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To Brigadier General William H. Cocke
October 8, 1928 Fort Benning, Georgia
My dear General,
Am sorry that Mrs. Cocke and you cannot plan at this time to pay me a visit this winter. However, I hope you will feel that I would like very much to have you at any time your affairs are so disposed that you feel in the mood for a southern trip.
I saw the game Saturday, which was made difficult for our boys by the extreme heat. Eight of us went up from here to see the game and each one that I heard discuss the game afterwards had very much the same thing to say. I believe it is worth while repeating to you, though it may sound rather tactless.
We got the impression that the team lacked the old spirit which used to mark the playing of the cadets. It also appeared that the coaching system had not been based on quick action and speed, which seem the only logical foundations for light weight teams which are to oppose much heavier ones. Of course, it could be said that the change of climate and the heat had a depressing effect on our men, but my comments apply as forcibly to the first five minutes as they do to the latter half of the game. The Georgia Tech crowd gave more the impression of representing a military organization than did our men: they assembled for signals in a more orderly and prompt fashion; they returned to their playing positions expeditiously and simultaneously; they got off with the ball fast and as a unit. From the start our men straggled back and made a ragged “huddle”; they returned to playing positions in a casual manner; on a number of occasions early in the game I saw cadets standing flat-footed or on their heels just as the ball was snapped. Early in the game we all had the impression that the men going down the field under a kick were not putting out their full speed and did not approach the tackle with an air of determination to get the other man in spite of everything. I heard more than one comment that a player or two went to the bench at a more rapid run then they went down the field to a tackle. Someone said that the style of game was built on a slow start. I don’t know the technique of this, but I do know that Georgia had no such system and that it would seem most illogical for any light weight team.
All of us felt very much the same way about the above. I had not seen the team since I played on it twenty-eight years ago, so my judgment might well be very faulty. But others of more recent vintage got the same impression. Our idea of a cadet on the field is one of quick action, speed, and a relentless fighting determination to stop the other fellow or to go forward. This definitely seemed to be lacking, tho climatic conditions or the small size of the squad could be charged as the reason. With the breaks practically all going against Georgia, as they did, I think a more determined cadet team would have secured a draw or possibly would have won by any little extra touch of good fortune.
Like the usual alumnus, I am expressing opinions very freely, but it seems to me with the history of the institute as a background every V.M.I. football team should give the impression of relentless fighters. There was one fat boy, No. 9, who gave all of us this impression. There were one or two others, but we were not able to single them out so well.1
G. C. Marshall, Jr.
Document Copy Text Source: Alumni File, Virginia Military Institute Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Author-typed letter signed.
1. The final score of the football game, which had been played in Atlanta on October 6, was: Georgia Institute of Technology, 13; Virginia Military Institute, 0. Cocke replied that the chief problems were in the coaching and the lack of strong cadet interest. “There doesn’t seem very keen desire to win the Georgia Tech game, whereas everyone is exceedingly anxious to win the game against the University of Virginia.” (Cocke to Marshall, October 12, 1928, VMI/Alumni File.) On October 20, V.M.I. defeated the University of Virginia 9-0.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 330-331.