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The_Story_of_a_College_Football_Fix-1963_03_23-080

Solemnly Wally Butts leads a Georgia football team in locker-room prayer. THE FOOTBALL FIX John Logue about Georgia's disappointing performance, ex-coach Wally Butts nodded wisely and set him straight. "Potential is the word for what I saw," he said. "Unlimited potential." The whole matter weighed heavily on George Burnett. He began to wonder if he had done the right thing when he had put the notes aside and kept his mouth shut. Now 41 years old, he was still struggling to support his large family. Among his five children were a couple of boys who played football. "How would I feel," Burnett asked himself, "if my boys were going out on the field to have their heads banged in by a stronger team, and then I discovered they'd been sold out?" He began to wake up at night and lie there in the dark, thinking about it. In one sense Burnett knew it would be easiest to keep the notes in the drawer. While every citizen is encouraged to report a crime to authorities, the penalties against the man who talks are often more severe than those against the culprit. Burnett wasn't worried about physical retaliation. But there might be social and economic ones. Football is almost a religion in the South; the big-name coaches there are minor deities. Butts no longer had his old-time stature, but many people were still intensely loyal to him (and he was a director of the small Atlanta insurance agency where Burnett worked). Bear Bryant was a national figure who had made impressive records at Texas A&M and Kentucky, and had more recently transformed Alabama from pushovers to national champions. Burnett, protective toward his family, fearful of challenging deities, was troubled by a drive to do what was right. But what was right? To talk? To create furore, perhaps even national scandal? Or should he remain silent, ignoring wrong? That was a safe course, but one that might sit heavily on his conscience for all the rest of his days. Living in his private misery, he thought about his past. Burnett himself had played high-school football in San Antonio, Texas, where he was born. During World War II he bedame a group navigator aboard a Martin B-26. On January 14,1945, when his plane was shot down over Saint-Vith, Belgium, he was the only survivor. He lost part of his left hand, and spent the rest of the war in a German prison camp. Articulate and personable, he was now the division manager of the insurance agency. On January 4 of this year he sat in his office with Bob Edwards, a longtime friend who was also an employee of the agency. Burnett knew that Edwards had played football with Johnny Griffith at South Georgia, a junior college. "You know, Bob," Burnett said, after they had talked business for a while, "there's something that's been eating me up for a long while. I was going to tell you about it at the time, and then I decided to keep quiet. But I think you should know this, being a friend of Johnny Griffith." After Edwards heard the story of the phone call, he asked if he could report it to Griffith. Burnett, still reluctant to get seriously involved, told Edwards to go Downcast coach Griffith slouches near bench as Georgia team is slaughtered. ahead but to try to keep his name out of it. Powerful men in Georgia might be offended if Wally Butts was hurt, and Burnett did not want to jeopardize his own career just when things were beginning to break nicely for him. But like so many others, Burnett found that there is no such thing as a little involvement. Griffith pressed to meet him, and nervously Burnett agreed. In the middle of January he met with Edwards and Griffith in the Georgia coach's room at Atlanta's Biltmore Hotel. Simultaneously a general meeting of the Southeastern Conference coaches was taking place at the Biltmore. The Georgia-Alabama game had been forgotten by most of the coaches and athletic officials present. A popular topic of conversation was a late-season game between Alabama and Georgia Tech, in which Bryant's long winning streak had been broken. Alabama, a five-point favorite, had trailed 7-6 with only a little more than a minute to play. Then Alabama made a first down on the Georgia Tech 14-yard line. Since Bryant had a competent fieldgoal kicker, the classic strategy would have been to pound away at the middle of Tech's line, keeping the ball between the goalposts and, on third or fourth down, order a field-goal try. (Alabama had defeated Georgia Tech on a last-minute field goal in 1961.) Instead, Bryant's quarterback passed on first down. The pass was intercepted, and Georgia Tech held the ball during the game's waning seconds, thus scoring last season's greatest upset. During the January conference at the Biltmore, Bryant was frequently kidded about that first-down pass. Away from the bars and the crowds, in Griffith's room the talk was only of Georgia-Alabama. Griffith listened grimly to Burnett's story, then read his notes. Suddenly he looked up. "I didn't believe you until just this minute," he told Burnett. "But here's something in your notes that you couldn't possibly have dreamed up . . . this thing about our pass patterns. I took this over from Wally Butts when I became coach, and I gave it a different name. Nobody uses the old name for this pattern but one man. Wally Butts." Suspicions confirmed Griffith finished reading the notes, then asked Burnett if he could keep them. Burnett nodded. "We knew somebody'd given our plays to Alabama," Griffith told him, "and maybe to a couple of other teams we played too. But we had no idea it was Wally Butts. You know, during the first half of the Alabama game my players kept coming to the sidelines and saying, `Coach, we been sold out. Their linebackers are hollering out our plays while we're still calling the signals.' " Griffith has since spoken of his feelings when he had finished reading Burnett's notes, and Burnett and Edwards had left. "I don't think I moved for an hour— thinking what I should do. Then I realized I didn't have any choice." Griffith went to university officials, told them what he knew and said that he would resign if Butts was permitted to


The_Story_of_a_College_Football_Fix-1963_03_23-080
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