Why don't Alabama and Georgia play every year?

A year after winning his first national championship with quarterback Pat Trammell, Alabama coach Bear Bryant was accused of fixing the 1962 game against Georgia. (University of Alabama photo)
photo Wally Butts was Georgia's football coach from 1939 to 1960, but his run as the school's athletic director was cut short by an inaccurate story in the Saturday Evening Post. (University of Georgia photo)

For the second time in seven seasons, Alabama is playing for the national championship against a fellow member of the Southeastern Conference.

Nick Saban's Crimson Tide smothered LSU 21-0 in the BCS title game after the 2011 season, which was a rematch of an SEC West contest several weeks earlier in Tuscaloosa that the Tigers had won 9-6 in overtime. Alabama and Georgia are meeting Monday night in Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the championship game of the four-team playoff, but these two programs from bordering states vie just twice every 12 regular seasons under the league's current scheduling format.

It wasn't always this way, as the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide collided each year from 1944 to 1965, with Alabama's 21-6 win in Birmingham in 1960 the first college football game to be televised by ABC.

The two universities chose to discontinue their annual matchups after a 1963 Saturday Evening Post article claimed that Alabama coach Bear Bryant and Georgia athletic director and former coach Wally Butts had rigged the Tide's 35-0 rout in 1962. The story in the Post was based on Atlanta insurance agent George Burnett, who claimed he overheard a telephone conversation between the two and that Butts had provided Bryant information on several plays the Bulldogs would be using against Alabama.

The Post reporter assigned to the story never interviewed Bryant or Butts and never saw the notes compiled by Burnett.

"If he had given me anything, I wouldn't have used it," Bryant said. "He's for Georgia, and I'm for Alabama."

Butts, who admitted to talking with Bryant before the game but denied providing advance information, resigned as athletic director. He and Bryant both sued the Post and won, and the Post was ordered to pay $3.06 million in damages in 1967, which led to the demise of the publication.

Butts eventually collected $460,000, while Bryant received $300,000.

"After that Saturday Evening Post lawsuit, the two schools decided it was best not to continue as natural rivals," said former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, who directed the Bulldogs to an 18-17 upset of the Crimson Tide in their last annual encounter in 1965.

From 1971 to 1982, Alabama and Georgia combined to win at least a share of every SEC title, yet they met just four times during that stretch.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.