Our daughter Olivia’s undergrad days at the University of Georgia come to an end this week.
Her last exam is set for Tuesday, and her extended family will gather in Athens for a special lunch and then Friday evening’s commencement ceremony at Sanford Stadium, which I understand now includes fireworks! One thing that hasn’t changed since my day: You still flip the tassel on your mortarboard after you’re officially declared a graduate by UGA’s president.
Graduating from UGA is something of a King family tradition, not surprising since my parents raised their three boys in Athens. But Olivia will be the last of her generation of the family to get a diploma at our state’s flagship university, following in the footsteps of a couple of cousins and her brother Bill (who has two degrees from UGA).
Her four years in Athens have flown by; it doesn’t seem all that long ago that Livvy and her mom were attending freshman orientation and our daughter was readying to begin college life.
I asked her to name some of the highlights of her time as a Bulldog and they include making it through a 24-hour UGA Miracle dance marathon; going to nationals in Wisconsin with the Dawgma women’s Ultimate Frisbee team; living on her own in Athens in a house near campus the summer after her freshman year; spending six weeks in Rome as part of UGA’s summer study-abroad program; volunteering weekly at Athens Regional Medical Center; playing in snow on campus; spring breaks at the beach; eating at all the dining halls (including both the old and new Bolton); getting to explore the Athens restaurant and club scene, including such favorites as Mama’s Boy, Trappeze, Clocked, Ike and Jane and Creature Comforts; getting to watch a movie while sitting on the field at the 50-yard line of Sanford Stadium; a Friendsgiving gathering in 2014; attending the Twilight Criterium in downtown Athens; and just hanging out with all the friends she’s made.
Of course, considering her lineage it’s not surprising that Georgia football has been a big part of Livvy’s student experience. She was usually among the first in line to get into the student gates for home games (she preferred being in one of the much-in-demand lover-level sections next to the band), and she made the trek to Jacksonville her junior year (though she says she actually enjoyed the experience more her senior year when she and some friends stayed in Savannah and watched the Georgia-Florida game with other UGA fans there).
Among her favorite football memories are being in the audience for ESPN’s “GameDay” on the Myers Quad before the Georgia-LSU battle in 2013, and the Murray-vs.-Mett battle that followed, with Aaron Murray throwing four touchdown passes as the No. 9 Dawgs beat the No. 6 Tigers in a 44-41 thriller. The win over South Carolina that year is another of her football highlights, as is the win over Auburn in Athens the next year, which Livvy called “the Waffle House bowl,” since free Waffle House food was promised to whichever school won. Another favorite memory (and a choice that might surprise some longtime fans) was last season’s Georgia Southern overtime game, which she said was “too close for comfort, but it was worth staying until the end.”
With Livvy’s time at UGA growing short, I made a special weekday trip over to Athens recently to have lunch with her at Snelling Hall, her favorite dining hall, where she once ate fried chicken with Todd Gurley.
One of the things Livvy has always raved about at Snelling are getting hugs from Miss Sandra, her favorite cashier. I wound up also getting a hug from Miss Sandra, who took the time to tell me what a sweetheart Livvy is.
After lunch, we strolled to the nearby UGA Creamery for an ice cream treat (ticking off another item in Livvy’s G Book of UGA traditions she’s participated in).
I had regaled my daughter with fond memories of how, when I was a youngster, Athens moms throwing birthday parties for their kids usually went to the UGA Dairy for ice cream made from milk that came from the university’s own herd. I also recall going on school field trips to the UGA Dairy. So, I was surprised to find we were served Mayfield at the Creamery, not the treat of my childhood!
(It turns out, the creamery that used to be on the UGA campus was closed years ago due to budget cuts. The animal and dairy science program still has a farm in Athens that is used to help teach undergraduate students the science and management aspects of dairy production, but UGA no longer has dairy processing facilities; all the milk from the farm is sold to a dairy processing co-op.)
No matter, even if it wasn’t ice cream made on campus, it was still a fine way to spend an afternoon with my daughter.
Sitting there, at a picnic table under the trees in front of the Creamery, watching students walk by on a glorious spring day, I think I fell in love with the Athens campus just a little bit more … as if that were even possible!
SPRING GAME RANKINGS
I had a note from reader Charlie Dooley wondering how the Dawgs’ recent G-Day game official attendance of 93,000 ranked nationally among this year’s college spring games.
Based on the attendance figures announced and available online, UGA appears to have come in second place behind Ohio State, which claimed 100,189 at its game.
Behind Georgia: Alabama (76,212), Nebraska (72,992), Tennessee (67,027), Penn State (65,000), Michigan State (51,000), Clemson (50,000), Florida State (49,913), Florida (46,000), Auburn (45,723, Virginia Tech (44,700) and Oklahoma (42,436).
Among other schools of interest, South Carolina drew 32,916 and LSU had 21,000.
WAY TOO EARLY BOWL PROJECTIONS
It’s all purely guesswork at this point, but I came across a couple of post-spring practice early bowl game projections this week.
Saturday Down South also sees Georgia in the Citrus Bowl, but up against Michigan State.
And another early bowl projection, from Bleacher Report, sees Georgia playing Houston in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 in Arlington, Texas.
If nothing else, these projections show how some observers expect Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs to do in his first season.
What about it Dawgs fans, would the Citrus or the Cotton be an acceptable finish to Smart’s inaugural campaign as UGA’s head coach? And if you expect better than that, feel free to tell us why!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.