Bobby Dodd, longtime football coach for the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, is one of only three people (along with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Bowden Wyatt) to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
Robert Lee Dodd was born on November 11, 1908, in Galax, Virginia, to Edwin Dodd and Susan Viola Nuckolls. When Dodd was eleven years old, his family moved to Kingsport, Tennessee, where he graduated from Dobyns Bennett High School before enrolling at the University of Tennessee (UT) at Knoxville.
At UT Dodd was a member of the baseball, basketball, and track teams, but he excelled in football. He earned a position in the starting lineup for the first time in 1928, in the fourth game of his sophomore season, and became an outstanding quarterback, tailback, and punter for head coach Robert Neyland. In Dodd’s first game he threw a touchdown pass and punted out of bounds on the one-yard line to set up the game-winning touchback in a 15-13 victory over the University of Alabama. During the next three years UT won twenty-four of the twenty-six games in which Dodd started. After his senior year he was named an all-American tailback, and in 1959 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for his efforts at UT.
In 1931, following his college graduation, Dodd joined William Alexander’s coaching staff for the Georgia Tech football team. After fifteen years as an assistant, Dodd became head coach and led the team to national prominence. During the next twenty-two years he compiled a record of 165-64-8, the best in school history. His teams won nine of thirteen bowl games, including six in a row during the early 1950s. He reached the pinnacle of his career in the 1950s, when Georgia Tech was selected as the national champion in the 1952 International News Service poll. That team went undefeated in the regular season and beat the University of Mississippi 24-7 in the 1953 Sugar Bowl. In addition to his winning record, Dodd is also recognized for inventing the “belly series,” a play in which the quarterback places the football at the running back’s abdomen and, depending on the defense, either gives the ball to the running back or keeps it.
Because Dodd did not want his players to get hurt, overexert themselves, or become bored, his practices were usually short and involved little physical contact. He urged his players to spend most of their time studying and encouraged both them and his assistant coaches to attend church and spend time with their families on Sundays rather than attend meetings or watch game films, as many other teams did. In 1965 Dodd was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. That same year, in honor of his work on behalf of people with disabilities, the Atlanta Alliance for Developmental Disabilities founded the Bobby Dodd Center (now Bobby Dodd Institute), which provides vocational rehabilitation and other services.
Dodd retired as Georgia Tech’s football coach after a one-loss 1966 season that concluded with a trip to the 1967 Orange Bowl for a game against the University of Florida. The Florida Gators beat Tech, 27-12. After retiring as head coach, Dodd served successfully as Georgia Tech’s athletic director from 1950 to 1976. In 1976 the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation, headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was established in his honor.
Dodd died on June 21, 1988. He was survived by his wife, Alice Davis Dodd, whom he had married in 1933, and their two grown children, Linda Dodd Thompson and Robert Lee Dodd Jr. Later in 1988 the Georgia Board of Regents voted to rename Georgia Tech’s home football stadium in Dodd’s honor, calling it Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field. In 1993 he was inducted once again into the College Football Hall of Fame, this time as a coach.