Former Hobart College Head Football Coach George Davis, 89, of Hartwell, Ga., died on July 10, 2015. In keeping with Davis’ wishes, there will be no services and the Berry Funeral Home in Elberton, Ga., is in charge of his arrangements.
Davis was named the Statesmen’s head coach prior to the 1971 season and inherited a team that went 0-8-0 in 1970 and hadn’t had a winning season since 1963. At his introductory press conference, then Hobart Athletic Director William C. Stiles told The Geneva Times, “I’m optimistic that if the boys get behind him, we can come out a winner.”
The Statesmen got behind Davis, 100 percent. With a wishbone, triple option offense, Hobart had instant success, going 5-4-0 and finished second in the ICAC in Davis’ first season.
During the next three seasons, Davis ushered in an era of dominance that Hobart football fans hadn’t seen since the 1950s. The 1972 Statesmen went 7-2 (.778) for the program’s highest winning percentage since the 1957 team went undefeated. In 1973, Hobart improved to 7-1-1 and won the ICAC and a year later, the Purple and Orange posted an 8-1 mark, sharing the ICAC title. Davis’ 1972, 1973, and 1974 teams were named Hobart Teams of Distinction on Oct. 1, 2011, by the Statesmen Athletic Association. In 1975 and 1976, the Statesmen were 5-4 on the gridiron.
Davis compiled a 37-16-1 record at Hobart. He ranks fourth on Hobart’s career wins list (all three men ahead of him coached more than twice as many games) and is second in career winning percentage (.694) and wins per season (6.17) trailing only current Head Coach Mike Cragg (.713, 6.7) in those categories.
Nine of Davis’ former players have been enshrined in the Hobart Athletics Hall of Fame.
Davis came to Hobart after 21 successful seasons at Mynderse Academy in Seneca Falls, N.Y. He led the Blue Devils to a 130-30-8 record. Davis guided Mynderse to eight consecutive league championships and nine in a 10-year span from 1951-60. Thirteen of his 21 squads suffered no more than one loss, including seven undefeated seasons. He was inducted into the Section V Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000 and, along with six of his former players, was a member of the inaugural class of inductees to the Mynderse Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.
A U.S. Navy veteran with service in the North Africa campaign of World War II, Davis enrolled at Syracuse University in 1946. He was a record setting running back for the Orange, earning four varsity letters. Davis started for SU as a junior and a senior, leading the team in rushing yards and scoring in both seasons. During the 1948 season, he scored a then Syracuse record four touchdowns for a record 24 points at Columbia. In 1949, Davis broke off a 95-yard touchdown run at Fordham, the longest running play in SU history. He finished that season with 805 yards rushing, a season record that stood until the legendary Jim Brown gained 986 yards in 1956. Davis averaged 141.8 all purpose yards as a senior, a record that stood until 1955 when Brown upped the mark to 155.1.
Davis capped his collegiate playing career with an invitation to the Shrine North-South game.
Following his time at Hobart, Davis returned to coaching high school football in Camden, N.Y., and later in the state of Georgia.
Davis is survived by his daughters, Georgia Davis and Patricia Canne, three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, Shirley Pugh Davis.