The Game of the Century: Cumberland University vs. Georgia Tech - October 7, 1916

The Story of The Game of the Century
by G. Frank Burns, Cumberland University Historian

The world immediately recognizes three sets of figures: 2001, December 7, and 222 to 0. The first is a movie, the second is a day that lives in infamy, and the third is indissolubly connected with Cumberland football, a veritable landmark of American sports. On October 7, 1916, Georgia Tech played Cumberland in Atlanta. Tech won 222 to 0, the worst walloping in the history of American college football. There was a worse defeat in prep school records but the 227 to 0 win by Dickinson over Haverford is suspect.

From the beginning of football at Cumberland in 1894, an ambitious schedule had each season included Southern football powers: Sewanee, Vanderbilt, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi A. & M. (now Mississippi State), Alabama, Tulane, South Carolina, Louisiana State, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech. In 1902 Cumberland's 16 to 5 win over A. & M. attracted attention. In 1903 there was the 6-0 victory over Vanderbilt, the five-day road trip that on November 14, 16, and 18 furnished consecutive victories over Tulane, Louisiana State, and Alabama, and the post-season game with Clemson, arranged by Coach John Heisman for the championship of the South, which ended with the score 11 to 11. Cumberland was proclaimed the Southern champion.

Incidentally, John Heisman's Clemson team beat Georgia Tech 73 to 0 in 1903; the next season Heisman was coaching at Georgia Tech.

The sport was dropped at Cumberland in 1906, resumed in 1912, dropped in 1915, and resumed briefly in 1916 when the memorable 222-0 game with Georgia Tech was played in Atlanta.

There is no such thing as a true account of this game. There is a contemporary play-by-play record, without color, in the files of an Atlanta newspaper. But no matter who tells the story, the temptation to embroider is irresistible.

Errors abound. It is said that Cumberland's regular football players had left that fall to "go into the trenches." Obviously the U.S. had not entered World War I in October 1916. There were enough football players on campus even to have a scrub team which played three games. George Allen, Cumberland student manager who led the troops to Atlanta, in his book says the team that played Tech also played "four or five games." There is a newspaper account of the 100 to 0 loss to Sewanee; also contemporary newspaper reports of a game at Bowling Green - score not given, but it may have been 0-0. Cumberland also played either a town team from Hartsville or the Nashville Athletic Club. The newspaper article says: "There are two other games scheduled to be played in Lebanon."

Were there ringers? It has been said that Allen "borrowed" some Vanderbilt players. This is not true, although he may have tried. The manager did recruit some of his Kappa Sigma brothers to go, and apparently one reporter for The Nashville Tennessean used a phony name and made the trip. However, the names of most of those listed are found in the university register. Robert Engler may have been the last survivor. A student in the College of Arts & Sciences, he became a nationally syndicated writer and attended college reunions regularly, receiving the Award of the Phoenix in 1976.

The players did not have to borrow uniforms from Castle Heights, as has been said; a photo of Gentry Dugat, made just before the Atlanta trip, shows him wearing the same kind of uniform Cumberland used in 1913-15. Dugat was the only Cumberland player to stay in the entire game. He later helped organize a 40-year reunion of the players of both teams in Atlanta.

Allen did not receive the nickname "Fullback" after this game. In the yearbook of 1915, he is called by this name. Another error is often repeated: Cumberland's longest gain was NOT a two-yard loss; there was one forward pass completed for a ten-yard gain. Unfortunately it was fourth and 22 at the time. The truth is bad enough. Neither team made a first down. Cumberland couldn't, and Tech scored every time it got the ball.

Quarterbacks Morris Gouger and Leon McDonald completed two passes out of eleven for fourteen yards. But Cumberland's total net yardage was minus 28. Except for touchdown runs, every play in the game was run by the Cumberland team.

The second half was cut short, by fifteen minutes.

One story that is true concerns a Cumberland fumble late in the game. It rolled toward B. F. "Bird' Paty, later a prominent attorney. The fumbler shouted, "Pick it up!" Paty replied, "Pick it up yourself, you dropped it."

How did it happen?

John Burns, student manager for 1915-16, wrote letters in the winter of 1916, making out a schedule for the coming season. At that time student managers were responsible for the correspondence to schedule athletic contests. He lacked one course to graduate in June 1916, but since he got a job he didn't return to school. (He finally took the course in 1923, graduated and became a teacher and basketball coach). President Samuel A. Coile resigned in the spring of 1916. Dr. Homer Hill, acting president, and the board of trustees trimming the budget decided to eliminate football.

Allen, student manager of the baseball team, was elected football manager in September, was told to write schools with contracts and cancel. He did so, but overlooked Georgia Tech, which insisted on performance of the contract, or a cash forfeiture. There was a guarantee and Allen offered to take the team if he could get half of that sum. (It is believed that the story that this was an "informal" team was a device to justify cancellation of the schedule without penalty.)

In a way the game was revenge: the Cumberland baseball team had beaten Georgia Tech 22 to 0 in the spring of 1915. That must have smarted.

A book about the game, You Dropped It, You Pick It Up by Marcel and Jim Paul, contains exactly 222 pages.

Cumberland resumed football in the fall of 1919.


Allen, George. Presidents Who Have Known Me. New York, 1950.

Armstrong, 0. K. "The Funniest Football Game Ever Played" in Readers Digest, October 1955, 53-57

Astor, Gerald, "Football's Glorious Slaughter" in Yesterday in Sport, Charles Osborne, editor. A Sports Illustrated Book. New York, 1968.

Baker, Dr. L. H. Football: Facts and Figures. New York, 1945. (This book, an authoritative source, mentions the Cumberland-Georgia Tech game and score in connection with Jim Preas, whose 18 goals after touchdown in the first half are an all-time record.)

Paul, Jim (and Marcel). You Dropped It, You Pick It Up! Baton Rouge, La., 1983.

The Phoenix, 1915,1916.