football Edit

UGA icon Vince Dooley passes away

University of Georgia athletics legend Vince Dooley passed away peacefully earlier today at his home in Athens. He was 90 years old.

Dooley’s celebrated 25-season (1964-1988) head coaching career at Georgia includes many accolades, namely, 201 victories, six SEC titles, and a national championship in 1980. In addition, Georgia’s overall athletics program rose to new heights with Dooley serving as the school’s athletics director from 1979 to 2004.

To even begin to realize the tremendous impact Dooley made on Georgia athletics beginning nearly 60 years ago, perhaps one must first be cognizant of the steadily deteriorating Bulldog football program the young and inexperienced coach was hired to head up and rebuild.

Upon the firing of Johnny Griffith at the end of a 4-5-1 losing 1963 campaign—Georgia’s 10th non-winning season in the previous 15 years—the Bulldog football faithful desired an already-recognized head coach, a big-name hire. However, instead of a big-name head coach, Georgia’s then-athletics director Joel Eaves hired no-name Dooley.

With the hiring, according to Lynn Hughes, who would become Dooley’s first UGA starting quarterback: “We were sitting on the steps at Stegeman [Hall] wondering, ‘Who the hell is Vince Dooley?’”

The 31-year-old Dooley, who had played basketball under Eaves at Auburn, had recently finished the 1963 season as the freshman football coach of the Tigers. Yet, at just 31 years old, he had been hired to be the head coach of a once proud and successful program that had slowly been decaying.


Nevertheless, after a decade and a half of Georgia featuring primarily losing squads, Dooley’s initial team in 1964 shockingly went 7-3-1 and earned the Bulldogs’ first bowl appearance in five years. After only five seasons at the helm through 1968—all five winning campaigns for Georgia—Dooley’s Dogs had defied all odds in capturing two SEC championships.

Notably, from the beginning of the 1951 season up until the 1964 Florida game, Georgia had been a lowly 2-27-1 when playing an AP-ranked opponent. On the contrary, from that Florida game through the 1968 regular season, Dooley was undefeated at 8-0-2 against ranked foes.

Having completely turned around the Georgia football program, and in such a short period of time, the once unrecognized Dooley was soon regarded as one of the top head coaches in college football. And his Bulldog teams continued to flourish.

An 11-1 season in 1971 was followed by Dooley’s third conference title five years later in 1976. From 1980 to 1983, the Bulldogs achieved a 43-4-1 overall mark, or what remains the best four-season record in Georgia football history. During that time, Dooley clinched three more SEC titles while capturing the Bulldogs’ undefeated and undisputed national championship of 1980.

After stepping down as Georgia’s head coach following the 1988 season, Dooley continued his role as the Bulldogs’ athletics director for the next 15 years. After his retirement from Georgia, Dooley remained in Athens, where he became an author and an avid gardener, among many other endeavors. The honors and awards bestowed upon him—both during and following his UGA athletics career—were numerous. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as the Georgia and Alabama Sports Halls of Fame. Dooley is the winningest coach in Georgia's history with 201 victories.

In 2019, the field at Sanford Stadium was named “Dooley Field” in his honor.

Dooley leaves behind his wife of 62 years, Barbara, four children, and 11 grandchildren.

The legacy Vince Dooley leaves is matched by very few in the history of college athletics. The one-time no-name coach completely turned around the Bulldogs’ football program, ultimately assembling a national power, before he promptly built the entire Georgia athletics program to one of the nation’s best.