Interview with Coach Bill Hartman

Editor's note: writer Tim Gardner recently conducted an exclusive interview with Bulldogs' immortal Bill Hartman. We think you'll enjoy reading about this remarkable man and his thoughts on a variety of topics.

-The Legend-
William Coleman (Bill) Hartman Jr. has played a major role in the athletic heritage at the University of Georgia for over 60 years.  He has served the Bulldogs in various capacities and has likely represented the university in more different ways than any living alumnus.

A former All-American fullback and punter for Coach Harry Mehre at Georgia (1937), Hartman has been the chairman of the Georgia Student Educational Fund (Bulldog Club) since 1960.  He also served as Georgia's kicking coach from the early 1970s through 1994.

In addition, he was president of the Georgia Alumni Society on two occasions, Georgia chairman of the Tech-Georgia Development Fund and co-chairman (with the late Frankie Sinkwich) of the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall fund-raising campaign.

Born in Thomaston, Ga., Hartman was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and the College Football Hall of Fame three years later.  After graduating from Georgia, Hartman played with the NFL's Washington Redskins where he was the understudy to legendary quarterback 'Slingin' Sammy Baugh. Hartman once completed 13 consecutive passes. He returned to Georgia as an assistant coach to Wally Butts in charge of the backs, a capacity he filled from 1939-56. Hartman was a member of the U.S. Army's counter intelligence corps during World War II.

In 1992, the University of Georgia Athletic Association created the "Bill Hartman Award" for the purpose of recognizing former Bulldog student-athletes who have distinguished themselves as alumni.

Hartman has been in the insurance business in Athens for many years and earned membership in the profession's Million Dollar Round Table.

Hartman is married to the former Mary Williams.  His first wife, Ruth, is deceased.  He has three children: Mrs. Laura Cieucevich; Atlanta TV sportscaster William C. (Bill) Hartman III: and Mrs. Barbara Howell.

-Questions and Answers-

Between The "What are the primary differences between athletes today and when you played at Georgia?"

Hartman: "I think one of the major differences is that there are more athletes participating than when I played-especially on the high school level.  Many towns in Georgia did not even have a football team before World War II.  Now in the Atlanta area alone, there are probably 20 to 30 high schools, where there where only about three up until around 1940.

"Another key difference is the emergence of the black athlete and the fact that most athletes today are much bigger and faster than they were in yesteryear. This is probably a result of better weightlifting and nutritional programs. In addition, the athletes today are more agile than they were years ago."

Between The "Are athletes better now than they were when you played?"

Hartman: "There are probably a larger number of athletes who are better today than those in the past. However, I think a great player would have been a great player during any era.  If Charley Trippi (1942, '45 and '46) played at Georgia now, he would still be a great player. If Herschel Walker (1980-82) had played at Georgia in the 1930s and '40s, he would have been a great player then too. This is also true for defensive players.  Bill Stanfill (1966-68) would have been an exceptional player regardless of when he played.

"I think the great players, even in Bob McWhorter's college playing days (1910-13) could excel on today's teams.  McWhorter had great balance and he ran the 100 in about 10 seconds."

Between The  "How great were Charley Trippi and Frankie Sinkwich?"

Hartman:  "They were both phenomenal players. They gave Georgia, quite possibly, the best set of running backs to ever play on the same team in college football history.

"Sinkwich didn't have great speed, but he was very quick. He is one of the greatest competitive runners I've ever seen.  There's no one in his class as a ball carrier.

"Trippi was a great ball carrier too, and much faster.  He had the speed necessary to go all the way on long runs along with great balance and competitive ability.  Charley was also an excellent defensive back. I've long maintained that he is the best safety the Southeastern Conference has ever had. Although he won the Maxwell Award as the nation's best player in 1946, he is the best player to never have won the Heisman. He could have received it for his offensive or defensive play. Trippi was that good."

Between The  "It has been said that for 10 yards Frankie Sinkwich was as fast as Herschel Walker. Is this correct?"

Hartman: "I suspect that is right.  Of course, Herschel also ran track at Georgia and had exceptional speed. However, one of his few problems was that was that he was not a fast starter, like in his first 10 or 15 yards in the 100-meter dash. If he had ever become a fast starter, he would have ran an incredible 100.  From lining up five yards deep in the backfield to two yards beyond the line of scrimmage, Sinkwich was as fast as Walker.  Herschel's overall speed was better.  Herschel could run right over you, but I thought he was at his best when he got a step ahead to the outside. No defender could catch him when he did. Herschel is the fastest big man ever to play football."

Between The  "What are the some of the things that are noticeably different about playing football today than decades ago?"

Hartman: "Back when I was in college, players had to play both offense and defense and there was no specialization. Generally speaking, a tailback in the thirties or forties had to be a punter, a passer, a runner, a defensive back and he had to do each well. If he didn't, he wouldn't get to play long. In football today, you can specialize and be only an outside linebacker or a safety for example. Since a player usually plays only one position, he can spend much more time on perfecting the techniques and his overall play necessary to excel at his position. In addition, a player can get more specialized attention and direction from a coach as most coaches have only one area they are assigned to coach such as offensive line and wide receivers. In the 1930's we had a head coach, a backfield coach, an end coach and a line coach. That was basically it.  Now there's often more than three times that many coaches on a practice field."

Between The "The Georgia Student Educational Fund (Bulldog Club) has grown tremendously under your leadership.  What has been your keys to success for this operation?"

Hartman: "The bottom line has been the generosity of the Georgia people who contribute financially to the GSEF. The number of our members and the monetary amount of their contributions have dramatically increased since the GSEF was created. We raised over $8 million last year, and the money raised pays for the costs of scholarships for our student-athletes. The money raised above and beyond the cost of scholarships is used by the athletic association for academic support and other needs of the student-athletes. The GSEF is vital to the overall success of the Georgia Bulldogs."

Between The "Why have you remained with the University of Georgia all these years? What has been your motivation?"

Hartman:  "The truth is-it just happened.  I seemed to always be available when I was asked to help with something involving the university and the athletic department.  My motivation is that I truly love the University of Georgia.  I've never wanted to coach or work anywhere else. Georgia has done so much for me and my family, and I've always tried to do all I could for the university."

Between The "Why have you chosen to live in Athens for practically your entire life?"

Hartman: "I really love Athens. I think anyone who has made their home in Athens or who attended the University of Georgia will tell you that Athens is a wonderful place to attend school and live.  My experiences living in Athens have been wonderful."

Between The "What was it like to play football at Georgia when you played?"

Hartman: "I really had fun playing for the Bulldogs. When I was growing up, I wanted to play a sport where there was competitiveness between individuals. Football gave me that opportunity.  It was a great thrill to back up the line and run the football. I got a tremendous physical sensation from doing it.

"One of my playing experiences that I'm particularly proud of is the Georgia-Holy Cross game played in Boston's Fenway Park in 1937. "Wild" Bill Osmanski was captain of that Holy Cross team. He later played in the NFL and like me, he is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. I played approximately 56 minutes against Holy Cross. Georgia lost the game. When I left the game the 36,000 people in attendance stood to their feet and cheered for me in an emotional tribute. Some even took out their handkerchiefs and waved them in a gesture to compliment me on my play. These kind gestures would have made any player proud.
"Of course, my 93-yard touchdown on a kickoff return to give Georgia a 6-6 tie against Georgia Tech in 1937 is very memorable. And yet another game that I played in for Georgia that is close to my heart came in '36 in New York's Yankee Stadium. That's when we tied a great Fordham team that was suppose to beat us. That 7-7 tie kept Fordham from going to the Rose Bowl. Fordham had the fabled "Seven Blocks of Granite", one of whom was Vince Lombardi. The day after the game, the headline of the New York Times read that "Georgia carved a statue of Robert E. Lee in the 'Seven Blocks of Granite'."

Between The "What does your long association with the University of Georgia mean to you?"

Hartman: "It's very dear to me. Because of my long association with the university and my many years of coaching here, I have been able to ask people all across the state for their help when Georgia needed funding or help in some other way for a project or something of this nature.  The responses I've receive have always been quick and productive. It's all based on my involvement with the University of Georgia."

Between The "What is the highlight of your athletic career...your most memorable experience?"

Hartman: "There have been many, and I'm very proud of each one.  I suppose one of the most prestigious came in 1984 when I was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. There are very few players elected to the Hall of Fame, and it gives you a great lift to realize that you will always be there in recorded history."

Between The "What are some of your fondest memories of playing professional football?"

Hartman: "I had a great time playing pro football. It was an added bonus that I got paid for it. I made approximately $3,000. However, what I made then wasn't even a drop in the bucket so-to-speak compared to what the pro players are paid today.  I would have never dreamed when I played that the pro players would eventually make in the hundreds of thousands and sometimes, millions of dollars.

"As far as a actual game memories, Sammy Baugh missed about six games with an injury, and I became the starter and eventually a top passer. My first start came against the Philadelphia Eagles on their home turf, and the Redskins won 24-22. I threw the winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to former University of Alabama player Bill Young on a guard-eligible pass. Young caught the ball and ran about 65 yards for the touchdown."

Between The "Let's play a word game.  What are your thoughts on the following Georgia Football personalities and teams?

Hartman: (His quote follows the person or team listed)

Coach Harry Mehre (1929-37)

"He was a great tactician, but not a good disciplinarian. As a result, his teams were not as well-conditioned as some of our opponents. He did have an outstanding offensive mind"

Coach Wally Butts (1939-60)
"A great disciplinarian, a tremendous teacher of fundamental football and a master of the passing game. He was way ahead of his time as far as the passing game was concerned. Bobby Bowden (Florida State coach) learned much of what he knows about the passing game by listening to Coach Butts' lecture about the passing game at our coaching clinics."

1942 National Football Champions

"I thought the 1941 team was better, but the '42 team was great.  We had the incomparable backfield featuring Trippi and Sinkwich, as well as some great linemen on both sides of the ball."

Quarterback Fran Tarkenton (1958-60)

"Francis was a great competitor. He had uncanny scrambling ability. He improvised well and was very quick."

Coach Vince Dooley (1964-88-coach; athletic director 1979-current)-"He was a very meticulous coach.  He planned everything down to the last detail. He left nothing to chance. His teams were always poised and well-prepared for anything the opponent did."

"Coach Dooley's teams won many games in the fourth quarter because he always had an outstanding running game. Much of his philosophy was based in perfecting the fundamentals and his teams did just that. Coach Dooley is the best organizer I've ever been associated with as an athletic director and as a head football coach."   

1980 National Football Champions-"This team personified the word "team" as well as any squad I've ever seen.  It had tremendous talent, but also a special chemistry. It found ways to win a lot of games that looked like we would lose such as our miracle 26-21 comeback win over Florida when Buck Belue threw the 93-yard touchdown pass to Lindsay Scott to beat the Gators."

Quarterback Buck Belue (1978-81)-"Buck was a winner in every sense of the word.  He was a great quarterback and field general, as well as a superb overall athlete."

Coach and former quarterback Ray Goff (1974-76-player; 1989-95-coach)-"Ray was a good quarterback.  He was not a spectacular passer. He was an excellent ball carrier, particularly on option plays. He commanded the team well, and was the 1976 SEC Player of The Year. As a head coach, Ray did a good job and was an exceptional recruiter."

Coach Jim Donnan (1996-current)-"He is a good teacher of fundamental football. He's a good recruiter and knows what it takes to win. His knowledge of the game is excellent. I think given time, Coach Donnan will be very successful at Georgia."

Between The "Who were the best kickers and punters you coached at Georgia?"

Hartman: "We've had many outstanding ones. Kevin Butler (1981-84) is probably the best kicker in NCAA history, maybe in pro football history too. We also had other fine kickers such as Rex Robinson (1977-80, Allan Leavitt (1973-76) and John Kasay (1987-90). Todd Peterson (1991-92) accomplished as much with his physical ability as any kicker I coached.

"The top punters include Spike Jones (1967-69), Bucky Dilts (1974-76), Mike Garrett (1977-79) and Chip Andrews (1983-84). Chip was the best punter I coached statistically. He had an outstanding 45.4-yard average per punt in his senior season of 1984."

Between The "How would you rate the University of Georgia Football program now?"

Hartman: "I think it's in great shape. The university certainly spends a lot of money on the program, but it has to to keep up with the competition.  Georgia has all the necessary resources to consistently be among the nation's best collegiate programs."

Between The "What do you think about the prospects of the 2000 Georgia Bulldogs?"

Hartman: "Georgia has a great deal of talent on this year's team. We should be successful. However, we're not going to beat the really good teams we play until we develop a good running game. We've also got to play much better defensively than we have the past couple of years.  We must do these two things if we are to seriously contend for any championships."

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