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Football in the South in the 1980s


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Jun. 24, 2022 - 9:22 AM

Football in the South in the 1980s

The early part of the decade was all about Georgia and Herschel Walker. The dogs won three SEC titles and had three Sugar Bowl appearances. The 1983 version saw Georgia take a trip to the Cotton Bowl after a 10-1-1 record.

The early part of the decade was all about Georgia and Herschel Walker.

The dogs won three SEC titles and had three Sugar Bowl appearances. The 1983 version saw Georgia take a trip to the Cotton Bowl after a 10-1-1 record. They went on to have pretty good seasons, but after the 1988 campaign, Vince Dooley retired and would be replaced by Ray Goff.

After the 1982 season, Alabama Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant retired, and within a month, he would pass away.

He would leave behind a tremendous legacy and very large shoes to fill. The funeral procession for the legendary coach stretched 3 miles and was marked by many folks standing on the roadways over the 60 miles it covered.

As for the SEC, the conference would not see any dominating teams until the 1987 season as Auburn and Pat Dye began to emerge.

In 1985 Auburn’s running back Bo Jackson would bring home the Heisman trophy, but Auburn only finished fifth in the conference that year.

In 1986 they would finish second behind LSU, but would then go on and win the conference the following three years.

But the SEC would not figure in the National Championship picture from 1982 on, as a team down in south Florida emerged to dominate the country for the South.

Under coach Jimmy Johnson, the Miami Hurricanes would either be in the mix or would win it as they did in 1987 and 1989. They would dominate as an independent until 1991 when they officially joined the Big East.

Meanwhile in the northern part of Florida, Bobby Bowden had rebuilt the Florida State program into a power that began to assert itself in the late 1980s. From 1987 to the 1991 season, Florida State had a record of 42-6.

Its annual game with Miami became a national event and would soon become epic in the following decade.

For the Atlantic Coast Conference, the decade would be dominated by Clemson, which won six ACC championships and a National Title in 1981.

But the ACC began to undergo a change. In 1983, Georgia Tech formally joined the conference and in 1990, Florida State would join and end the Clemson domination.

As the ’80s drew to an end, a coaching change in Durham, North Carolina, would ultimately lead to a change in the SEC.

In 1987, Coach Steve Spurrier became the head coach of the Duke Blue Devils. He quickly brought the program up, and in 1989, he led them to an ACC championship, something that had not been done since Duke joined the ACC in 1953.

The Florida Gators had been struggling under Galen Hall and the powers that be decided it was time for a change. Spurrier had done his magic at Duke, and it was time for the ball-slinging quarterback to come home.

In 1990 he became the head coach of the Florida Gators, and the SEC had a new dominant program.

The decade of the ’80s became a prelude to what would become an epic struggle of powerhouse schools in the following decade.

That is, after a certain team from Atlanta shocked the college football world.

Richard Proctor, born in Newnan, recently moved back from Denver, Colorado, and is an avid college football fan as well as a published author. He is the son of Dr. Ernest Proctor PAPP Clinic.