Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Georgia Teachers College (Georgia Southern University) vs. University of Havana (1939)

Photo of the 1939 team from The Reflector, p. 102.
[Seated: Hall, Ellison, Cox, Joyner, Anglin, Rountree, Reiser, Waller; Kneeling:
Morrison, Cason, Morgan, Dunn, Barnes, Davis, Mize, Robertson; Standing: Moss,
Coach London, Horne, Hammill, Langley, Paschal, McGowan, Pafford, Smith, Coach Smith]
In the fall of 1939, the football team from Georgia Teachers College won two games against the University of Havana. Located in Statesboro, GA, Georgia Teachers College (GTC) changed names several times over the years to reflect the school's maturation from the First District A&M School in 1906 to Georgia Southern University in 1990. The Stateboro school's first football program competed from 1924 to 1941. Its intercollegiate sports teams called themselves the "teachers" or the "professors," nicknames that referenced the institution's primary focus as a "teacher college." The athletic teams were also identified by other mascots and nicknames at various times, such as the "Culture," the "Aggies," and the "Blue Tide." Byron L. "Crook" Smith coached football and basketball at GTC from 1929 to 1941. The 1932 season produced the best results with his team going 7-3, but the 1939 season marked the school's first international contests and ended with a trip to Havana.       
The George-Ann, Oct. 25, 1939, p. 3.
In October of 1939, Georgia Teachers College played a football game against the University of Havana in Statesboro, GA. The actual date is hard to find, but it occurred roughly between October 11 and October 14. As the headline notes, the Teachers won 14-0. The account of the game from the GTC student newspaper describes the game as being hard fought. The Caribes threatened to score on several occasions but the Teachers' line held firm. GTC's two touchdowns came in the second and third quarters. The first resulted from a short run by quarterback Rountree and the other from a 25-yard halfback pass from Cox to Parker. Despite the intensity of the close game, both sides displayed good sportsmanship. 
The George-Ann, Dec. 18, 1939, p. 3.
In December of 1939, the Georgia Teachers College football team traveled to Cuba for a rematch against the University of Havana. On December 9, the Caribes hosted the Teachers at their home stadium. Similar to the first contest, the first half ended with the Teachers leading 7-0. GTC scored their first touchdown on a wild play that included a pass from Rountree to Parker and then a lateral to right tackle Pafford. The Teachers broke the game open in the third quarter, adding a touchdown from a blocked punt and another from a 5-yard run by Ellison. Both teams scored touchdowns in the final quarter, the Teachers with a 15-yard pass from Rountree to Morgan and the Caribes scored in the closing minutes of the game.

Despite the positive momentum from the 1939 season, the football program ended in 1941. GTC president Marvin S. Pittman suspended all intercollegiate sports that year because of the United States' entry into World War II. After the war, most sports programs restarted, but the college football was not played in Statesboro again until 1981.  

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