The War for the Oar: A History

Visitors to Tate Student Center over the years may have noticed an unusual display in the third-floor concourse: a 12-foot-tall carved wooden oar. 

The oversized oar, known as the Okefenokee Oar, has been a part of the Georgia-Florida football rivalry since 2009, when the University of Georgia and University of Florida student government associations partnered to create a rivalry trophy. 

The Okefenokee Oar joins the ranks of unique rivalry trophies exchanged throughout the SEC, such as The Golden Boot (Arkansas-LSU), the Golden Egg (Ole Miss-Mississippi State) and the Governor’s Cup (UGA-Georgia Tech).  

The OARigin Story 

Why an oar was chosen, and how it came to be, remains shrouded in mystery. It was funded by an anonymous donor at the University of Florida and carved from a 1,000-year-old oak tree from its namesake Okefenokee Swamp. Ownership of the swamp, which sits along the Georgia-Florida border, was historically disputed between settlers from both states.  

The Oar is engraved with the schools’ mascots and state seals on either side, with scores from every Georgia-Florida game since 2009 engraved on the handle. An article from the UF sports news website Gator Country reports that the Oar has room for scores for the next 150 years. 

After each game, the winning school displays the Oar in their student center until the next year’s match-up. When displayed at UGA, where it’s been since 2021, the side with the Bulldog design faces outward and the Gator is hidden on the reverse. 

For the Oar’s first few years of existence, it had little notoriety. Rivalry committees from both schools worked to get the word out about the new trophy by creating the hashtag #WarForTheOar and students exchanged it after the game in unofficial ceremonies around the stadium.  

Becoming OARfficial

The Oar was officially recognized through a joint resolution by both schools’ student government associations in 2011. The Oar came to the UGA campus for the first time that same year after the Bulldogs’ 24-20 victory against the Gators. It was displayed in a custom-built case in the Tate Student Center in an effort led by the UGA Student Government Association president at the time, Mallory Davis (AB ’13). 

“We’re really trying to build it into this huge tradition because we haven’t had it yet,” Mallory said in a Red and Black article in 2011. 

And a huge tradition it has become. Although still not officially recognized by UGA Athletics as the game trophy, the Oar has been featured on ESPN’s College GameDay broadcasts, helping it rise to fame among fans from both teams. 

The Oar is transported to Jacksonville, Florida, each year by the victors of the last season’s game. The winning team is then responsible for bringing it back to their campus. When Georgia wins it, the UGA Student Government Association generally arranges for the Oar to travel home on the bus with the Redcoat Band.  

Only time will tell how the mystery and excitement surrounding the Oar will continue to develop, but what we do know is this: the Bulldogs and Gators will face off again this year on October 28–reigniting the War for the Oar once again. 

Away Game Guide: Florida

The Georgia-Florida game, held annually in Jacksonville, Florida, is one of the most highly anticipated rivalry games in college football. If you’re headed to Jacksonville this year to cheer on the Dawgs, here’s a guide from fellow Bulldogs James Hopkins (BBA ’03) and Suzie Hutto (BBA ’06) for where to stay, eat, and sightsee. 

Where to stay

Suzie said staying downtown in the San Marco area puts you within walking distance of many of her favorite restaurants. She said the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is the closest hotel to the stadium. 

If you’re hoping to spend some time at Jacksonville’s beaches, James said The Margaritaville Beach Hotel and Springhill Suites Jacksonville Beach Oceanfront are along the beach and are still fairly close to downtown. 

James advised against driving during the game weekend because of heavy traffic downtown, and he suggested focusing on seeing one part of the city at a time instead of trying to bounce all over town in a day. His favorite form of game day transportation? Water taxi or rickshaw! 

Where to eat

Suzie and James both enjoy visiting some of the city’s rooftop bars and restaurants. For an elegant atmosphere, Suzie recommends Cowford Chophouse, which has views of the Main Street Bridge. For a more casual night out, she suggests the seafood and steaks at River and Post. 

“They have a great happy hour,” Suzie said. “I love their ahi tuna.” 

River and Post’s rooftop bar boasts stunning views of the city. (Photo: River and Post)

Estrella Cocina is one of James’ go-tos. The trendy Mexican restaurant and bar has a rooftop with views of the city, and James described it as “hip” and “very chic.” 

For breakfast, James prefers Maple Street Biscuit Company. The chain’s original restaurant is located in Jacksonville and specializes in Southern-style biscuit sandwiches. Maple Street is a local hotspot, so for a quicker option James says to hit up Foxtail Coffee Co.  

Near the beach, Suzie enjoys eating at The Local for its live music and grabbing late-night Mexican eats at the Flying Iguana. She and James raved about the restaurant’s guacamole, which is prepared tableside. 

The Local’s globally inspired menu includes everything from hot chicken and waffles to tuna poké tacos. (Photo: The Local)

On game day

In addition to tailgates surrounding the stadium, Suzie and James suggest trying some of Jacksonville’s breweries before the game. 

Intuition Aleworks is a brewery near the stadium where the Jacksonville Alumni Chapter has held events in the past. James likes visiting their walk-up counter and getting a beer to-go. 

Wicked Barley Brewery has a dock—James says people can even kayak straight to it! If you don’t have a ticket for the game itself, the breweries are a great place to stay and watch with other fans. 

Wicked Barley Brewery sits on the banks of Goodby’s Creek and has a large outdoor beer garden. (Photo: Wicked Barley Brewing Company)

Jacksonville attractions

If you have some extra time before or after the game, there are plenty of places to explore in and around Jacksonville. 

James and Suzie both recommend shopping at St. Johns Town Center, an outdoor mall with a range of luxury shops and restaurants.  

“That’s where I do all my shopping,” Suzie said. “They just got a Gucci store.” 

Jacksonville has a large brewery scene, and many of the breweries are family-friendly. Suzie likes Strings Sports Brewery, which is located on Main Street. James enjoys Bold City, which is in the Riverside neighborhood downtown. 

Not making the trip to Jacksonville and looking to connect with Dawgs in your own area? Find your local UGA alumni chapter and cheer on the Dawgs with fellow alumni at a game-watching party near you. 


Heading to the Orange Bowl?

If you are traveling to South Florida for the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31, you might be interested in activities to fill your time (and your stomach) in the days leading up to the game. We connected with Akil A. Kalathil (BS ’14), a graduate student at the Miller School of Medicine (Dhar Lab) at the University of Miami to gather a few tips for Bulldog fans of all ages.



Miami Beach


Brickell / Downtown

Welcome to Orlando, Bulldogs!

The University of Georgia Class of 2021 will send a wave of red and black from coast to coast when they depart the Classic City. With the help of alumni across the country, we curated guides to a few cities to which new grads may move to when they leave the Classic City. Welcome to the city, Bulldogs!  

With attractions like Disneyworld, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, the city of Orlando brings magic and fun to the Sunshine State. But there’s more to “the City Beautiful” than theme parks. Amanda Morris (BSED ’19), president of the UGA Alumni Association Orlando Chapter, shares her top picks for O-Town.

Favorite part about living in Orlando.

“There’s always something to do and something going on. You can check out seasonal festivals at EPCOT, concerts at Universal, a farmers market in Kissimmee, an Orlando Magic game downtown or a brewery in Winter Garden!”

What makes Orlando special?

“Orlando is full of new people and new experiences. Everything is constantly evolving, and you can do something different every weekend.”

The Orange County Convention Center is located in Orlando.

One thing people may not know about Orlando.

“It’s not just theme parks—Orlando is a huge city. So it’s easy to escape the touristy parts and find something unique nearby. The beaches are close, and there are lots of cool things to do out in nature, like kayak at a spring with manatees.”

Orlando’s best cup of coffee.

“Craft & Common, Paloma, Foxtail, Axum Coffee, New General, Holy Grain, and Stardust Video and Coffee.”

Where to grab a bite to eat.

“The Whole Enchilada, Seito Sushi, Yellow Dog Eats, Sanaa, Bosphorous, Domu, The Glass Knife, Canvas, Hawkers Asian Street Fair, or Black Bean Deli.”

Favorite local park or green space.

“Lake Louisa, Blue Spring, Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve, Dr. Phillips Park, Southern Hill Farms.”

Orlando residents enjoy proximity to the beach.

Must-see sights in Orlando.

“Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Orlando Museum of Art, the Wheel at ICON Park, Church Street Station, Disney Springs, East End Market, and Plant Street Market.”

Favorite Orlando Chapter alumni event?

“At Feast on the Fifty, UGA alumni in Orlando get together at Camping World Stadium to serve food and drinks and have a spirit competition! I also love our alumni tailgate with the Jacksonville Chapter for the Georgia-Florida football game.”

Best place in Orlando to watch the Bulldogs play on a Saturday in Athens?

The Porch in Winter Park has great food and a great game day atmosphere. They’re also dog-friendly outside.”

Orlando is home to several amusement parks, including Universal Studios.

Name a well-known UGA graduate who lives in or is from Orlando?

“Orlando is home to Eric Baker (ABJ ’90), creative director of Star War: Galaxy’s Edge, and Pamela Landwirth (AB ’73), CEO and president of Give Kids the World.”

Advice for Bulldogs new to Orlando.

“There’s always something to do in Orlando, and it’s easy to meet new people! Consider joining a Bulldogs After Business Hours happy hour event or a game-watching party to meet new people. Get out and explore all the amazing fun things Orlando has to offer, both in theme parks and not!”

To keep up with the Orlando Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association, you can follow along on Facebook (UGA Orlando Alum), Instagram (@uga_orlandoalum) and Twitter (@UGAOrlandoAlum).

Check out similar guides to the following cities:

How to be a Bulldog in the Sunshine State

You can commit to the G no matter where you live, but Bulldogs living in Florida may have to work a bit harder to represent the red and black. We asked a few Florida-based Dawgs for tips on how they show their UGA spirit amid a sea of Gator orange.

Wear your Georgia gear proudly and often.

Whether you’re relaxing on one of Florida’s beaches or waiting in line at Disney World, red and black is a must. You’re sure to spot another Bulldog in the crowd when you do!

Find a fellow Bulldog to watch games with. 

When it’s Saturday in Athens and you’re wishing you could be between the hedges, team up with other alumni to cheer on the Bulldogs. UGA alumni chapters make this easy by hosting game-watching parties in several Florida cities.

Order a taste of Athens to your Florida doorstep. 

Whether you’re craving a cup of Jittery Joe’s coffee or missing the legendary biscuits from Mama’s Boy, many Athens-based companies will ship your favorite treats to the Sunshine State. 

Travel to Jacksonville for the Georgia-Florida football game. 

Even if you don’t have tickets to the game, this big game is the perfect opportunity to reunite with Bulldogs you’ve missed. It’s also a chance to show your Florida friends what “committing to the G” is all about.

Dress your dog in a UGA bandana when you go for a walk. 

Because nothing says “Go Dawgs” like a dog representing the red and black.  

Join your local Alumni Chapter.  

Don’t reminisce about Athens alone—find your Alumni Chapter to connect with other UGA grads for game-watching parties and other networking and community service events.  

Purchase a voucher for a UGA license plate in Florida. 

We don’t suggest honking every time you see a UGA sticker on the highway, but we do recommend adding some UGA swag to your car with a UGA specialty license plate. Before the state of Florida will offer a UGA specialty license plate, though, 4,000 plates must be pre-sold by October 2022. Own multiple cars? Purchase a voucher for each one and help us reach 4,000 soon!


And finally: never, ever, ever wear orange.  


Thank you to Orlando Alumni Chapter President Amanda Morris (BSED ’19), for her help with this post!

2019 Welcome to the City: A Recap

This summer, UGA Alumni Chapters across the country hosted Welcome to the City events. During these annual gatherings, Bulldogs come together to welcome new alumni to their area. The Bulldog family is always growing, and our chapters did a great job of making sure Bulldogs Never Bark Alone, wherever they go.

“What was memorable about this year’s event was the number of new faces. Some Bulldogs have been in the city for a couple years, but had no clue there was an active chapter. Others were as new as three days in Chicago,” says Michael Lyons, Chicago Chapter president.

There are more than 80 alumni chapters worldwide, so there’s almost always an opportunity to connect with fellow alumni through them. Stephen Scates, Charleston Chapter president, says, “There is a huge Dawg presence here in the low country, and we are blessed to never have to bark alone while so far away from Athens.”

Check out our photo gallery of this year’s Welcome to the City events:

Interested in connecting with Bulldogs in your area? Find your local UGA Alumni Chapter today!

Interested in helping out UGA students, on your schedule? Sign up for the UGA Mentor Program.


Zachary Faison: The Millennial President

Zachary Faison At A Glance

Getting Started

This summer, Zachary Faison was named one of the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 honorees. He was selected for his impressive accomplishments and commitment to his alma mater. A 2006 graduate, Zachary attended law school at the University of Georgia. After graduation, Zachary earned his Certificate of Fundraising Management from Indiana University. In 2015,  he joined a small group of higher education administrators at Harvard’s Institute for Educational Management. “It was a very intensive institute that gave us expanded insight on being leading administrators at colleges and universities around the country,” says Zachary. “It really helped to support my trajectory as an academic administrator and leader in higher education.”

Making an Impact

Zachary serves as president and CEO of Florida’s first historically black college or university, making him the youngest HBCU president in America. “It’s inspiring work. Every day I get to see the impact upon the lives of students, particularly students of color.”

While at Edward Waters College, Zachary has established an honors college, a center for undergraduate research and is in the process of launching an online degree program. Looking forward, Zachary wants to see the institution grow, not only in enrollment numbers, but “in the expansion of academic profiles and offerings.” Edward Waters College has plans to offer graduate-level programs and become more engaged in the local Jacksonville community.

About 90% of EWC’s students, while academically successful, are eligible for Pell Grants and struggle to pay tuition. Last year, Zachary established a program to help meet this need. If students have an outstanding balance of up to $3,500, EWC will match the balance. “We wanted to do whatever we possibly could to ensure students wouldn’t get this close to the finish line and not finish.” Because of this new program, a significant number of students are able to return to school and continue earning their degree.

Proud to be a Dawg

When asked about the first time he set foot on UGA’s campus, Zachary recalls a feeling of awe. “My eyes were wide open at how expansive the campus was … how beautiful it was … the amazing history that goes along with it. It was incredible.”

During his time at UGA, Zachary was involved in the law school’s Moot Court, a mock trial team that competes nationally. “For me to have the chance to compete with students that have gone on to do such extraordinary things is something I will always remember and cherish,” says Zachary.

Zachary Faison will be honored during the ninth annual 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon in Athens on September 13.

Be sure to check out the other impressive 40 Under 40 honorees.

Eric Baker: Out of This World

Eric Baker

Eric Baker (ABJ ’90) is an Imagineer for The Walt Disney Company, with credits including just-opened Galaxy’s Edge.

*In honor of Galaxy’s Edge officially opening in Disneyland on May 31, UGA is highlighting Eric Baker (ABJ ’90), a Grady graduate and creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering.

This story originally ran in the Summer 2019 issue of Georgia Magazine.

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far, far away …

A young Eric Baker ABJ ’90 was making his own Star Wars playsets because store-bought versions weren’t good enough. The son of an art teacher and a building contractor, Baker made his own Yoda masks from forms he sculpted, molded, and casted with help from his mom.

Now, he’s a creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering, working on the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge-themed lands opening in Disneyland this summer and Walt Disney World this fall.

“I love taking these worlds and bringing them from film to something people can actually go see and touch and really be a part of,” he says.

Baker attended the University of Georgia where he studied telecommunications and theatrical design. He knew he wanted to make films, so he learned model building, special effects, and set design through his course work. As a student, his first job in the industry was at Cable 13 doing Larry Munson’s makeup for his Tuesday night show.

TV Career
From the Earth to the Moon

Baker’s work on the Tom Hank’s mini-series “From the Earth to the Moon” earned him an Emmy nomination.

After graduation, Baker found work at Nickelodeon doing props on the hit show Clarissa Explains it All, coming up with games to gross people out for Double Dare, and testing pool games for Nickelodeon Guts.

That led to other film and TV work including The Mickey Mouse ClubSesame Street 3D MovieBad Boys 2, and the Tom Hanks mini-series From the Earth to the Moon  (which earned Baker an Emmy nomination).

But after 20 years in film production, the industry was changing, so Baker took an entry level model-building job with Universal Studios’ creative department.



The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Baker built concept models for Universal’s Harry Potter theme parks in Florida, California, and Japan.

They asked him to build a castle—which turned out to be Hogwarts. For the next two years, Baker built concept models for Universal’s Harry Potter theme parks in Orlando, California, and Japan.

The worlds are fully immersive, from taking the Hogwarts Express train from Platform 9 ¾ to drinking a cold butterbeer on the giant benches of the Leaky Cauldron. The worlds are layer upon layer, from haunted portraits to fountains that come alive with a souvenir wand.

The work Baker did for Diagon Alley in Orlando (which has 106,000 props) was such a game changer that the Themed Entertainment Association created a new award for it: the Paragon award, which won’t be awarded again until someone tops the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

And Baker is up to the challenge.

Star Wars
Galaxy's Edge

Galaxy’s Edge opened in Disneyland on May 30, and Disney World’s version will open August 29.

Disney took notice of Baker’s work and offered him the job he’d dreamed of since he was a young Padawan: Star Wars. Now he’s overseeing construction of thousands of pieces of props and set dressing for the immersive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which means a lot of flying between Florida and California (commercial, not on an X-wing).

He’s visited the Star Wars film sets and Skywalker Ranch where he photographed some of the original props from the film, which was another dream come true for him. “Star Wars changed my life,” he says.

But ultimately, his job comes down to using the Force for good.

“I love going to work in the morning to see the look on kids’ faces the first time they come into the park. That’s the most rewarding thing I do: making people happy.”