The history behind our country’s oldest stadiums and football fields is what makes them so breathtaking. There’s no better time machine than stepping into one of the seven oldest college football stadiums or catching a baseball game at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, all of which are over 100 years old.
SEC football is no stranger to timeless fields. Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium and Ole Miss’s Vaught-Hemingway Stadium make up two of the top-five oldest NCAA stadiums, while Texas A&M’s Kyle Field (built in 1904) checks in at No. 1.
The University of Georgia’s football program has history beyond that, though.
Stroll through the UGA’s north campus in and you’ll stumble upon a hidden treasure of green space and a picturesque water fountain worthy of an Instagram background. Herty Field is the go-to spot for students looking to relax between weekday classes and for tailgaters to party at before Georgia Bulldog game days in Athens these days.
But nearly 130 years ago, this historic landmark was the site of not only the first Georgia Bulldogs home football game but the first intercollegiate football game played in the Deep South. UGA took on Mercer University and won 50-0 on January 30, 1892, and thus the program was born. The next month, the Bulldogs played Auburn at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, which became the inaugural game in the South’s oldest intercollegiate rivalry.
Georgia’s Herty Field: The Site of UGA’s First Game
Originally a marching ground, the aptly-named Herty Field (originally called Alumni Athletic Field) was transformed into an athletic field for the varsity football and baseball teams under the direction of Dr. Charles Herty. A UGA professor of chemistry at the time, Herty is credited with the creation of those programs.
Herty Field opened in the Fall of 1891. That December, Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts. New York City’s Carnegie Hall opened earlier that year. The United States began accepting immigrants at Ellis Island the following year.
The point is: it’s old. Historic. Iconic.
In 1897, the field received bleachers and some landscaping thanks to Dr. Herty’s fundraising efforts. The UGA football team would play their home games at Herty Field until 1911, when Sanford Field was built in the center of campus. That lasted less than 20 years, though, because university president Dr. Steadman Vincent Sanford was able to finance and open what is now Sanford Stadium in 1929.
Herty Field went mainly forgotten after that. It was converted into a parking lot in the 1940s and remained in paved form until 1999, when it was transformed into the beautiful lawn it is now.
Georgia football paid homage to the field a few Octobers ago, when strength and conditioning coaches dressed up as old school football players and pushed a sleigh 1,892 yards in honor of the field’s inaugural year.
No matter its form, Herty Field will always be a piece of American history in the state of Georgia. Every Dawg fan should know the history of it the next time they’re tailgating on it or passing by.
This post was originally published on June 5, 2019.