Chip Harp | Valdosta Today Sports Feature Writer
ATLANTA — Many of Georgia’s sports elite gathered at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta Tuesday night to celebrate 50 years of the Peach Bowl. More importantly, they gathered to acknowledge the impact the game has had supporting the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation and the fight on vision and hearing impairments.
The game was founded as a fundraiser in 1967 by Lighthouse supporter George Crumbley. Today, the event acts as one of college football’s national and semi-final game sites. Proceeds go toward support for the programs of the Lighthouse including eye screenings, eye exams, glasses, surgeries, and hearing aids for uninsured and underserved Georgians.
The event on Tuesday was emceed by 2001 College Football Hall of Fame inductee and Georgia football legend Kevin Butler, the first kicker inducted into the Hall. Butler gave Valdosta Today his perspective on the game, which this year will host the National Championship game.
“I think the Peach Bowl is as good as it gets for a college ball game,” Butler told Valdosta Today. “The excellent staff, the city of Atlanta, and the Atlanta Convention Bureau all put their time and effort into a great experience for the teams and fans. Gary Stokan and his staff work year-round to improve the bowl experience each year and that will be evident this year hosting the national championship.”
“The relationship between the Lighthouse and the Peach Bowl is a very unique success story,” Butler said when asked what the game has meant to Lighthouse over the past 50 years. “Nobody should take sight and hearing for granted and the Lighthouse certainly doesn’t. The inception of the Peach Bowl gave Lighthouse a funding opportunity which has lasted for 50 years. The Peach Bowl continues to support the lighthouse in many other organizations, but with Mr. Crumley’s commitment to this relationship, it has lasted for 50 years.”
The guest list of speakers at the event included many notable sports giants. In addition to Butler and founder Crumbley’s daughter Cheryl Crumbley Lee, the speakers list included former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, former Falcon Warrick Dunn, and broadcasters Brad Nessler and Chuck Dowdle.
Guests were treated to a tour of the Hall of Fame, fund-raising auction, and the opportunity to talk with many sports celebrities.
And speaking of Georgia football, we couldn’t let Butler go without getting his thoughts on the Bulldogs this season, the second under coach Kirby Smart.
“I am very excited as an alumni to see the direction that Kirby is taking this program. He is building a foundation that the University of Georgia football program can grow on continuously for years. His enthusiasm and work ethic is unmatched,” said Butler.
When asked for his prediction, he wisely suggested, “Turn into CBS”. The game will be played at 3:30 Saturday in Jacksonville.