Burying the hatchet with former Georgia head coach Ray Goff (video)


Ray Goff was my classmate.

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Of course, like most of my many classmates at the University of Georgia, I never saw Ray on the huge campus. I did watch him on the Sanford Stadium turf leading one of the finest Bulldog offenses ever fielded.

Later I watched Ray coach the Bulldogs.

The Ray Goff Era was gut-wrenching. The words “Ray Goff” have ended more than a  few Bulldog friendships.

The story is a simple one. Ray charms fans as quarterback hero and is rewarded with the opportunity to coach his beloved alma mater…which is then a disorganized mess…and follow Georgia’s greatest coaching legend…in the midst of the Jan Kemp debacle.

(I took my small boys to meet Coach Goff at every picture day  – the oldest once racing across the McWhorter Field turf to leap into the arms of his beloved “Coach Ray.” The tears that flowed at our house when Coach Goff’s firing was announced filled a river.)

I have spoken to Coach Goff casually many times. He will always be Coach Goff to me, and he has more than come to terms with his Georgia legacy, always quipping, “Well, I wished we’da won more” when asked about his time on the sideline. He calls it the experience of a lifetime to coach at his beloved Georgia.

Goff’s call had ended my long-standing enmity with the University of Georgia

Carlton Fletcher, metro editor for The Albany Herald, tells a most compelling story of forgiveness about himself and Ray Goff.

As the sports editor of the Tifton Gazette in 1983, Mr. Fletcher called then-Georgia recruiting coordinator Ray Goff to ask why Georgia recruited none of the players off the 1983 state championship Tifton Blue Devils.

One conversation led to another, and then to a sports article and finally to Coach Goff’s response, “I expect you to write a retraction. None of those guys will ever play Division I ball.”  As it turned out, the 1983 class was a good one for Georgia, and included John Brantley, David McCluskey, and Larry Brown, but several of the Tift players had very good college careers and at least one, Stan Shiver, was named an All-American.

Mr. Fletcher admits the conversation was never forgotten. Recently, he mentioned the incident in passing while discussing the suspension of Todd Gurley in an earlier Albany Herald column.

"“Let me preface this by stating, flatly, that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a University of Georgia football fan. I’ve told the story of why in this space before — we’ll just recap by pointing out it was the results of a personal encounter with then-Georgia assistant coach Ray Goff and leave it at that.”"

The brief qualifier eventually found it’s way to Coach Goff and the result was a phone call from the old coach to the old sports writer.

Mr. Fletcher described the call. “I called Goff back, and he immediately said that while he didn’t remember having done anything to or against me or my family, if he had done anything to hurt or upset any of us he wanted to apologize.”

About the conversation Fletcher said, “[Goff’s] call had ended my long-standing enmity with the University of Georgia, which, admittedly, I’d kinda gotten past years ago.”

Besides the obvious lessons Mr. Fletcher’s column teaches, it is also an opportunity for Bulldogs to reflect on Coach Goff’s simple graciousness regarding his years as the Top Dawg. It’s also a chance for Bulldog’s to reflect on a difficult era, one that still inflicts pain and division – when we so choose.

Below is Ray Goff’s last regular season game, his fifth straight victory over the Yellow Jackets. Enjoy the clever signage and Ray’s joyous leap. Redcoats will note the giant deflated jacket. Cameos by Smart and Stinchcomb.