ATHENS – Kirby Smart just sort of slipped in at SEC Media Days this week what’s a fairly big deal to members of Georgia’s 1980 national championship team. That is, UGA is hosting a viewing party for them when the 2017 Bulldogs take on Notre Dame on Sept. 9.
“They’ll get to sit and watch that game if they’re not actually going to Notre Dame,” Smart said during his opening remarks Tuesday morning. “That will be an exciting venue for those guys to come back together and watch that game.”
Actually, Smart kind of jumped the gun on Frank Ros, who in addition to being a starting inside linebacker on that undefeated, untied team of yore, also was a team captain and, as such, has since become de facto reunion organizer for the 1980 Bulldogs. He was the point man for the 10th, 20th, 25th, 30th and 35th reunions of the championship team, and he’s the point man for this event as well.
The reality, Ros said, is everything hasn’t quite been finalized just yet. On Thursday, he was still processing the data he’d gotten back from the survey he sent out to his 1980 teammates, and he said he has yet to have a formal discussion with UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity about it.
But you don’t get to be vice president of Hispanic strategies for Coca-Cola International without being organized and self-motivated, as Ros is. And now that Smart threw it out there to several hundred media members attending SEC Media Days, it looks like it’s a go.
“I didn’t even realize Kirby had done that,” Ros, now retired, said with a laugh from his home in Kennesaw, an Atlanta suburb, on Thursday. “But I’ve gotten a good response so it looks like we’ll be able to finalize everything now.”
Ros said he has received, so far, affirmative replies from about half of the 100 or so emails he sent out to team members. He said about 40 have told him they couldn’t come because they will be attending the game in South Bend, Ind. He’s still waiting to hear back from a few others.
“If it’d just been 10 or 15 interested we probably wouldn’t have done it,” Ros said. “But I’ve gotten a good response.”
Ros said the idea started with Nat Hudson, a starting offensive lineman on the 1980 team. Hudson called Ros to ask if there had been any discussion of the team getting together to watch the game somewhere in Athens. Soon after that, he heard from former defensive end Robert Miles, who works for the athletic department.
“Then we all got to talking,” Ros said. “Originally we were just going to get a hotel, like the Hilton Garden Inn or something like that, and just go find a place to watch it in a bar or something. But then [Mike] Cavan heard what we were thinking about and he mentioned the indoor.”
Cavan, who was the running backs coach for the 1980 team, is now a special assistant for Smart under the title of director of football administration. Cavan informed Ros that the new Indoor Athletic Facility has a 50-foot movie screen that drops down from the rafters.
“That sounded like a great idea to me,” Ros said. “I haven’t been in there yet so I’m looking forward to it.”
Ros was the leading tackler for the Bulldogs in their 17-10 victory over Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl. He also forced a fumble with his hit on fullback John Sweeney early in the second quarter. That led a few plays later to Herschel Walker’s second touchdown of the game and gave Georgia a 17-3 lead it would never relinquish.
Ros had to move some things around himself to be in Athens for the viewing party. He had originally scheduled a family trip to visit his mother in Spain.
Several key members of that team won’t be able to be in Athens. Quarterback Buck Belue will be in Atlanta doing a live college football wrap-up show on CBS 46.
“I wish I could be there with them, but somebody’s got to pay the bills,” Belue quipped.
And Scott Woerner, an All-America defensive back who had two interceptions in the contest, will be out of town.
“I’m gonna be in South Bend,” Woerner said. “I’m going to be up there, but I don’t have tickets. I’ve done everything short of mortgaging my entire life to get some. People are actually calling me asking if I have connections to get them. I called my old roommate from the Falcons [Notre Dame alum] John Scully and asked him what it was going to take and he said ‘somebody’s gonna have to die.’ … But if I have to watch it in a bar, I’ll watch it in a bar.”
Woerner’s nephew is Charlie Woerner, who is a sophomore tight end with the Bulldogs. But Charlie will have to take care of his parents with any tickets he gets through the athletic association.
Nobody is exactly sure where Walker will be, though odds are he’ll be somewhere in Notre Dame Stadium if he wants to be.
But thanks to Ros, it looks as if the majority of the 1980 team members will be where they like to be most: together again in Athens. The defensive captain has made sure that “everybody that’s alive” from that team – players, managers, trainers, coaches and administrators – knows that it’s happening and everyone is coming who can or isn’t already planning to be in South Bend.
“I finally started getting back emails about a week ago,” Ros said. “They all got invited, everybody’s that’s living anyway, anybody who was part of the team. For reunions, we averaged about 95 percent showing up, and that includes the early years when a lot of the guys were still playing pro ball.”
So what does Ros think they’ll see on that big 50-foot screen in Georgia’s indoor facility?
Here’s his breakdown:
“It’s going to be interesting. First of all, you’re playing a team with the history they have, and then they’re coming in off the year they had [4-8 in 2016]. That’s dangerous. You know the coaches will have really have them on high alert and making sure they’re covering every angle of the game. And I think we’re really on the cusp of having some really good teams. I think the senior leadership they have, and I’m big on senior leadership. I think [Nick] Chubb and [Sony] Michel coming back is critical, because they’re two young men who are good leaders. You’ve got a defense that’s pretty darn strong. I think it’s going to be a good game because I think Notre Dame’s back is against the wall, and here we are starting to really get our stride. Obviously, I think Georgia will win, but I think it will be a very good game.”