Vince Dooley – A Look Back
Legendary former University of Georgia football coach and director of athletics Vince Dooley died peacefully at his home in the presence of his wife and their four children Friday afternoon at the age of 90. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as the Georgia and Alabama Sports Halls of Fame, Dooley is Georgia’s winningest football coach with 201 victories, six SEC titles and the 1980 national championship in his 25 years leading the Bulldogs (1964-88). He was also the recipient of numerous awards for his service as director of athletics over a 25 year tenure (1979-2004).
“I join the entire Bulldog Nation in expressing our sadness over the loss of our legendary and treasured athletic leader and dear friend,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I first had the opportunity to spend significant time with Coach Dooley when I served as Faculty Athletics Representative 20 years ago. I have always been grateful for the many ways he worked to make the University of Georgia a stronger and better institution. My fondest memory is going to his home to tell him we planned to name Dooley Field in his honor. He will be missed by all who had the opportunity to know and learn from him. We extend our deepest sympathy to Barbara and all members of the Dooley family.”
“We are heartbroken to hear of Coach Dooley’s passing,” said UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Josh Brooks. “Georgia Athletics is what it is today because of Vince Dooley. He was a role model, mentor and friend. My thoughts and prayers are with Barbara and his entire family. Vince Dooley was one of the greatest coaches and athletics administrators of all time, and I am humbled and honored to serve in a role that he built. All of us at the University of Georgia will continue to honor his legacy for years to come.”
“Our family is heartbroken by the death of Coach Dooley,” UGA head coach Kirby Smart posted. “He was one of a kind with an unmatched love for UGA! He and Barbara embraced my family from day one. He will be missed by our community, university, and in college athletics.”
For over 50 years, Dooley had an enduring impact on the University of Georgia, the Southeastern Conference, and college athletics across the country. Serving as head football coach at UGA from 1963 to 1989 and as director of athletics from 1979 to 2004, he was a man of great foresight in times of charting the future, a man of stability in times of change, and a man of vision in critical times that have helped shape the path of college athletics.
His legacy as been forever preserved with the naming in 2019 of the Sanford Stadium field in his honor—Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.
He received numerous national honors, including the John Wooden Citizen Cup Award for his positive influence on the lives of others, the Bear Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in coaching both on and off the field during his career, and the Duffy Daugherty Memorial Award for his contributions to amateur football.
His national stature was reinforced many times since the early 2000’s. Dooley was the 2004 recipient of the James J. Corbett Memorial Award presented annually by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) to the collegiate administrator who “through the years has most typified Corbett’s devotion to intercollegiate athletics and worked unceasingly for its betterment.” The award is the highest honor one can achieve in collegiate athletics administration.
Almost simultaneously, he was also named recipient of the John L. Toner Award presented annually by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame to an athletic director who has demonstrated superior administrative abilities and shown outstanding dedication to college athletics, particularly college football. The same year he was also inducted into the UGA Circle of Honor. In 2003, he was chosen from athletic leaders around the country to chair a national sportsmanship summit. In 2006, Dooley and wife Barbara were chosen as recipients of the Wooden Award presented by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame for their lifetime contributions to sports and community service. He also received in 2007 the Homer Rice Award presented by the Division 1-A Athletic Directors Association to a retired athletic director with a distinguished career and who has made a significant impact on the Director of Athletics profession and intercollegiate athletics.
His contributions to the university were recognized in 2008 with the dedication of the Vince Dooley Athletic Complex. A statue and garden commemorate his accomplishments along with the naming of all of the south campus athletic facilities in his honor.
His contributions to coaching and athletics administration are significantly defined by his place as the only person ever to hold the presidency of both the American Football Coaches Association and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
Dooley’s 25 years as head coach earned him the distinction as the most successful football coach in Georgia history. He guided the Bulldogs to a career record of 201-77-10, becoming only the ninth coach in NCAA Division I history to win over 200 games. The Bulldogs won one national championship (1980) and six SEC Championships under his direction. He took his teams to 20 bowl games and coached a Heisman Trophy winner (Herschel Walker, 1982), a Maxwell Award Winner (Walker, 1982), an Outland Award Winner (Bill Stanfill, 1968), 40 First Team All-Americans, and 10 Academic All-Americans.
He was named NCAA National Coach of the Year by every major poll in 1980 and by Chevrolet-WTBS in 1982. Dooley was named SEC Coach of the Year seven times and NCAA District Coach of the Year on six occasions. During his tenure, seven of his players earned the prestigious National Football Foundation post-graduate scholarship and 11 former players received the equally-coveted NCAA post-graduate scholarship. Seventy-seven of his players earned Academic All-SEC recognition. He holds the unique distinction of being inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in two different states, Georgia and Alabama. Dooley was inducted into the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1994 and in 2001 was named recipient of the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award from American Football Coaches Association presented for lifetime contributions to the sport of football. In 2004, he was inducted into the UGA Circle of Honor and on Jan. 1, 2019, he was inducted into the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame.
As Director of Athletics, his leadership translated onto the fields of competition as well. There is no stronger indicator of Georgia’s overall athletic prominence than its success in the annual Directors Cup national competition which annually measures athletic success of schools across the country. Under Dooley, Georgia’s final rankings include a second-place finish in the 1998-99 season, third-place finish in 2000-01, fifth place in 2003-04, and top-10 finishes in five of his final seven years as Director of Athletics. In his final year as Athletic Director (2003-04), Georgia was the SEC recipient of the first-ever Excellence in Athletics Cup, an award based on a total athletic program performance in eight distinct categories.
Under Dooley’s watch as athletic director, Georgia teams won 23 national championships (10 in his final six years), including an unprecedented four during the 1998-99 year (gymnastics, women’s swimming & diving, men’s tennis, and men’s golf). Also during his tenure, Georgia athletic teams won 78 SEC team championships and numerous individual national titles in both men’s and women’s sports.
He was also a standard-bearer for academic excellence. Under his leadership, more than 100 Georgia student-athletes were named First-Team Academic All-America, more than 50 received NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships, seven were named recipients of the SEC’s Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, seven NCAA Top Eight Award winners, three NCAA Woman of the Year recipients, two Walter Byers Award winners, and well over $275,000 was awarded to the University’s general scholarship fund through performances by Georgia student-athletes.
In 1985, Dooley was also instrumental in fostering the pledge which has resulted in $2 million being contributed by the Athletic Association to the University — the principal being used for non-athletic scholarships and the interest used in the recruitment of top students and other non-athletic programs. These funds also provided private matching money which made possible the construction of the chemistry building expansion and the Performing and Visual Arts Center. And as part of the University’s Third Century Campaign, he also initiated the Vincent J. Dooley Library Endowment Fund which was created with Coach Dooley’s personal gift of $100,000 to the University library. Under his leadership, the Fund raised over $2.3 million and had a fund balance of almost $4 million in 2005 — the fifth largest out of the more than 1,000 endowments held by the UGA Foundation.
He was instrumental in the Athletic Association’s participation in the University’s Ramsey Student Activities Center, a facility rated by Sports Illustrated in 1997 as the top student physical activities building in America. It cost more than $35 million, over $7 million of which was funded by the Athletic Association, including $2 million in advance to begin the project. The complex, which hosted the 1999 and 2006 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships and the 2002 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships, includes competition facilities for varsity swimming & diving and practice arenas for basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball.
His community service and charity work was extensive and included work with the Heart Fund, Multiple Sclerosis, Juvenile Diabetes, Boy Scouts, and the homeless, and he was a former member of the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army. He served 28 years as the long-standing chairman of the Georgia Easter Seals Society and in 1987 was named National Volunteer of the Year for his service. For his many contributions, a new Easter Seals facility in Atlanta was built and named for him in 1990. He and his wife, Barbara, co-chaired a fund-raising campaign to establish a Catholic high school in the Athens and northeast Georgia area. Dooley, who was instrumental in the University’s campus being designated as an arboretum, was presented with the Georgia Urban Forest Council’s 2001 Individual Achievement Award given for significant accomplishments in promoting urban forestry in Georgia.
He served six years on the Advisory Committee to the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee and was in Tokyo with his former player, ACOG president Billy Payne, when Atlanta won the bid to host the 1996 Games. Through his efforts and association with Payne, Dooley helped secure for Athens and the university three Olympic venues (soccer, volleyball, and rhythmic gymnastics) which was the largest number of events in a city outside Atlanta. Dooley was selected as a torch bearer in the 1996 Summer Olympics torch relay, receiving the flame from Payne in Sanford Stadium. He also chaired a successful million dollar fund-raising campaign for new Salvation Army facilities in Athens.
Dooley also served as a consultant in 2010-15 with Kennesaw State University, which began playing varsity football in the Fall of 2015. Along with former Sen. Sam Nunn in 2011, he was named a Georgia Trustee by The Georgia Historical Society and the Governor’s office — the state’s highest honor.
For many years he spent a week each year in a foreign country doing service work for the poor and infirmed. As a member of the Order of Malta, he went with the Atlanta Malta Chapter Group to Lourdes, France, “The Miracle City,” accompanying the sick who came for spiritual and physical healing. On four other occasions, he journeyed to the remote area of the Agalta Valley in Honduras with the Honduras Outreach organization working with people in impoverished villages. His wife, Barbara, joined him on the mission trip on two occasions.
He also authored several books, including two editions of Dooley’s Dawgs (with Loran Smith); My 40 Years at Georgia (with Tony Barnhart); three editions of Dooley’s Playbook: The 34 Most Memorable Plays in Georgia Football History, including the 2021 National Championship edition; Dooley’s Garden: A Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach; History and Reminiscences of the University of Georgia; and The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog: The Civil War Correspondence of William Gaston Delony, Lieutenant Colonel of Cobb’s Georgia Legion Cavalry, and Rosa Delony, 1853-1863. Dooley also wrote an article on the “two” great football teams on the Georgia campus in 1942 that was published in the Georgia Historical Quarterly in the Fall, 2014.
In addition to his writings, he was also at the podium for hundreds of speaking engagements and appearances for numerous charitable causes. Dooley was a former Georgia Historical Society Chairman of the Board and Head of the Nominating Committee. He was a former chair of the Education Committee and member of the Government Relations Committee, Marketing Committee, and the Development Committee of the American Battlefield Trust.
Dooley was born into an athletic family in the Alabama coastal city of Mobile, Sept. 4, 1932. His younger brother Bill, former head football coach at North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest, was an All-SEC guard at Mississippi State in 1954. After graduating from McGill High in Mobile, Dooley accepted a football scholarship to Auburn, where he was an all-star football and basketball player. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management (1954) and Masters in History (1963). After serving in the Marines as an officer for two years and eight years in the Reserves, he took a job as an assistant coach at Auburn. Dooley was named head coach of the Bulldogs in December, 1963, at the age of 31. He maintained his academic and continuing education interests by auditing classes at the University in such disciplines as history, political science, art history, and horticulture.
A native of Mobile, Ala., Dooley was married to the former Barbara Meshad of Birmingham. They have four children: Deanna (Mrs. Destry Rogers), Daniel (married to the former Suzanne Maher), Denise (Mrs. Jay Douglas Mitchell), and Derek (married to the former Allison Jeffers) who is currently an offensive analyst with Alabama. The Dooleys also have 11 grandchildren: Patrick Cook (married to Lauren Oyler), Catherine and Christopher Cook; Michael and Matthew Dooley (Daniel and Suzanne); Ty, Joe and Cal Mitchell; and John Taylor, Peyton, and Julianna Elizabeth Dooley (Derek and Allison Dooley). Three great grandchildren are the most recent additions from Patrick and Lauren: twins Murphy Elizabeth and Miles Marie born on Dec. 21, 2018, and 1-year old Lane Catherine.
Facilities prominent in his tenure……
* Seven Sanford Stadium expansion projects, including 77 SkySuites and a $25 million expansion completed in 2004, raising capacity to 92,746 fifth largest in the country.
* $12 million Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall
* $7.5 million toward Ramsey Center which houses swimming and volleyball competition arenas and gymnastics practice gym.
* $4.5 million Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall expansion and renovation
* $7.5 million Rankin Smith, Sr., Student-Athlete Academic Center
* $2 million Spec Towns Track grandstand
* $3.5 million baseball stadium
* $7.5 million Stegeman Coliseum renovations
* $8 million softball/soccer complex
Award Winning Athletic Director
* 2016 Wooden Citizenship Cup for positive influences on the lives of others.
* 2013 Foundation of Wesley Woods Award, Heroes, Saints, and Legends
* Recipient of 2012 Duffy Daugherty Coaching award, presented each year to legendary coaches who have made outstanding contributions to amateur football.
* 2012 U.S. Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame induction class.
* 2011 Named a Georgia Trustee, the State of Georgia’s highest honor, by the office of the Governor and Georgia Historical Society.
* 2009 recipient of the Paul “Bear” Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Heart Association.
* 2008 Bud Selig Mentoring Award presented by the Division 1-A Athletic Directors to a person in athletics administration who has been in the forefront in creating equal opportunities for minorities.
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