Vince Dooley (b. 1932)
There is perhaps no one person more singularly identified with the University of Georgia (UGA) than Vince Dooley, the architect of the athletic program's modern-day explosive growth and the shepherd of all things "dawg."
In 1964 Dooley, at the age of thirty-one, was hired by athletic director Joel Eaves as head coach of the UGA football team and served in that position until 1988.
Vincent Joseph Dooley was born in Mobile, Alabama, on September 4, 1932, the fourth of Nellie and William Dooley's five children. Born and reared in the middle of the Great Depression, Dooley was remembered as a short-tempered, irascible youngster who early on recognized athletics might be the only thing keeping him from a life toiling in the shipyards of his hometown.
Dooley attended Mobile's McGill Catholic High School and was known more for his basketball abilities than his football acumen, though he was named quarterback at McGill as a sophomore and led his team to the Mobile City championship in 1949. Dooley agreed to attend Alabama's Auburn University with the understanding that he would be able to play both basketball and football, but a knee injury during his junior year brought his basketball career to an end.
Dooley continued to excel at football
Once out of the marines, Dooley returned to his alma mater (where he earned his bachelor's degree in business management in 1954, and his master's degree in history in 1963), working first as an assistant coach and then as freshman coach. In December 1963, his life—and athletics at the University of Georgia—changed forever when he accepted the position as head football coach of the Bulldogs.
If Dooley's 2004 departure from Georgia
"Looking back, it amazes me that somebody would hire a thirty-one-year-old coach, and only a freshman coach at that, to be the head football coach at a rival school," Dooley said in 2001. "I was young enough to think it was a good decision, and I was probably the only one who did." Dooley's younger brother, Bill, was a member of his first Bulldog coaching staff before serving as head football coach at the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest University in North Carolina, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
For the next twenty-four years, Dooley would usher the Bulldogs into the era of big-time, big-business college football, winning 201 games, and six Southeastern Conference championships (1966, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1981, and 1982) and suffering through only one losing season (1977).
The crowning achievement of his long coaching tenure came in 1980. With a teenager from Wrightsville named Herschel Walker pulling off one exciting run after another and a bend-don't-break defense coached by Erk Russell, who would go on to rebuild the football program at Georgia Southern University, the Bulldogs moved through the regular season undefeated and headed into the 1981 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, against the University of Notre Dame.
Achieving a 17-10 victory over the "Fighting Irish" at the Louisiana Superdome, the Bulldogs—for the first time in nearly forty years—reigned supreme as the number-one college football team in the country. It is a feat that has not since been repeated at Georgia.
During his time on the sidelines at Georgia,
When Joel Eaves retired as athletic director in 1979, Dooley was appointed his successor, and the Georgia Athletic Association entered its golden age. During his tenure as athletic director, UGA sports teams won eighteen national championships and seventy-five Southeastern Conference championships, and the program broadened (thanks to federal Title IX regulations, which require female teams to equal male teams) to twenty-one sports. Georgia's prominence across the board in athletics is amply displayed in the annual results for the Sears Directors' Cup, which recognizes the top collegiate athletic programs in the country. Georgia finished second in Sears Cup standings in 1998-99 and third in 2000-1.
Dooley led the athletic association's effort to donate some $2 million to the University of Georgia for the recruitment of athletes and non-athletes alike, and funds have also been made available to the university for the construction and expansion of many facilities on campus.
Dooley was also instrumental in bringing to Athens three sporting events (women's soccer, rhythmic gymnastics, and volleyball) of the 1996 Olympic Games and served six years on the advisory committee to the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee, whose president, Billy Payne, was a former UGA football player.
Dooley's forty-year tenure at Georgia was not, however, without its tempestuous moments. Perhaps the most memorable situation came in the mid-1980s,
Dooley also made news in the 1980s when he hinted on a number of occasions that he might seek public office, either as governor or as a U.S. senator. He never followed through on those plans, although his wife, Barbara, has twice run for public office, losing primary battles for the Georgia legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Bill Cromartie, Clean Old-Fashioned Hate, 8th ed. (Atlanta: Gridiron Publishers, 2002).
Vince Dooley, with paintings by Steve Penley, Vince Dooley's Garden: A Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach (Decatur, Ga.: Looking Glass Books, 2010).
Vince Dooley with Loran Smith, Dooley's Dawgs: 25 Years of Winning Football at the University of Georgia (Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1989).
John Chandler Griffin, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech: Gridiron Grudge since 1893 (Athens, Ga.: Hill Street Press, 2000).
Frank W. "Sonny" Seiler and Kent Hannon, Damn Good Dogs! The Real Story of Uga, the University of Georgia's Bulldog Mascots (Athens, Ga.: Hill Street Press, 2002).
Loran Smith with Lewis Grizzard, Glory! Glory! Georgia's 1980 Championship Season: The Inside Story (Atlanta: Peachtree, 1981).
John F. Stegeman and Robert M. Willingham Jr., Touchdown: A Pictorial History of the Georgia Bulldogs (Athens, Ga.: Agee, 1983).
Chris Starrs, Athens
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.