. Thirteen states composed the Confederation Congress. Thomas Jefferson was appointed the U.S. Minister to France and John Adams, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. George Washington was puttering around on his estate at Mount Vernon after having dispatched the mighty Brits back across the pond where they belonged.

A year earlier, Lyman Hall, Georgia’s governor and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, had persuaded the Georgia legislature to grant his request to establish a “college or seminary of learning.”  The Georgia General Assembly approved Baldwin’s request on January 27, 1785. Thus, my friends, was born the University of Georgia, the oldest-state chartered university in the nation. This year marks the institution’s 238th birthday. Woof! Woof!

Ironically, 1785 was the year James Oglethorpe passed away. For those of you new to the territory, it was Gen. Oglethorpe who arrived on these shores with 114 souls and established the Colony of Georgia in 1733. Too bad he is not around to see the fruits of his labors. He’d be pleased as punch.

Today, the Great State of Georgia is the 8th most populous state in the nation. For 9 years, it has been rated the best state in which to do business. We have a budget surplus of $6.6 billion. We produce the most peanuts, export the most pecans, are blessed with the Blue Ridge mountains to the north and the Golden Isles to the South and possess the greatest state song in all the world, “Georgia on my Mind,” as sung by the late Ray Charles Robinson, of Albany, Georgia.  Our cup runneth over.

As for that “college or seminary of learning,” it hasn’t done badly, either. The University of Georgia ranks consistently among the best public universities in the nation and has been one of the nation’s top three producers of Rhodes Scholars over the past two decades. The current freshman class at UGA has an average high school GPA of 4.12.

Oh, and did I mention that we also play a little football? (You knew I was going to get around to this eventually.)  That is because besides producing peanuts and pecans, our state also has produced Kirby Paul Smart, of Bainbridge, Georgia, and Stetson Fleming Bennett IV, of Blackshear, Georgia.

With Kirby Smart coaching and Stetson Bennett quarterbacking, the Bulldogs dismantled the Horned Frogs of TCU, 62-7 last week. The closest TCU came to making things competitive was the opening coin toss and they lost that, too. I had been warned by those in the know that the Bulldogs wouldn’t get by Ohio State in the semifinals (they did) and would really have their hands full with TCU’s outstanding quarterback in the finals. (They didn’t.)  If there was a mercy rule in football, this one would have ended at halftime. Georgia possessed the ball 12 times in the game. They scored touchdowns 9 times, kicked a field goal once, punted once and knelt down on the last possession to spare TCU further humiliation.

This, of course, is the second straight national title for UGA. They defeated Alabama last year for their first one in 41 years and had five players selected in the first round of the NFL draft and 15 overall. They then promptly reloaded, won the SEC championship and the national championship and ended the season, 15-0. According to my abacus, they are 29-1 over the past 2 years and 81-15 since Kirby Smart became head coach.

This year’s team was chockfull of freshmen and sophomores and Georgia has recruited another outstanding group of blue chippers. I have a feeling this might not be our last national championship.

The only downer is that Vince Dooley wasn’t around to enjoy this championship. Thankfully, he did see the first one before passing away this past Oct. 28. The legendary Hall of Fame coach also saw the Board of Regents do the right thing and name the field at Sanford Stadium for him. It didn’t hurt that Gov. Brian Kemp is a close friend of the Dooley’s. If Gov. Kemp is reading this, it is time to put the Dooley Field logo on the field itself where everyone can see it.

To our first governor, Lyman Hall, thank you for the idea and to James Oglethorpe for the location and to Kirby Smart for showing that we are more than just a seminary of learning. Happy 238th birthday to my beloved University of Georgia. You get younger every day.