UGASports - The Dawning of ‘Dawgs’
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The Dawning of ‘Dawgs’

DAWGS—it’s the alternative yet popularized nickname that has been associated with athletic teams of the University of Georgia since most Bulldogs, or Dawgs, fans can recall. Since Georgia adopted the moniker, a number of high school, college, and professional teams all over the country have utilized the “Dawgs” nickname in identifying their program/organization or fanbase.

But where did “Dawgs” come from? Better yet, when and how did “Dogs” become “Dawgs”—and who was responsible for the Georgia Bulldogs’ most fashionable nickname?

Gene "Blue" Robbins poses with James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, during Georgia's walk-through practice for the 1976 Cotton Bowl.
Gene "Blue" Robbins poses with James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, during Georgia's walk-through practice for the 1976 Cotton Bowl.

“That’s what they tell me,” replied Gene “Blue” Robbins when asked if he originated “Dawgs” from the then common “Dogs” abbreviated nickname. Blue, who acquired his nickname as a youth for often wearing blue jeans, is currently 67 years old and resides in Greensboro, Maryland. “I mean, I’ve been recognized before in print as the guy who came up with ‘Dawgs’ for Georgia. But, was I absolutely no doubt the first guy who came up with it? Who knows for sure? Still, there were players who were part of the Georgia football program in the mid-1970s who might tell you that I definitely introduced ‘Dawgs’ as a nickname.”

A native of Cambridge, Maryland, Blue became a follower of Georgia football in 1975. He had attended high school and was close friends with Steve “Shag” Davis, a junior wide receiver for the Bulldogs at the time. Enlisted in the Navy and stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, Blue would trade off his Naval duties to free up his weekends that fall and visit Davis in Athens.

Blue had a knack for being able to warm up to all kinds of people, becoming fast friends. Soon, he was seen so much around the Georgia football team, no one questioned whether he was associated with the program or not. By the end of the 1975 season, Blue had even become good friends with a young Georgia assistant coach—so much he sat with the coach’s wife at the Georgia Tech game after showing up in Atlanta without a ticket. By the 1976 season, he was having dinner with the coach and his family at their home in Athens. That same year, Blue rode the team bus to and from games. And, during games, he was always on the sidelines with the team yet never—not once—had a sideline pass.

“Blue was like dog sh-t after the snow melts—everywhere,” said a member of Georgia’s 1976 team. “I’m surprised he didn’t get his ankles taped by the trainers.”

On Sundays following games, the players always ate brunch together and then headed over to the Georgia Coliseum, where they split up into their team meetings. And, each time, Blue was there waiting in the Coliseum parking lot to say goodbye before he got into his white Ford Pinto station wagon with wood paneling and departed for Charleston. Usually, upon leaving, he blurted out the Bulldogs’ familiar battle cry of “Go Dogs!” except, when articulated by Blue, the cheer sounded much different than when anyone else did it. His Mid-Atlantic accent coupled with an exaggerated attempt at a southern drawl made it sound more like, “Go D-aaawwwgggs!”

After a cry of “Go D-aaawwwgggs” one Sunday afternoon in 1976, it seemed even Georgia’s esteemed head coach, Vince Dooley, had accepted Blue’s presence. “Steve, who is that?!?” Coach Dooley asked Davis just as Blue got into his Pinto to return to Charleston. “I see that guy everywhere!”

“It all kind of started as a joke,” Blue said. “A lot of the Georgia players thought I talked funny because of my Maryland accent. Well, I thought some of them talked kind of funny with their southern drawls. So, I exaggerated ‘Go Dogs’ to make it sound like ‘Go D-aaawwwgggs.’”

After the Bulldogs had faced Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl to cap their 1975 season, Blue had somehow worked his way onto a chartered flight from Dallas to Atlanta carrying a group of Georgia enthusiasts, including the team’s cheerleaders, reputable boosters, and UGA President Fred Davison. But, a year later, on the chattered Delta flight out of Atlanta headed for the Sugar Bowl, where Georgia would face Pittsburgh, Blue was not to be seen—and somewhat surprisingly so.

“At first, I couldn’t get a ticket to the Sugar Bowl,” Blue said. “But I had talked to Shag and knew when the team was flying out of Atlanta and when it would arrive in New Orleans. I was on my Christmas break, so I first drove to Athens. There, I said goodbye to the team, yelled out my usual ‘Go D-aaawwwgggs,' and then drove through the night to New Orleans.”

On December 27, or five days prior to the Sugar Bowl, Blue arrived in New Orleans and parked his car across the street from the airport. He decided he would sleep until the team was expected to land. But first, he affixed a handmade sign cheering on the Bulldogs to the side of his car. After falling asleep, Blue was soon awakened by a parade of buses pulling on an access road heading towards I-10. He knew it had to be the Georgia procession.

The Bulldog players and staff had boarded five or six buses on the airport’s tarmac bound for the Hyatt Regency. From the airport to the hotel was quite a drive—nearly 30 minutes. Accordingly, what began as somewhat of a boisterous ride, at least on the bus where Coach Dooley was seated up front, faded halfway en route into moderate chatter. Suddenly, a faint honking was heard outside the bus window. This was soon followed by Dooley blurting, “There he is again! I see that guy everywhere!”

Seemingly appearing out of nowhere was Blue in his Pinto, driving alongside the buses with his window down, honking hysterically. Visible to the Georgia procession was the aforementioned handmade sign taped to the car. It said just two simple words: “Go Dawgs.”

It was on Georgia's bus trip in 1976 from the New Orleans airport to the Hyatt Regency when players first witnessed "Dogs" spelled "D-A-W-G-S."
It was on Georgia's bus trip in 1976 from the New Orleans airport to the Hyatt Regency when players first witnessed "Dogs" spelled "D-A-W-G-S."

Surely, some of the on-looking players and staff members wondered why the peculiar spelling of “Dogs.” However, for a handful of players, they knew exactly why: that’s how Blue had always humorously pronounced the abbreviated nickname since he had started hanging around the team. Nonetheless, it was the first time anyone aboard the buses had ever seen “Dogs” spelled “D-A-W-G-S.”

Via research, one can find “Dawgs” being used in association with the Georgia football program in 1977 and 1978 on a few rare occasions. Included is the first likely use of “How ‘Bout Them Dawgs!” in September of 1977, according to Jason Hasty, the UGA athletics history specialist at the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Yet, by 1980, the nickname was commonplace during Georgia’s run to a national championship. Nowadays, you can see “Dawgs” being used seemingly everywhere.

“Yeah, I’ve been mentioned as the first to associate ‘Dawgs’ with Georgia, but I really don’t think much about it. Again, it all started pretty much as a joke-type deal,” Blue said. He then jokingly added with a laugh, “Of course, maybe I should have patented ‘Dawgs’ back in 1976. I might be a rich man!”