Former Georgia head coach Vince Dooley
Photo | Courtesy of the university of Georgia
Photo | Mobile native Vince Dooley, the long-time head football coach and athletic director of the University of Georgia, knows a thing or two about college football. He spent 25 years (1964-88) as the Bulldogs’ head coach, producing a record of 201-77-10 and winning six SEC championships and the national championship in 1980. He also served the school as AD for 25 years (1979-2004). Prior to that, he served as an assistant coach at Auburn, his alma mater, for 10 seasons, learning under head coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan.
Dooley was named to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1978, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2019, Georgia named the field at Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs’ home, Dooley Field.
Retired now, Dooley, 89, still keeps a close watch on college football, especially Georgia football. The former star athlete at McGill Institute spent a few minutes speaking with Lagniappe this week concerning Georgia’s success this season and his views in general about college football.
Q: What has it been like to watch Georgia’s season unfold this year for you?
A: It’s been satisfying. I thought they would have a good team, but they have played better than I expected. Of course, you know about their defense; they’ve got an incredible record defensively, maybe one of the best that’s been around in a while from a lot of different points of view — scoring defense and defense in general. They have great speed on defense. The offense has been surprising because there have been a lot of injuries. But here are a lot of people who have stepped up and sort of came from nowhere, especially when you consider the quarterback [Stetson Bennett] is a former walk-on who was here before, left and then came back. They also have the intangible qualities of a top team. They really play together and they play hard. It’s been fun to watch them along the way.
Q: What do you think of the coaching job Kirby Smart has done, not just this year but since he took over the program?
A: It’s kind of a pattern from being with [Alabama’s Nick] Saban for eight or nine years; a tremendous emphasis on recruiting and being very productive in that respect. The entire time, every year, they are either first, second or third, or fourth or fifth [in national recruiting rankings], which is what Saban has done. When you recruit at that level consistently you have a chance to compete at the highest level consistently, which is what Alabama has done and Kirby has done the same thing.
Q: It has been a crazy season, hasn’t it? When you consider all the things that have gone on, what do you think of the season in general watching as a fan?
A: It has been like you say. The [SEC] East [Division] is not as good as the West has been. That is a recent situation. At one time, when Florida was really good and Tennessee was really good, the East was pretty strong. But that’s not the case as it was consistently for a good period of time. So the West is very good. Alabama has been amazing in that the tradition of winning has enabled them to win football games when you think there’s no way that’s going to happen, particularly this past Saturday. I don’t even know how they won it, but they did. And they have been able to consistently win ballgames that way. Everybody else, there are a lot of pretty good teams, but I don’t know.
Georgia has been consistently No. 1, but has not maybe played the schedule and there has not been a game where they have had to come from behind except early — they may have been [behind] early in the first quarter but I don’t think even late in the first quarter. Nevertheless, they pretty well have dominated the teams that they have played, by three or four touchdowns. The Michigan situation is getting interesting by beating Ohio State the way they did. We don’t know how good they are, but they might be good; they might be really good.
Q: What do you think of the coaching carousel that’s going on with some of the top jobs coming open and recently some of those being filled? With the salaries and things that are being offered, what’s it like for you to see that take place?
A: It is something, as I look back on it, that has gone on because it’s almost as though they are [operating] like a semi-pro football team because of the great crowds, because of the great salaries, which have now opened up. You see the players are getting paid and you’ve got the transfer [portal]. Everything now is slanted toward the players, and perhaps so because the money that’s involved in big-time college football has probably been responsible for that, and you could see it coming. I don’t know. It’s different from what I have been used to but everyone seems to be adjusting to it, at least right now. There might be more problems ahead. But the ones that you might be expecting have not showed up right now, but they might next year or the next year.
Q: The field at Sanford Stadium was recently named in your honor. How does that make you feel to have that take place?
A: It was quite an honor. … I have had the privilege of being here quite a while and surviving crisis, not only as the coach for a long period of time, but I was the athletic director for 25 years, so I’ve been around. They are very traditional with the stadium being named for [Steadman Vincent] Sanford, who did so many things for Georgia as president [and chancellor] and also for football and the SEC. In order for that to happen, they moved very slowly in doing it. But I’m very appreciative of it.
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