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One Man's Opinion: Vince Dooley was more than a great coach

By Bill Crane

Others have written and more will write, detailed tributes to Coach Vince Joseph Dooley (age 90) as the winningest coach in the history of Georgia football (201-77-10). That is of course true and adds considerably to his legend, but as many fortunate enough to spend time with Vince Dooley know well, he was so much more than a great football coach. Born in Mobile, Alabama, and spending his early life in our neighboring state, educated, playing football, and then later coaching at Auburn University, it might be hard for some to understand how Vince Dooley became perhaps more associated with the University of Georgia and UGA football than anyone on the planet. Dooley, also a former Marine, and his young wife Barbara moved to Athens in 1964, and they have lived in the same home and neighborhood near Five Points in Athens since. Dooley's Dawgs would win their first National Championship during the 1980 season, cementing his legendary status in those circles before the age of 50. Coach Dooley was visible and accessible in those days, on campus and around Athens with Vince and Barbara and their pre-game receptions at their home helped them become Athen's Ultimate Power Couple. And Barbara, the more frank and comedic of the pair, was a popular public speaker, local radio show host, and candidate for public office. Vince Dooley's heritage was Irish and Italian, the family is Catholic, and Barbara Dooley, a Birmingham native would add Greek blood to that mix. The Dooleys, in addition to their 62-year marriage, raised four children, two sons, and two daughters. Deanna and Denise were classmates on either side of me at UGA, Daniel is the older son, and Derek would follow his father and uncle into a career in coaching. The family spread out geographically but has remained close. When Dooley passed, all four children were home and with their father and mother. Dooley's coaching career ended in 1988, while he had been named UGA's Athletic Director already in 1979, a position he then held for 25 years, where his track record was even more amazing than his tenure as football coach. UGA sports teams across the spectrum of 21 scholarship athletic programs won 18 national championships and 75 SEC Championships. Dooley oversaw Title IX. expansion of female sports and scholar dollars during this era, and also raised millions for new athletic facilities as well as nearly $ 2 million in scholarships for the University of Georgia to recruit both athletes and non-athletes alike. Dooley had developed deep relationships all over the southeast, particularly in Georgia. Among his program alumni and admirers were William Porter "Billy" Payne, the CEO of the Centennial Olympic Games and later Georgia's first GOP Governor Sonny Perdue. Representing Athens and UGA Athletics, Dooley secured four different Olympic sporting events for Athens, including women's soccer, rhythmic gymnastics, volleyball, and the Bronze Medal match for men's soccer between Brazil and Portugal. Though I have heard some of his players from back in the day discuss how the Coach could be at times rather formal and imposing, in his post-coaching years you would constantly see him signing footballs or any memorabilia presented, posing for fan selfies, and fully embracing Bulldog Nation at every level. My own college fraternity has for years held anniversary celebrations at the five-year mark. For our 35th, 40th, 45th, and 50th-anniversary galas, I was able to call on the Coach to leave a warm and often humorous voicemail for our circle, later joined by the voice of the Bulldogs Larry Munson, while only once being able to secure any 'official' representation from the administration of the University of Georgia. The Dooleys also started a unique trend, quite unusual in college football, of the program's subsequent retired coaches returning to Athens to call The Classic City their home. Coaches Ray Goff, Jim Donnan, and most recently Mark Richt each now have an Athens home, and something tells me that when that day comes, Coach Kirby Smart will do the same. I was glad to be present on the day the field at Sanford Stadium was re-dedicated as Dooley Field, and knowing how many will want to say farewell to the Coach, and likely ruling out lying in state at the Georgia Capitol, I think a fitting life celebration should be held in Sanford Stadium, perhaps after the regular season victory of Georgia vs. Georgia Tech two days after Thanksgiving. That was always a favorite win for Dooley each season. You have left us so much to remember and celebrate Coach, and we want to really spell out GEORGIA once more, and send you home with one last hurrah from 90,000 or so of your closest friends and family. God bless the Dooley family. RIP Coach. Bill Crane is a public relations professional who consults for Athens Classic Inc., a nonprofit that is focused primarily on three areas of public policy: public safety, education and health.

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