SMITH COLUMN: Rest in peace Uga

Published 3:43 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2024

In the late fifties when I became connected to the University of Georgia, Uga I had already become one of the premier personalities on the campus of the oldest chartered university in the country.

The patriarch had it all. He was as handsome as a bulldog could be. You didn’t have to be a dog lover to admire and seek company with this winsome canine. He had the best of tender loving care from doting caretakers in Cecelia and Sonny Seiler, along with the most fortuitous circumstance of all — he would be promoted by the legendary sage, colorful, and multifaceted Dan Magill.

A dynasty had taken root and would grow into what we have today —college football’s No. 1 mascot. 

Promos of college football by the networks showcase Uga as a staple of the gameday action. Little girls want to hug him. Big girls, too. And the guys think it is cool to experience a photo op with UGA’s all white, male, English Bulldog. Hear, Hear.

It has been my good fortunate to know all the Uga’s from “Hood’s Old Dan” to “Boom.” I have been present with the Seiler’s when Uga was dressed for a Saturday game. I have fished with several of them on Sonny’s boat, “Silver Britches,” when we caught a “nice mess or fish.” 

Then I watched, Sonny, who was an excellent fisherman, expertly clean those beautiful rainbow trout and bass at his backyard sink on Dutch Island for the Seiler matriarch, Cecelia. She was every bit of a cooking icon as Sonny was a fishing expert.

Fried or sauteed, you dine on fish at Cecilia’s table, and you immediately have visions of an encore on your mind. The right seasoning, the perfect pinch of this, the resonating dash of that—she had the right touch. 

Managing the Uga’s and carrying for them became a Seiler tradition. It continues today with Charles, the Seiler’s only son and his wife, Wendy, following in the footsteps of Sonny and Cecelia.

Through the years, there has been a changing of the guard when a new Uga was crowned between the hedges. Uga X, known as “Que,’ retired after the 2022 season as the winningest mascot of the Uga dynasty and the Georgia tradition. Damn Good Dawg!Now that Que’s time has passed, we will see his remains interred in the Uga cemetery at Sanford Stadium’s west end like his forebears where the Seiler family will continue to place flowers in memoriam each home game Saturday before the varsity Bulldogs take the field.

Boom, his son and the 11th solid white English Bulldog to serve as Georgia’s mascot, will carry on in the UGA/Uga tradition. Boom officially became the Georgia mascot in ceremonies before the G-Day game last spring. 

There is so much that athletic success can do for a community. Winning big in football lately has been resonating and other sports are seeking to join the parade — all of which is a reminder that visitors to these parts depart with impressions that cause them to become something of town criers when they return to their home bases.

Fans of other colleges who know Georgia from television and print media are fascinated about the hedges, but the thing that they are so impressed with is that the mascots are buried inside the Stadium.

When visitors come to campus and I host them on a tour, I always make sure to take them to the “Son of the Tree that Owns Itself”, the President’s home on Prince Avenue, the Chapel Bell, Herty Field, and the Uga Cemetery.

When they get to the cemetery, the photo-ops take a while. When they finish at this landmark, they go over to the hedges for more.  The Red Sox annually make big money on tours of Fenway Park, a million or more.If Georgia were to host tours of Sanford Stadium, that might become an interesting profit center. If Boom were to be on hand for photo-ops and to host press conferences, I am sure it would be an over-the-top experience.   

While that is no logistically possible, the point is that the Uga’s are the greatest of ambassadors by just being themselves. And when you have All-American caretakers giving them royal treatment, friends and admirers across the landscape are rewarded with millions of opportunities for selfies.