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SPIGOLON: Nice to see good karma for Georgia sports
Smart and Dooley
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks with Vince Dooley after the game. Dooley was the Bulldogs head coach in 1980. (UGA Athletics)

There was an interesting thing that happened before Georgia’s defeat of Alabama Monday night, Jan. 10, for its first national championship since Jimmy Carter was president.

Some call it serendipity. I’ve heard it called a “God thing.”

Head Coach Kirby Smart told ESPN he got off the elevator on the 15th floor of the team hotel in Indianapolis last week. There, he saw one of his predecessors, 89-year-old Vince Dooley, sitting on a bench, locked out of his room.

“I thought, ‘God put him there for me to see him the night before this game, and he was waiting on his key to come up to his room,” Smart said. “I just knew that meant something.” 

Dooley, for those unfamiliar, was the last University of Georgia head coach to win a national championship in 1980. Some guy you may have heard of, Herschel Walker, was the running back for that team.

All of a sudden, it’s an embarrassment of riches for long-suffering Georgia sports fans.

A little more than two months after the Atlanta Braves won their first World Championship in Major League Baseball in 26 years, Georgia won its first national championship in college football in 41 years Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

For those counting, it’s the third national title in four seasons for a Georgia team, including Atlanta United in Major League Soccer in 2018.

I will be the first to admit I did not see this win over Alabama coming and never thought it could happen. 

I told everyone I saw Monday that ‘Bama and its GOAT coach, Nick Saban, would buck the norm in college football and beat a good team for a second time in a season. I figured the Tide had found the chink in Georgia’s armor and would beat them by at least two touchdowns. 

Everyone had downgraded the Tide this season after some narrow wins and Saban’s first loss to one of his former assistants, Jimbo Fisher, and Texas A&M.

Making Alabama an underdog only seems to give Saban what he needs to motivate his teams. They crushed Georgia in the SEC title game in Atlanta and their young quarterback, Bryce Young, won the Heisman Trophy.

I also thought back to the many times my adopted home state had suffered heartbreak on the biggest stage in sports.

After moving here from Tennessee shortly after the Tennessee Titans’ heartbreaking loss to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV at the Georgia Dome, I started seeing why Georgia sports fans were so pessimistic.

The Braves produced a streak of 11 straight division titles between 1995 and 2006, which automatically qualified them for the MLB playoffs. But they were only able to win one World Series in those years while losing in the Fall Classic in 1996 and 1999 to the New York Yankees.

After Florida State offensive coordinator Mark Richt was named Georgia’s head coach in 2001, he produced winning teams almost immediately. But he rarely was able to get past the hated Florida Gators.

Then, in 2012, Richt’s Bulldogs advanced to the SEC championship game against Alabama in the Georgia Dome. Whoever won the game likely would advance to the national title game.

The Dawgs, led by quarterback Aaron Murray, had a 21-10 lead over the Tide in the third quarter but (what many fans believe was inevitable) a collapse happened. They lost to Alabama after being unable to take advantage of being near the end zone and a go-ahead score with seconds to play.

After Smart was hired away from Saban’s Alabama staff in 2016, Georgia advanced to the national championship game in 2018 in Atlanta. Georgia led 13-0 at halftime and 20-7 in the second half.

But, yet again, a collapse was imminent and freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s 41-yard touchdown pass won the game for Alabama.

Meanwhile, the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons had the San Francisco 49ers down 17-0 in the 2012 NFC title game with a Super Bowl appearance on the line. The Falcons blew the lead, were down 28-24 with seconds to play but saw Harry Douglas fall down while catching what would have been the go-ahead score.

But it was by far not the Falcons’ most excruciating collapse. 

That happened in Super Bowl LI (51) in Houston. The Falcons led Tom Brady and the New England Patriots 28-3 with 17 minutes to play, only to lose 34-28 in overtime in the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history.

Heck, even Georgia resident Caleb Lee Hutchinson lost the 2018 “American Idol” title on the ABC-TV musical competition reality show to Maddie Poppe in an upset.

So, it’s nice to see some good karma finally coming Georgia’s way, albeit in the world of sports.

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at