Vince Dooley is a legend in the state of Georgia. He was the head football coach at the University of Georgia from 1964 through 1988 and he led the Bulldogs to 20 bowl appearances, six Southeastern Conference championships and a national championship in 1980.
“Dooley will forever be the coach who brought Georgia out of the desert of the early 1960s and turned it into a perennial SEC contender,” wrote Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com. “He won 201 games in 25 years. He won the 1980 national championship, the first year in a three-year run as dominant as any school has ever been.”
Those were the Herschel Walker years at Georgia and in those three years, the Bulldogs lost only one regular season game, to eventual national champion Clemson, in 1981 and they nearly won another championship in 1982, losing to Penn State, 27-23, in the Sugar Bowl.
Dooley built the program and maintained it for a quarter of a century. He was voted NCAA Coach of the Year twice, 1980 and ’82. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994. He is the Maxwell Club’s choice for the 16th annual Reds Bagnell Award for his contributions to the game of football.
“He coached conservatively, but not without the occasional gimmick,” Maisel wrote. “He beat Alabama in 1965, 18-17, with a flea-flicker pass that still engenders a was-the-knee-down debate across state lines. Dooley once shaved his head to settle a bet with his players. Everyone agreed he should leave the cue-ball look to Erk Russell, his long-time defensive coordinator, but if Dooley made a promise, he kept it.”
Most of all, Vince Dooley made a promise to serve the University of Georgia faithfully and with distinction. A native of Mobile, Al., Dooley attended Auburn where he starred in football and basketball. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Auburn, but Georgia hired him as head coach in December, 1963. He was only 31 at the time.
Dooley took on the duties of athletic director in 1979 and he served as both head football coach and AD until 1988 when he gave up coaching to concentrate on his administrative duties. Said Dooley: “I never had any regrets. I did what I wanted to do and left when I wanted to leave.”
During Dooley’s tenure as athletic director, the Bulldogs won 20 national championships in a variety of sports. Georgia won an unprecedented four national titles in one school year (1998-99) as the women’s swimming team, the women’s gymnastics team, the men’s tennis team and the men’s golf team all were No. 1. The Bulldogs won 78 SEC team championships overall in Dooley’s years as AD.
But equally impressive were the accomplishments of the Georgia athletes in the classroom during that period. While Dooley was athletic director, more than 100 Georgia student-athletes were named first-team Academic All-America, 43 received NCAA Post-Graduate scholarships and seven were honored with the SEC’s Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. More than $275,000 was awarded to the University’s general scholarship fund through the achievements of Georgia’s student athletes.
Dooley also was active in many charity endeavors, serving as chairman of the Easter Seals Society for three decades. A new Easter Seals facility was built in Atlanta and named in his honor. He stepped down as Georgia’s athletic director last year, but he stayed on as a consultant involved in fund raising for the University.
“What stands out to me is the longevity at one place,” said Mark Richt, the current football coach. “You can’t stay anywhere that long without having the program on good, solid footing.”
Former Head Football Coach, University of Georgia