The Georgia-Alabama matchup in the NCAA championship game recalls one of the strangest Southern college football stories - the Wally Butts-Bear Bryant caper.
The Saturday Evening Post alleged in 1963 that Butts, Georgia's athletics director after a long career as the Bulldogs' football coach, and Bear Bryant, Alabama's coach, fixed a 1962 game between the two schools.
The magazine's story said that Butts in a telephone conversation gave Bryant Georgia's plays, defensive strategy and other inside information. An insurance agent claimed he overheard the discussion when he picked up a phone and found himself connected to Butts and Bryant.
The football legends sued the Curtis Co., the magazine's Philadelphia-based publisher. Trial testimony disclosed that Butts and Bryant had been talking together at the same time and date as the magazine reported, but their lawyers convinced the jury that the longtime friends had been talking about football in general. Each man won judgments of millions of dollars, which reportedly led to the magazine going out of business, although the awards were reduced significantly later.
That drama unfolded in a different world when the Civil Rights movement was rising and the Southeastern Conference's all-white teams collided in defensive battles in which passes were rare.
Now, black stars dominate and teams have sophisticated passing attacks, although Georgia and Alabama emphasize the run. Georgia coach Kirby Smart was a member of Alabama coach Nick Saban's staff, but they are unlikely to have much contact before the big game except for public media events. With today's videotape scouting and the sport's massive TV coverage, little stays secret about teams' plans.
Wally Butts had another distinction in Bulldog history - he coached Georgia's victory over UCLA in the 1943 Rose Bowl, the school's last appearance in Pasadena before Monday's thrilling 54-48 win over Oklahoma to go to the championship.