By Linton Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org
When the SEC Champion Georgia football team takes the field September 1 for their 2018 season opener, a familiar figure will be nowhere to be seen by the Bulldog faithful cheering in Sanford Stadium and watching on ESPN.
The Elberton granite statue of the Bulldogs’ UGA mascot, a fixture overlooking the stadium’s east end zone for the past quarter century, has been relocated to a less conspicuous position beyond not only the famous hedges but also out of sight from the fans’ seating areas and national TV cameras as well.
Keystone Memorials President Tom Oglesby donated master sculptor Steve Mooney’s creation on behalf of the Elbert County Bulldog Club to the university in 1992 at the request of legendary UGA coach and then-Athletic Director Vince Dooley to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Georgia’s football program.
The statue’s original placement was a perfect location as the football team would gather around it while eagerly waiting to take the field before each home game. Stadium renovations for the upcoming season involved moving the Bulldogs’ locker room from the east to the west end, and new field-level suites for major contributors are being constructed behind the east end zone.
Oglesby said he knew the statue would have to be moved due to the renovations, but he was disappointed to learn of its new location, alongside a fan concourse leading from the main gate to the North stands, when he and the Keystone Memorials crew went to Athens recently to facilitate the move.
“When we went over there to set it, it was totally different than it was the first time, and I got a little riled up,” said Oglesby, who voiced his displeasure to the current Athletic Director. “I emailed Greg McGarity. I told him that I wasn’t happy with it, that people wouldn’t see it from the field where it had been moved. They didn’t confer with me, and it was just a different ballgame. We went ahead and set the thing … I just felt like I was responsible for the whole Bulldog Club, and it just kind of irked me that they decided to change the location of it.”
According to the Elberton Graniteer magazine, the unique sculpture and its base were fabricated from Keystone Blue Granite. It weighs 4,820 pounds, and the base was originally veneered in polished Cherry Hill Black Granite from Pennsylvania and Missouri Red Granite. The sculpture is 4 feet high and 4½ feet long.
Oglesby also said he is concerned about the new location under the Sanford Drive Bridge making it easier to vandalize the statue from overhead.
“Somebody could come along, a Tech fan or an opposing fan, and they could pour paint, whether it’s orange or yellow or whatever color, on the bulldog from the bridge, and they could keep on walking, and nobody would ever know it,” he said.
Oglesby said he heard back quickly from McGarity and then from UGA’s Deputy Athletic Director for Operations Josh Brooks.
“Josh told me in so many words that if they got complaints about it, they would revisit the thing and see if it worked out right or not. They dropped the ball on it, to me they did. I don’t know where the architects went to school, but they let them decide and tell them where to put it. I don’t know if it was a Tennessee man, or an Auburn man or what they were.”