For Georgia Tech fans of a certain age as well as for those for whom the 1990 national championship is but a long-ago piece of history little different than the Bobby Dodd era, a documentary airing Friday night brings the Yellow Jackets’ most recent national championship season to life. That team celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
The end product is a fairly thorough review of the season, full of candid and vivid memories, mixed with photos, video clips and headlines from that year. A few segments of the show, part of Fox Sports South's "Driven" series, stood out to me. First, the hour-long show starts with a look back at how coach Bobby Ross and offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen ended up at Tech following Ross’ resignation at Maryland (a montage includes a photo of Friedgen at Maryland with a high-quality mustache) and moves into the difficulty Ross and his staff faced in taking over at Tech following Bill Curry's departure for Alabama. Ross said that he perceived resentment from players recruited by Curry.
“We came in, and to be honest with you, it wasn’t the greatest situation in the world,” Friedgen said.
Another is the upset of then-No. 1 Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., particularly interviews with Ross and kicker Scott Sisson, mixed in with footage from the CBS broadcast. (Show producers brought together running back William Bell, quarterback Shawn Jones and Sisson to Friedgen’s home in Eatonton, which created a fun exchange with Friedgen quizzing Jones on the play call that set up Sisson’s game-winner. Other interview subjects were defensive coordinator George O’Leary, assistant coach Chuck Bresnahan, team members Tom Covington and Marco Coleman and broadcaster Bob Neal.)
Ross said that he thought Friedgen “called perhaps one of the greatest football games ever been called offensively in that game. He was just really, really in tune.”
Sisson tells a story you may have heard about holder Scott Aldredge loosening up the huddle by asking his teammates “how many diamonds they wanted in the ring.”
Another educational part for me was the number of close calls that Tech survived that season. I knew about the tie with North Carolina, but not much about a comeback win over N.C. State in the season opener and the 6-3 win over Virginia Tech the week after the Virginia win.
With perhaps more resources and airtime, it might have been interesting to delve into what has become of some of the key members of the team (Friedgen poignantly notes that some team members are no longer alive) and perhaps in what ways the national championship season has shaped their lives.
An interview with then-Virginia coach George Welsh or Cavaliers team members might also have added a contrasting perspective on that particular game, as well as perhaps former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne comparing Tech and Colorado, which was awarded the AP national title (the Cornhuskers played both teams that season). As something of a prologue, I would have been interested to hear Ross’ thoughts, two decades later, on his decision to leave Tech a year later for the San Diego Chargers. (He took the Chargers to the Super Bowl, so you can hardly call it a regrettable decision.)
That said, the show’s focus is the 1990 season. It was perhaps wiser to drill as deep into that specific season through members of the team, which Tech will honor at its Nov. 12 game against Virginia Tech, than to cover more territory. Regardless, it’s definitely worth a watch.
The show airs Friday night on Fox Sports South at 11 p.m. It re-airs at the following times: