The first mention of "Bulldogs" in association with Georgia athletics occurred on November 28, 1901, at the Georgia-Auburn football game played in Atlanta. The Georgia fans "had a badge saying 'Eat'em Georgia' and a picture of a bulldog tearing a piece of cloth"; however, it was not until 1920 that the nickname "Bulldog" was used to describe the athletic teams at the University of Georgia. Traditionally, the choice of a Bulldog as the UGA mascot was attributed to the alma mater of its founders and first president, who graduated from Yale University. On November 3, 1920, Morgan Blake, a sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal wrote a story about school nicknames for football teams and proposed:
In its history, the team has claimed five Southeastern Conference tournament titles, in 1933, 1954, 1955, 2001, and 2004, and five regular season conference titles, in 1933, 1953, 1954, 2004, and 2008.
From 1946 to 1970, Howell Hollis built the Georgia men's golf team into a conference power, claiming 13 SEC titles. George Hamer won the individual national title in 1946. Current coach Chris Haack has led the team to two golf national titles (1999, 2005).
Founded in 1967, the University of Georgia Rugby Football Club plays Division 1 college rugby in the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference against its traditional SEC rivals. Georgia finished the 2012 regular season with a 4–2 conference record, just missing the conference playoffs. The Bulldogs are led by head coach Doug Porter.
Since making its first postseason tournament in 1980, Georgia has received 21 postseason invitations under coaches Hugh Durham, Tubby Smith, Ron Jirsa, Jim Harrick, and Dennis Felton, including 10 trips to the NCAA tournament.
First organized by Liz Murphey, the Georgia women's golf team is a fixture among the nation's top finishers. In 1981 Terri Moody won the AIAW individual national intercollegiate golf championship on her home course.
Since 1986, the Gymdogs have brought home 10 gymnastics national championships (1987, '89, 1993, '98, '99, 2005, '06, '07, '08, '09), the most of any team in NCAA history. (while Utah has also won ten national titles, their first was an AIAW Championship in 1981). Georgia is also only the second team (Utah, 1982–86) to win the national title in five consecutive years, winning in 2005–2009. The Gymdogs have won 16 Southeastern Conference titles.
While Dominique Wilkins is considered the greatest player in school history, the team's most successful season came one year after his graduation. The Bulldogs made their first NCAA appearance in 1983 – which would have been Wilkins' senior year had he not opted for the NBA. That team advanced to the Final Four before falling to eventual national champion NC State. Under the Tom Crean regime, the Bulldogs landed the number one recruit in the country in Anthony Edwards in 2018, the highest rated recruit in school history. Edwards would go on to be selected first in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the first Georgia basketball player to do so.
Under the direction of Dan Magill from 1954 to 1988 and his successor (and current head coach) Manuel Diaz, the Georgia Men's Tennis program ranks among the nation's best. The team has won a total of eight tennis national championships in 1985, '87, '99, 2001, '06 (indoor), 07 (indoor and NCAA Division I), and 2008. The Bulldogs' six NCAA team championships rank fourth all-time. The 2007 indoor championship made Georgia only the sixth team in history to successfully defend the ITA Indoor title. Coach Manuel Diaz is the only NCAA Division I active coach with more than one NCAA team Championships, with four.
The Georgia Baseball team has seen most of its success in recent years, including winning the 1990 College World Series, as well as making the trip to Omaha in 1987, 1990, 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2008. The Diamond Dawgs, as they are called, are coached by Scott Stricklin.
The Bulldogs' most historic rivalry is with the Auburn Tigers, referred to as the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry and dating back to 1892. The other rivalries are between the Bulldogs and the Atlantic Coast Conference's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets ("Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate") and the Florida Gators ("World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party"). In addition, UGA enjoyed a strong rivalry with the nearby Clemson Tigers for many years in football, especially in the 1980s. The Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers annual showdown on the second Saturday of October has become a rivalry as a result of the 1992 division of the Southeastern Conference into Eastern and Western divisions. Before 1992, the two teams had only met 21 times since 1899. Beginning in 1992, the two teams have played annually as members of the same division. Georgia also enjoys a healthy rivalry with the South Carolina Gamecocks, meeting on the football field 70 times since 1894.
The Bulldog softball team began play in 1997. The team has won two SEC regular season championships in 2003 and 2005. The Team won the SEC tournament in 2014. The team has made eighteen NCAA tournament appearances. The team has made four Women's College World Series appearances in 2009, 2010, 2016, 2018, and 2021. The current head coach is Lu Harris-Champer.
UGA Alum and Coach Jack Bauerle has placed the women's program among the nation's elite. As of the 2016 season the women's team is tied with the University of Texas for the second highest number of national championships at seven (1999, 2000, '01, '05, '13, '14, '16) and posted eight national runner-up finishes (2002, '03, '04, '06, '09, '11, '12, '15). The Lady Bulldogs have also brought home twelve SEC team championships (1997, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '06, '10, '11, '12, '13, '14, '15). Bauerle has coached 11 female Olympians and 88 SEC individual champions. Graduates of the Georgia Swimming and Diving program include three individual recipients of the NCAA Woman of the Year Award: Lisa Coole in 1997, Kristy Kowal in 2000 and Kim Black in 2001.
Equestrian was added as UGA's 21st intercollegiate varsity sport in 2001. UGA's newest varsity team first competed in the 2002–2003 season. Head coach Meghan Boenig guided the team to a national championship in the Varsity Equestrian National Championships (NCEA) that year as well as a repeat national championship the following year (2003–2004). After a series of runner-up finishes, the team reclaimed the top spot in 2007–2008 and repeated as champions in 2008–2009 and 2009–2010. They also earned the 2014 and 2021 national championship titles.
The athletic department suffered through several controversies in the early 2000s, including a major scandal within the men's basketball program. In 2003, a power struggle between University President Michael Adams and athletic director and Bulldog legend Vince Dooley stole headlines when Adams refused to renew Dooley's contract, effectively firing him. The battle became one painted as academics versus athletics, though this idea was rejected when the University's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences faculty issued a vote of "no confidence" on Adams' leadership in 2004.
The Lady Dogs basketball team has produced two U.S. Olympians who have combined to earn six Gold Medals (Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain Johnson), 16 former players who have continued to the WNBA (second-most nationally), and six WNBA first-round draft picks in the past five years (second-most nationally). There were eight Lady Bulldogs on WNBA rosters in 2006: Kara Braxton, Detroit Shock; Kedra Holland-Corn, Detroit Shock; Deanna Nolan, Detroit Shock; Kelly Miller, Phoenix Mercury; Coco Miller, Washington Mystics; Christi Thomas, Los Angeles Sparks; Sherill Baker, New York Liberty; and Kiesha Brown, New York Liberty.
The firestorm has calmed slightly since then, however, largely due to the success of Dooley's successor, Damon Evans. In 2006, the Bulldogs recorded the highest profit margin of any athletic program in the country (according to the EADA report), pulling in $23.9 million, and also recorded another highly successful year on the field. However, Evans was arrested for DUI on June 30, 2010; his passenger, a 28-year-old woman, was arrested for disorderly conduct who told police that she had been seeing Evans for about one week. Evans has been asked for his resignation effective on Monday, July 5, 2010 and he has agreed to resign.
The university sponsors nineteen sports – baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, women's equestrian, football, men's and women's golf, women's gymnastics, women's soccer, softball, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track, and women's volleyball. Those 19 teams have won a combined 48 national championships (including 31 NCAA championships) and 173 Southeastern Conference championships (plus 264 individual national championships through the end of the 2013–14 school year). University students have also won 56 Olympic medals. In 2006, the Bulldogs recorded the highest profit margin of any athletic program in the country (according to the EADA report), pulling in $23.9 million.
The NCAA Men's Tennis Championship has been held in Athens 24 times in the past 35 years, including consecutively from 1977 to 1989 and in 2007. All but one (2008) of UGA's NCAA team championships have been won in Athens.
No Bulldog team has dominated its sport as much in the past 20 years as the Georgia Gymdogs, under the direction of Suzanne Yoculan. On October 18, 2007, Yoculan announced her retirement after the 2009 season. Longtime assistant Jay Clark succeeded Yoculan as head coach from 2009-2012. Danna Durante served as head coach from 2012-2017. In 2017 former Gymdog Courtney Kupets-Carter became the head coach and Suzanne Yoculan became a volunteer assistant coach for the transition period.
In January 2009, Georgia riders moved into their spacious new home, the UGA Equestrian Complex, located in Bishop, Georgia. The site is approximately 12 miles south of the Athens, Georgia campus. The 109-acre farm was formerly used in the 1996 Summer Olympics as a training site for the U.S. Dressage Team. The team originally trained and held meets at the Animal Science Arena on South Milledge Avenue. The Animal Science Arena is maintained by University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES). As the academic programs grew at CAES, the team relocated to the UGA Equestrian Complex.
Damon Evans was replaced by Greg McGarity, a Georgia alum and Associate AD at the University of Florida, in 2010. McGarity's tenure as Georgia's AD was one that saw a great surge in fundraising prowess, but much of that money was put away into what fans would derisively call, "The Rainy Day Fund," a reserve fund of money that would grow to $100M that McGarity would not spend on improving facilities in a manner fans believed he should, as other Athletics Associations in the SEC, such as the Alabama Crimson Tide, were doing. This refusal to improve Georgia's football facilities in particular would derisively become known as, "The Georgia Way," among disappointed fans who saw their football team fall behind Nick Saban's Crimson Tide in every conceivable way. McGarity oversaw the eventual firing of Georgia coaches in the three most important so-called "money sports": Dave Perno, Mark Richt, and Mark Fox, and in the instance of Perno and Fox, McGarity replaced them with coaches who have underperformed compared to the previous coach. He would also have to hire a replacement for Georgia Gymnastics legend Suzanne Yoculan during his time as AD, only to fire his first replacement and his second hire also fairing poorly. In replacing Richt, McGarity originally looked to hire Dan Mullen, who he knew from his time at Florida, but was eventually overruled by influential boosters who wanted Kirby Smart. As can be seen by the majority of McGarity's coaching hires, most of whom have fared poorly, hiring Mullen would have been a mistake as Smart is the most recent coach to win the College Football Playoff National Championship, the first Georgia Football National Title in 41 years, and Mullen was recently fired as the head coach at Florida. Kirby Smart came to Georgia from the successful Alabama football program, and did so with a list of demands for facilities improvements and a recruiting apparatus and budgetary overhaul that McGarity was not willing to provide Richt, but was happy to provide now for Smart.
Georgia owns the nations longest active bowl streak at 26, surpassing the previous leader Virginia Tech, who reeled off 27 in a row. The bulldogs are 20-6 in that stretch, excluding the three CFP National Championship games in 2018, 2022, and 2023. In that time period; Georgia has accumulated 3 Peach Bowl victories, 3 Sugar Bowl victories, and a CFP Semi-Final Rose Bowl win to send them to the 2018 CFP National Championship game. Georgia's brand has grown exponentially under coach Kirby Smart, who's pieced together three #1 recruiting classes in his five seasons as Head Coach and led the Bulldogs to the 2021 National Championship victory over Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide team 33-18. The next year, the Bulldogs also won the National Champion over Sonny Dykes' TCU Horned Frogs team 65-7.
The Bulldogs claim four football national championships: one for the 1942 seasons based on the determinations of several selecting organizations, and three consensus national championships for the 1980, 2021, and 2022 seasons based on the votes of the AP and Coaches Polls (several selectors have recognized the Bulldogs as national champions for the 1927, 1946, and 1968 seasons as well). Georgia has won 14 Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships (the most recent coming in 2022).