A curious attempt at white-washing history took place on Saturday afternoon at Christenberry Fieldhouse.
Not content just to bury the popular “Augusta” from the Jaguars uniforms in the basketball home finales, the president of the school formerly to be known as Augusta State is trying to erase the program’s long-standing communal identity with a newly commissioned fight song.
The new “anthem” – performed at half time of both the women’s and men’s regular season home finales Saturday by the pep band and student vocalist Tara Washington – was commissioned after the consolidation of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities into what Ricardo Azziz has chosen to call Georgia Regents University Augusta – only without really ever uttering the “Augusta” part aloud.
It is an unpleasant name that hardly rolls off the tongue and was surely a challenge for the school’s professor of music, Dr. Martin David Jones, and retired English professor James Garvey to work into a catchy little ditty.
“The song is a unifying element that the university can rally around,” said Jones, who in conjunction with Garvey also composed the school’s new alma mater which will debut at the March 7 Honors Convocation. “I hope that is what people ultimately take away.”
Garvey’s 17 lines of fight lyrics concludes with a chant of “G-R-U” and “Jaguar Nation.”
But where exactly is the word “Augusta” that could be the most unifying word of all? Not once in the 58 words was it deemed worthy of inclusion (certainly per explicit instruction by the president).
“The first line just came to me – ‘hungry, patient, fast and strong’ – words that describe both a real jaguar and our basketball team,” Garvey said. “I also wanted to include ‘Jaguar Nation’ because that has been an important phrase on our campus, a rally cry of sorts.”
It was “Augusta” that the entire community rallied around last fall, but I digress.
I’m sure it won’t be long before Jaguar Fight Song is waking the echoes along side Notre Dame’s Victory March (1905) and Michigan’s hail to The Victors (1898) among the collegiate tunes that every sports fan can hum by heart.
Fight songs have been a noble tradition at America’s colleges since student T.J. Hurley first composed the repeating riff For Boston on behalf of his Boston College in 1885.
“For Boston, for Boston, We sing our proud refrain!” is as solid and simple an opening volley as an alma mater can get. Notice the embrace of community. Interesting choice.
Only a few years later, Michigan student Louis Elbel composed The Victors after the Wolverines toppled the University of Chicago to win the Western Conference championship. The song struck such a perfect tone that venerable composer John Philip Sousa – the man who composed our national fight song Stars and Stripes Forever – hailed it as “the greatest college fight song ever written.” More than a century later, nobody is arguing Sousa’s trained ear on that.
No respectable university athletic program would be without a fight song these days. Georgia’s Glory, Glory, Clemson’s Tiger Rag, Georgia Tech’s Ramblin’ Wreck and Alabama’s Yea, Alabama are ubiquitous features of the gameday experience on Saturday fall afternoons and quicken the heart of every faithful fan.
So the school formerly known as Augusta State certainly deserves a decent fight song to bond its growing alumni ranks. But this needs to be “Augusta’s” fight song, not some GRU-some indoctrination chant.
After months of bitter fighting from alumni and the community at having the unpopular new name shoved down their throats, the crafty Azziz announced in October his “truly Solomonic decision” to tag on the word “Augusta” at the end in a shallow attempt to appease the disgruntled masses.
Of, course, try to find that “A” on any of the school’s new logos. When the Jaguars travel hither and yon in future seasons, they will now longer be representing “Augusta” on their chests.
But who says we have to play by Azziz’s mandate? No need to ditch the “A.”
Think about it. At some point, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University became simply Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech by acclimation.
Nobody says the Heisman Trophy currently resides at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University but just Texas A&M.
John Wooden’s basketball dynasty was built, in short, at UCLA and not the University of California, Los Angeles.
The University of Kansas prefers to “rock chalk” by the dyslexic KU.
So as far as I can tell, there is no rule that says anybody has to refer to GRUA by its horrifying full name as is.
Augusta State’s Jaguars basketball teams may have sported the “Augusta” logo for the last time Saturday. But there’s no reason anybody needs to forget the “A.”
Personally, I’ll stick with the tail end of the school’s full moniker on all future references. This is Augusta’s university, so Augusta it will always be. Keep the “A” paraphernalia, students, and continue proudly cheering for “Augusta” no matter what the song doesn’t say.