University of Georgia – The History of the Sanford Stadium Hedges

It’s Saturday in Athens
Sanford Stadium has been the place to be for University of Georgia home football games for over 80 years. Having already discussed Georgia football traditions such as barking like a dog, holding up four fingers in honor of the fourth quarter and the team entrance anthem of Baba O’ Riley, we felt it appropriate to examine one of the most aesthetically pleasing characteristics of Sanford Stadium–the hedges.

The hedges add something special to Sanford Stadium.

Hedging Their Bet: UGA Officials Pick Hedges
According to Online Athens, Charlie E. Martin was the business manager for the athletic department at Georgia in 1929. Martin had attended the Rose Bowl Game, and as a result he had a desire to plant the hedges with roses. Horticulturalists at UGA were quick to inform Charlie Martin that roses would not flourish in Georgia. University officials decided to plant privet Ligustrum instead. The decision was made so close to the kickoff of the first game at Sanford Stadium that the hedges were brought in with trucks the day before the opener against Yale.

The Bulldogs Win Their First Game Between the Hedges
The University of Georgia’s unique privet hedges were first planted on October 12, 1929, reportedly only hours before the first Bulldog home football game at Sanford Stadium. The Dawgs won the first contest on their new home turf, defeating Yale by a count of 15-0. Dr. Steadman Vincent Sanford was the president at Georgia at that time, and he made it his mission for UGA to house “the best football stadium in Dixie.”

The Hedges Inspired Vince Dooley to Garden
The hedges have been a hallowed part of Sanford Stadium for over eighty years. Legendary former Bulldog coach Vince Dooley was not interested in the gardening aspect of Sanford Stadium until well after his coaching days were over. Dooley attended horticulture classes at UGA and became friends with Georgia horticulturalists Michael Dirr and Allan Armitage. According to ESPN, gardening became a passion for Vince Dooley because, he said, “I don’t play golf.”

The Hedges at Sanford Stadium Had to be Trimmed for the 1996 Summer Olympics
When Atlanta, Georgia was picked to be the home of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, men’s and women’s soccer required a venue worthy of gold medal majesty. Sanford Stadium certainly seemed like a perfect fit. However, because the required dimensions of a soccer field are longer than an American football field, the hedges around Sanford Stadium had to be removed

In preparation for this aesthetic dilemma, University of Georgia personal began to collect trimmings from the original hedges for three years prior to the Olympics. This process was kept quiet as the trimmings were nurtured and grown so that they would be prepared to replace the old hedges. Upon completion of the 1996 Olympics, the new Sanford Stadium hedges were brought in from R.A. Dudley Nurseries in Thomson, Georgia.

The Hedges Are Part of the Sanford Stadium Experience
The University of Georgia puts a lot of time and money into making sure that the hedges at Sanford Stadium are in pristine condition. As a result, trying to take a piece of the hedges as a souvenir is quite frowned upon. ESPN reports that, “The hedges are guarded by a state-of-the-art camera system. However, if one is fortunate enough to get by UGA’s security measures, back-up hedges are kept at a secret location.

A body can never be too careful around the University of Georgia hedges. Just ask former Georgia Bulldog tight end Aron White, who once got stuck in the famous hedges following a touchdown catch.



Georgia Football Traditions – Baba O’Riley

Recently I touched on my admiration for the “Battle Hymm of The Bulldog Nation.” Following that hallowed Georgia tradition, Dawg fans wait with baited breath for the Georgia Bulldog football team to take the field. As “Baba O’Riley” by The Who rings out of the Sanford Stadium speakers and the familiar piano notes play out, it is impossible not to forget one’s troubles and simply be a fan for about three hours.

Georgia’s arrival into Sanford Stadium is special because it is unique. Instead of a serious or intense entrance, “Baba O’Riley” provides the feeling that the crowd has gathered between the hedges to enjoy themselves and root for the Bulldogs. Entrance themes such as Virginia Tech’s choice of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, have become so cliche that it is hard to see how it could feel like part of a tradition. With “Baba O’Riley” it is easy for those in attendance to relate to the narrative on a Saturday in Athens. “Out here in the fields, I fight for my meals. I got my back into my living. I don’t need to fight, to prove I’m right, I don’t need to be forgiven.”

It was not until I  experienced the tradition first hand that it had a profound effect on me. I could not imagine being so passionate about any other football team besides the Georgia Bulldogs. The University of Georgia has a place in the heart of every member of Bulldog Nation. Regardless of whether the Bulldogs win or lose on a given Saturday, there is no better way to feel connected to 90,000 plus people than to hear “Baba O’Riley” begin to play.